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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Query Letter

(Want to read an early draft of my query letter for Monsters in California? Read on, loyal Justinite)

Instead of working on Jet-Girl (for more than three hours) today, I'm going to put some effort into getting my book published.

Yes, I have a finished book just sitting around, gathering figurative dust. Collecting royalty checks would probably be better than constantly telling people that they can only read my book when it's published, right?

So step 1 is to write up a query letter, basically a lure in the shape of a one-page summary that I can use to catch an agent. The query letter/lure has to be extra-shiny, which is something I wish I'd realized a while ago because writing this thing is a bitch.

Here's how you're going to help me:
After the jump is the query letter. Read it and then tell me: does it pop?
Keep in mind a query letter isn't a proper summary. It's a lure (and a very sharp hook, if done correctly). I'm not interested in accuracy. Just attention.

If you haven't read the book then your input is greatly appreciated because I need those fresh eyes, but be warned that while I don't spoil too much I still give a good idea of what happens within the first five chapters.

Yeah, I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but I'm a Story Nazi. I love the surprise and mystery of a novel. I love the not knowing part of the experience. People who skip to the end of a book to decide whether or not they're going to read it should be put into camps.

If it were up to me the back of every book would just be a big question mark. Maybe a 'Just Read It, Dummy!'
And the fronts, too. Titles give too much away.

Query letter up ahead.

Dear agent person,
I've completed a 140,000 word manuscript and I need an agent to represent me. My story, Monsters in California, is supernatural horror with a generous nod to contemporary culture and American music.
There's an old adage that the only person you can ever really trust is yourself, but Derrick, a schizophrenic since he was ten, doesn't have any such luxury. Hallucinations haunt him. Imaginary creatures stalk him. Phantom pains and nonsense words whispered in his ear have tormented him for the past nine years. Derrick has been humbled by one core truth in his life: what he sees isn't always what's really there.
And now his parents are dead. Both taken in a car accident. It wouldn't be so bad if Derrick didn't still see them walking around. His sister would call them visions, but Derrick knows better. They're just hallucinations and nothing more.
But he can't say the same for the voice of a young woman screaming herself mad every night. She's calling out for help, but what can Derrick do for a woman who doesn't exist?
Maybe the night visitor in distress deserves more attention. Maybe Derrick should be in mourning after burying both his mother and father only three weeks ago. Maybe he should be doing a lot of things differently but there just isn't any time, because by the end of the week he needs to produce three million dollars for his parents' coke-addicted former manager or the man is going to kill him. The entire situation is mad but madness is something that Derrick has a lot of experience in.
This is my first novel and I'm very excited by the possibility of sharing Derrick's adventure with a larger audience.

Thank you for your time,

Okay. Less interested or more interested?
Too much crap about schizophrenia? Maybe the former manager should dominate the query instead of being a footnote? Is the mention of American music a turn-off? Is the writing a bunch of garbage? Is that last part coming off a little too strong? Not enough conflict?
I can come at this book from a lot of different angles, so gimme some honest input.

(The sooner I get this over with, the sooner I get published).

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