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S. L. Saboviec
08-03-2013, 01:52 AM
Hi, guys.

I've been grinding my gears over my query letter for awhile, and I think my post over in QLH (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=269571) (with the relevant part to this discussion starting in post #61) has brought me to a crossroads. I've been trying the "character, stakes, and plot" formula and even thought I had something workable. It seems to be falling flat, though, which is why I went back in for another round.

As I was explaining my concept, I realized that some of the subject matter is controversial. (I don't want to sound like an idiot here: I always knew it was controversial, but I've been buried so deep into it that I lost the forest for the trees.) I'm wondering if I'm going about this the wrong way because I'm burying the lead. Some of the advice in QLH has been "No, take it out," but I'm wondering if the emotional reaction I evoked is exactly what I need to sell my book. On the other hand, 200 words of a query letter is not enough to get into the background and it comes as a splash of cold water (and perhaps raging fury) to some people.

From a marketing perspective, controversy sells and I also don't want to sell empty promises. If I leave my concept out, an agent who loves my characters and voice might be put off by the controversy. If I put my concept in, an agent who might have passed before might snatch it up. On the other hand, maybe the concept is completely unsellable. I come from a corporate background, so I have to think large publishing companies might not want to be associated with certain ideas. Am I wasting my time even trying to get it published?

I'm just not sure 1) how blunt about it I need to be in the query letter (because I don't want to come off as one of those crazy people) and 2) what the format of the query letter should be.

Updated so people don't have to search through my query thread for the controversy:

The religion I used is the belief that prior to reincarnation, humans plan their lives. Every major life event, especially the traumatizing ones, were chosen by ourselves prior to reincarnating. Death, disease, and misery are all a means to spiritual growth.

I wanted to explore what this really means. In the book, my main character is a guardian angel who watches over three different people. The second person insists on having a bunch of bad things happen to her. One of those things is being raped. I specifically chose this because I wanted to see what it would be like if this spiritual philosophy was true. It's abhorrent to some; this is the reason I wrote it.

Old Hack
08-03-2013, 02:15 AM
I don't think an agent would be put off a good book just because it was potentially controversial; but having skimmed through your various queries, I can't quite see what's so controversial about it.

I suspect this question would be better off answered in your query thread: but I'll leave it open for now.

kkbe
08-03-2013, 02:29 AM
Samantha, I read your latest query. I shan't comment on the format, that's not the point of your post.

I'm with Old Hack, I don't see too much that's controversial in your ql. I assume you mean mentioning the rape. If that is the case, I get it. I was facing a similar quandary. My novel is not pretty, my mc is a shit. He does a bad thing and I wasn't sure how or if I should go for it. The question of mentioning a rape in a query is a valid one, you want to be true to your novel, right? But doing so may negatively impact the number of agents willing to take a look at pages.

From your query, it sounds like the rape is part of the story, but not integral to it. If that's your main concern, I would leave it out. Your query can reflect voice, can include some of the hard choices your angel has to make. The story is there, you just aren't telling everything but that's okay because that isn't the job of your query.

The job is to show you can write, that you've written one hell of a story. Do what you need to do to show that, nothing more and nothing less.

Now. Should an agent request a synopsis, okay. Put that in. It will be one part of the whole, the whole is what you are selling. If that part makes sense within the context of the whole I don't think it will be a deal-breaker. Of course, everything depends on the agent, what that person is looking for, if that person believes your novel, such that it is, will sell. Does rape preclude agents from being interested in your novel? Maybe for some. That's a chance you have to be willing to take.

I fretted over my novel but eventually, I came to one conclusion which is, this is how it has to be. I stand by that. I am okay with that. Took some soul-searching on my part and I got a heck of a lot of great feedback from folks at AW. I would encourage you to concentrate on your novel, make it the best you can, get it beta-read by as some really smart and savvy people, revise the thing until you proclaim it as good as it can be and then, search out those agents who seem willing to take a chance, take a risk. You might go the indie-pub route.

You are correct in assuming that some of the bigger publishing houses might be looking for more mainstream stuff. But there's a market for stories that skirt that, that might be more edgy. I wouldn't worry right now about what if. Just concentrate on getting your novel square, getting your query right.

My two cents, anyway.

S. L. Saboviec
08-03-2013, 02:35 AM
Thanks, guys, food for thought. I updated the original post to answer Old Hack's question about what was controversial so no one has to hunt for it.

Siri Kirpal
08-03-2013, 03:18 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I think you're fine, but do be careful when you select agents to query. Agents who say, "No New Age" won't like it.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Old Hack
08-03-2013, 10:43 AM
You are correct in assuming that some of the bigger publishing houses might be looking for more mainstream stuff. But there's a market for stories that skirt that, that might be more edgy. I wouldn't worry right now about what if. Just concentrate on getting your novel square, getting your query right.

I disagree with this. Bigger publishing houses aren't looking for "more mainstream" books: they're looking for big sellers. The two are not necessarily the same. If your book is strong enough--that is, if it has a great premise and is really well written--then they'll want it even if it's really out there.

kkbe
08-03-2013, 11:55 AM
I disagree with this. Bigger publishing houses aren't looking for "more mainstream" books: they're looking for big sellers. The two are not necessarily the same. If your book is strong enough--that is, if it has a great premise and is really well written--then they'll want it even if it's really out there.

My mistake, Old Hack. I wrote 'more mainstream' thinking, in my mind, 'more appealing to the masses,' e.g. 'more commercially viable.'

Or something to that effect. Big sellers, like you say.

Next time, hopefully, I will write what I mean.