Query Letter, Version 4

After helping other people with their query letters (which is, amazingly, easier than working on my own), and getting help specifically with mine, I’ve produced yet another version of my query letter. And I feel much better about this one than the previous three incarnations.

Query: Urban Fantasy Novel

Dear ___________:

Kalyn Reid is a different kind of debutante. On her sixteenth birthday she is publicly presented to her family, friends and neighbors as an adult, and is given a pearl necklace to mark the occasion. Then she is bitten by a vampire.

Thus Kalyn enters adulthood as a Yaechahre—a group of humans who have served vampires for over 2,500 years. In the days following her Acceptance, Kalyn thinks her only problem in life is how to maintain her dignity around her vampire mentor, Anselm. She has a desperate crush on him, which often leaves her bumbling like a fool. He sweetly smoothes over the awkward moments, but makes it clear that things are “just business” between them.  

But in the blink of an eye, Kalyn’s entire world is engulfed in flames as her father, mother, and group leader die in rapid succession—murdered by a strange new breed of vampire. She, Anselm, and his brother, Micah, suddenly become involved in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse as they try to find the murderer before he finds them.

Thrown together in a desperate struggle for survival, Anselm’s resolve to keep business separate from pleasure begins to crumble, and Kalyn finds herself closer than ever to realizing her dreams. But as she watches him execute their enemies with medieval ruthlessness, she finds herself asking, “Do I really want him?”

Per the submission guidelines on your website, the first two pages of my novel are below, along with the full synopsis.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Keri Peardon
[contact info]
https://keripeardon.wordpress.com/

 Now, back to the grind of sending out queries. I won’t be doing bad until I have 30 more rejections under my belt.

Rejections

A few rejections are still trickling in from queries I sent out over a month ago.

Here’s an inspiring story, though, of a hobby inventor who, at age 84, finally got a company to pick up his invention.

I hope I’m not going to be 84 before I get published, though.

I am doing one last read-through of my book, checking the proof copy for any remaining typos and grammatical errors. My husband also insisted that I redo the gun part, because it didn’t think it was accurate. After that, though, I’m going directly to publishers.

But a part of me is thinking one last-ditch attempt with agents. I still have some I haven’t tried yet. But looking at my list of 27 rejections (or no responses), I’m feeling like throwing all caution to the wind and doing stuff with my query letter that, technically, you’re not supposed to do (I don’t think). When people ask me what my book is about, I have trouble coming up with a short answer, and I usually just resort to saying “Jewish vampires.” And people get immediately interested. I’ve had a number of people say, “I don’t care for vampires, but I think I’d try that.” And I don’t think I disappoint; a friend who says she doesn’t like vampires either broke down and read it and is now begging me to send her chapters of the second book in installments.

But my query letter does not come right out and say “Jewish vampires,” although I label Micah as Jewish (and, if you’re paying attention, you’ll know that he’s a vampire, so, obviously, he’s a Jewish vampire). But maybe that’s too sutble for the 60 seconds an agent spends reading a query letter.

So how’s this for attention-grabbing?

Vampires. They’ve been done to death, right? (And more than once, obviously.) But what if they were gun-toting Jewish vampires living in Tennessee?

Why are they in Tennessee? Because, during the War, they worked on the atomic bomb at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Then they decided Tennessee was a rather pleasant place, and they chose to stay.

Why are some of them Jewish? Because they were born that way.

Why are they toting guns? Because there’s a new type of vampire on the loose, seemingly intent on killing all of them and their human servants.

“Accepted” follows the small group of vampires and humans in Tennessee. Kalyn is a star student in her junior class, a cheerleader, and just sixteen when she takes her place as an adult among the vampires’ human servants. She is placed in the care and tutelage of Anselm—a man she has been crazy about most of her life. He is an 800-year-old vampire who is introverted, perfectionist, and rather fond of Monty Python. Under normal circumstances, the only excitement in his life comes from his adopted brother, Micah, who is his Odd Couple opposite: lighthearted, disorganized, and irreverently Jewish.

But when Anselm rescues one of the strange new vampires from being murdered by his own kind, he, Micah and Kalyn lose their perfect, quiet lives, and become their peoples’ sole defenders on the front line of an emerging war.

“Accepted”  is an urban fantasy novel of approximately 110,000 words.

 

YA Writing Smackdown

I stumbled across this article today: Writing Young Adult Fiction, which details, briefly, some of the upsides and downsides to writing YA. I had no idea that the turnaround for a sequel was 6 months. That’s a crazy amount of time to write a book. It took me a year to write my first book, and that doesn’t include several of the more minor edits and letting people read it and give me feedback. It makes me have a bit more sympathy for Stephanie Meyer’s fourth book, Breaking Dawn, which needed some heavy editing. I always write more than I need, and I pare down unnecessary dialogue, scenes and chapters in editing. If she only had 6 months or so to write and edit it, I can see how she didn’t have time to go back through it and cut out all the boring, useless crap.

Speaking of books, I’ll be honest: I’m tired of querying agents. Last count was 26 or 27 queried. I’ve read books that are worse than mine and I think, “If someone will publish this, surely I can get published.” So my new tactic is to start querying publishers directly. It usually takes them 6-12 months to respond, which is a drag, but let’s face it: I’ve been querying agents almost that long. If I had started out with querying publishers, I might have heard something by now.

But first I have to do one last, last edit. I printed another proof copy a month or so ago, and my husband recently read it with editing pen in hand. He had a number of suggestions (nay, commands) to make my gun usage more accurate. (In fact, we spent an hour or so one day going over it; I drew him a picture of the terrain, and he showed me ammo and got out his sniper rifle for me to examine.) So I need to edit that part and I need to read through one more time and make my own corrections. Then, once I make the changes on the computer, I’ll be ready to print and mail.

While I’m waiting to hear back from someone, I can be working on my second book. I’m more than halfway through the first writing. I should be ready to make my first proof copy in 6 months or less. That way, if a publisher comes back and says, “We’ll take it, and we want to make it YA, so give us that sequel in 6 months,” I’ll be ahead of the game on sequels and maybe I won’t put out something crappy.

It’s Starting to Come Together

Hey, look, I do know where my blog is, and how to post.

I have had several other projects going on that have kept me busy the past week. First, I finally motivated to doing some serious house cleaning, which has turned into rearranging the living room and buying more bookcases. I still have a lot of work to do to get everything the way I want it, but I’m liking the changes.

Are you stuck with your writing? Is your general creativity at a low ebb? Rearrange the room where you do most of your creative work. Even if you don’t add or subtract anything, stirring up your things seems to stir up ideas.

I have to say it’s working for me. Just a day after moving the living room around (not where I do my writing, but it’s the first room you see when you come into the house, and you can’t go anywhere in the house without passing through it, so it’s logistically important), I have come tantalizingly close to writing the end of my third book. I’ve had the epilogue written, so I knew, more or less, who survives and who dies, but I had no idea how any of my characters get to that point.

But yesterday a plot started forming in my head, and I began writing some of the scenes which will lead to the grand finale. I was crying and shooting characters in the back of the head in a mass suicide. It was fabulous! I don’t think I’ve written anything good unless I’ve made myself cry or laugh.

Need help motivating to clean your house up or rearrange? I recommend Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. I read this book in college and it completely changed the way I look at stuff. When I need a kick in the pants, I re-read it, then go through my house, tossing stuff or giving it away.
The show Hoarders is also pretty motivating to cleaning up. I watched the first episode and immediately went out and swept off our front porch (something it’s needed since the fall!)

I am a good writer, I am a good writer, I am a good writer…

Getting Published Protip #57: Get some balls of steel, because rejection is a lot like a kick in the crotch,* and you’ll need the ability to take repeated assaults.

*Author is not a man, so she can only assume there is a comparison. She has suffered some shots across the boobs, but she never whined about it. The hockey stick across the shins in P.E. class, though, did lay her low.

What’s the carnage count so far? I have put in 24 query letters. I have received 9 rejection letters and 1 request for additional materials (I never heard back after submitting the additional materials). Only 41% of the people I’ve queried have responded. If you count all the non-responses as rejections (which they, in effect, are), I have a total of 24 rejections.

Is it any wonder I drag my feet when it comes to doing query letters at this point? Or why I do a batch and then spend several months recovering? Still, my book won’t get published sitting on my couch (in a lovely proof edition).

I just sent out #25. God help me.

Another Agent List

Fantasy Agents List (Even if you don’t write fantasy–or fiction–there is a drop-down box that allows you to choose a genre and find agents in your specialty.)

This site was recommended by some folks on Absolutewrite.com. I already see some agents I have applied to (using a paid listing service; this one is free!), but there are also some I’ve missed. (This is when my Excel spreadsheet comes in handy; since I kept track of everything I sent out previously, I don’t have to worry about duplicating.) I did four queries today!

This literary agent has an interesting list of novel prompts. You can sign up to their Twitter feed to get them regularly, or look through them on this page. These are great to use if you are stuck in your novel and you need inspiration.

I just ordered my third proof copy of my book. My husband and I are going to look through it one last time for grammatical errors and he’s going to double-check my gun usage for accuracy. Then I’m going to see if a friend will read it and help me with my synopsis before I start querying publishers. I’m still worried that my synopsis sounds much more boring than my book. I think, though, that my query (which is what most agents want instead) is good.

In a completely unrelated segment:

Breathtaking Photos of Spectacular Places on Earth – This website has some wonderful landscapes. I saved them to my work computer to use as desktop backgrounds.

Getting Honestly Published

Here is some information for people who are trying to get published, or are seriously considering it.

Thumbs Down Agency List – The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) website maintains this list of known scammer agencies (it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start). They also provide a list of things a reputable agency will not do (i.e. charge you an upfront fee for representation).

Here is an informal survey of sci-fi and fantasy writers and the average advance they receive when they sell a book, and how many sell a book with and without an agent. (I’ll throw in a spoiler: people with agents tend to receive, on average, higher advances.

Writer Beware: Learning the Ropes – How best to research the agent/publishing market in order to avoid being scammed.

Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Book Publishers – A list of publishers–large and small, print and electronic, novel and magazine–who publish these genres. You will probably do better financially with a large publisher, but you’re probably more likely to get a response from a small publisher. Of course you need to be prepared to do a lot of your own marketing (or get an agent that is serious about handling that), but you will probably need to do more with a small publisher.

On a lot of publishers’ websites, you will have to do some serious digging to find out if they accept queries direct from authors. And before you get your hopes up, a lot of publishers won’t accept from an unagented author (especially true of large publishers; less true of small ones).