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iwannabepublished
10-06-2008, 06:36 PM
I completed my novel almost two years ago. I've sent queries to more than 100 agents - all with no success. I finally decided that I would hire a professional editor to see if that would improve my chance of attracting an agent. After three phases of editing, I feel my manuscript is substantially better in every way and am ready to begin sending out queries again. One thing that my editor did was to change the genre from thriller to speculative fiction. I questioned her about this and here is what she said - "Your book is strongly driven by plot, so yours would be considered commercial fiction, and I'd think the term mainstream fiction could also apply. (Which is good for you, because only about 10 percent of all books sold in a given year are considered literary fiction.) . . . I would also place it in the category of conspiracy fiction. It can also be called a thriller, since the stakes -- the what-ifs -- are potentially world-changing."

During my research, to select a group of agents to query, I found an array of genres each agent claimed to be interested in. This ranged from specific areas like biographies (not mine) to vague areas like adult fiction.

My question is how does one properly categorize their story and, more importantly, must the query letter state the genre as one the agent will accept? Of course, if an agent is only looking for cookbooks or children s books, I would not query them.

ChaosTitan
10-06-2008, 06:45 PM
One thing that my editor did was to change the genre from thriller to speculative fiction. I questioned her about this and here is what she said - "Your book is strongly driven by plot, so yours would be considered commercial fiction, and I'd think the term mainstream fiction could also apply. (Which is good for you, because only about 10 percent of all books sold in a given year are considered literary fiction.) . . . I would also place it in the category of conspiracy fiction. It can also be called a thriller, since the stakes -- the what-ifs -- are potentially world-changing."



Holy crow, no wonder you're confused. If I had hired an editor who told me my book was four different things, I'd be asking questions, too.

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for all fantasy and science fiction stories (which are, as well, broken down into many other subgenres). If your book is spec fic, it's spec fic, but it has to have the earmarks of spec fic (ie, fantasy or SF elements). If it doesn't, toss that one out of the park.

From your brief post, I don't see the problem with calling it a thriller. It's basic and it gives you something to include with the query, if that's your choice.

And no, it isn't required to include the genre, but it is recommended. I've seen successful queries written both ways, and there is no magical formula to writing one that snags an agent. Knowing your genre, however, is the best way to target those queries.

So target those agents who handle thrillers and commercial fiction (and there are lots). Let the summary/hook of the query speak for the genre (for example, don't make the hook humorous if you have a thriller).

iwannabepublished
10-06-2008, 07:12 PM
I realize that, in order to provide a more clear picture of my situation, I should have included a copy of my query letter to help in understanding my genre question.

As a child, Erin Matthews' archeologist grandfather entranced her with his stories of exotic places and amazing discoveries. Now an archaeologist herself, Erin is leading a dig on a tiny Greek island when her teamunearths a clay jar filled with mysterious letters. Her excitement turns to fear when preliminary translations of the parchments suggest the Crucifixion story might have serious flaws—flaws that some groups won’t want made public.

The dig's anonymous sponsor agrees about the danger, and hires a mercenary group led by an ex-Army major to protect the dig. As though an invisible gauntlet has been tossed, a group of pursuers dressed in priest garb begins to attack. The dig team is chased, shot at, and even kidnapped, but a final, bloody assault forces Erin to reconsider pursuing the parchments’ actual meanings. Especially since she’s just learned how high the stakes really are: If the story the letters tell is true, it was Joseph, a brother of Jesus, who was crucified in his place.

THE LAST SECRET is a work of speculative fiction, but many of its elements are based on my four decades of lifelong passion for archaeology. That interest led me to visit excavations in Jerusalem, Megiddo, Cesaria, Cairo, Rome, Pompeii, Athens, Carthage, and Ephesus, and to attend many lectures and demonstrations that gave me a tangible understanding of archeology.

The 88,000-word manuscript is complete and revised, and I am looking for an agent to represent it. Per your submission requirements, I’ve enclosed the synopsis, and the first three chapters.

Thank you for your consideration, and I eagerly await your reply.

Toothpaste
10-06-2008, 07:33 PM
I don't think this is speculative fiction, and it worries me that your editor doesn't understand what that is. Speculative Fiction is a fancy way of saying Science Fiction/Fantasy. I think because you as an author as "speculating" what would have happened if Joseph had been crucified instead of Jesus, she/he thought that therefore made your book SF. It doesn't. She/he is wrong.

This reads much more like a thriller. And there is nothing wrong with that, thrillers are still very popular these days.

Please do not send it to agents who say they specialise in speculative fiction, they will not be right for you and dismiss you from the off.

Sounds like a very cool idea though!

MsGneiss
10-06-2008, 07:37 PM
I agree that this is much more a thriller, and certainly not speculative fiction. I also agree that the plot sounds fantastic, and I would love to read it. In my completely unscientific opinion, the market for such work is probably still very strong.

MaryMumsy
10-06-2008, 09:23 PM
No advice to offer, but I agree it sounds interesting, and I would read it.

MM

Danthia
10-06-2008, 11:53 PM
I wouldn't call that spec fic either. Sounds mainstream to me. You could probably just say "my novel, TITLE" and be fine. Specifying genre is usually more for books that go in particular areas of a bookstore, and this sounds like something that would be shelved in the "general fiction" section, along with Dan Brown, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, etc.

Sounds cool though. :)

Karen Duvall
10-07-2008, 12:26 AM
Absolutely NOT spec fic. This has thriller written all over it and it looks like a great story.

iwannabepublished
10-07-2008, 04:01 AM
Thanks for the positive feedback. Assuming the first group of agents I sent queries to are not interested, my next round will call my story a thriller.

Appalachian Writer
10-07-2008, 04:38 AM
I'd like to pipe in with a few suggestions. First, I just want you to know that although my book has been rejected, my query letter has caught the eye of some pretty impressive people.

I think the gotcha description of the book is too long, and that the posters who've said this is not speculative fiction are absolutely correct. From the description, I'd say thriller.

Although this is not the place to critique queries, I can't help myself. The description of your book should probably read something like: Archaeology runs in Erin Miller's family, and like her grandfather before her, she's digging up secrets. On a tiny Greek island, she unearths parchment letters long sealed in clay jars. The preliminary transcriptions suggest that Jesus was never crucified, that someone else took his place. Danger looms as her team is attacked by men wearing priestly garb, and during a final bloody assault, she discovers just how high the stakes are. Now, she must decide whether this secret remains buried or whether she can face the consequences of revelation.

I think you give too much away in the original query. THE LAST SECRET should certainly be described as a thriller and should be submitted to agents that are looking for same.

My two cents.