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A greeting, some venting, and a question...

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

SimonSays

Re: Sir Scammed

Hey Scam -

When I said the good stuff I was not referring to word count and genre - that is the necessary stuff.

By good stuff I was talking about your poetry loving protagonist who likes to blow things up in his spare time and falls for a distant relative of dracula.

The protag's internal dialogue or whatever it is - is NOT the meat it's the side dish - not even sure if it needs to be mentioned, although I would mention that he's a bit mad.

You really want to suck them in to your story - and that is why I think all the asides in your query are hurting you - because you touch on something interesting and then make an editorial comment - at times a negative editorial comment (i.e. how novel)

I suggest you post your query letter on writersnet. The regulars there provide excellent feedback - but be prepared to be ripped to shreds by some. It's worth the flaying though. Post it on the Literary Agent forum to get the most feedback and be sure to say that it's a query in the subject line.
 

DaveKuzminski

Re: Sir Scammed

I quite agree with SimonSays about posting your query on Writers Net. They do excellent critiques of queries and make very good suggestions on how to correct problems.
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

Okay, thanks. I'm not really in the mood to be shredded if it isn't constructive criticism, but I'll consider it.

There would be no way for you to know, of course, but in my case the plot is merely the vehicle in which the insanity of the main character rides, not the reverse. The insanity IS the meat. It's really impossible to ask someone to give an effective critique when they haven't read the book, but I do sincerely appreciate your help...Sir S.
 

SimonSays

Re: Sir Scammed

Sir -

As far as writers.net goes - the balance of the crit will be very constructive, though some pull no punches and a few just like to be mean. If you are lucky some query experts will actually take a stab at reworking it for you - overall in a pain/gain ratio - it is well worth it.

You need to remember that the sole purpose of a query is to make someone want to read the ms. Whether or not they will like it once they read it is another matter entirely. The key is to get them to read it, you get them to read it by interesting them in the plot. Since your ms seems somewhat eclectic, you would be wise target agents who rep more eclectic work - but even those agents want to know the plot. Your plot is buried in bits and pieces in your query.
 

Sarashay

Re: Sir Scammed

All I have to say is, if you question your own writing ability within the query letter, you are just groveling for file 13. I can't even get past that without thinking "Gee, if he thinks his own writing sucks, what's the point of reading any further?"

'shay
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

The real problem I have is that there's really not enough time in the day to explain the complexities of this book to someone, much less do it in a 1 page query. I attempted to devise the marketing statement to explain the plot, in addition to the query, but results are probably mixed.

I can guarantee one thing; there has never been a query written by Man that cannot be sliced up if the "experts" are so inclined to do so. However, I may give the aforementioned website a shot. Sounds like they may be able to help.

I appreciate all the input...Sir S.
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

Shay, questioning one's writing ability could also be construed as a matter of trying to be being humble. That's where the individual reader comes in. If that's enough to turn an agent off then I don't want him/her anyway. You think I should be egocentric, I suppose? An agent should have the ability to decide for him/herself whether or not a writer can write, without being told one way or the other. Excuse me, but that's nitpicking advice. Let's see you do better. - Sir S.
 

SimonSays

Re: Sir Scammed

Sir -

I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I am beginning to see why you are where you are in your writing career.

Ironically, I have a feeling that you can in fact write - and that your novel is probably publishable.

But your response to Shay's post is very telling. "I wouldn't want an agent who... anyway" My guess is that this is not the only time you have said that.

Shay's point was nitpicking. You put yourself up against legends and then question your own ability to boot. Who wants to sign someone who questions their own ability? And if you do think you are good enough to be published, then it comes across as "insincerely trying to sound humble." Either way It has no place in a query. It's just a waste of words.

Your query was repeatedly offpoint and self-indulgent talking far more about you (what led you to write, what you think of your writing) than your book. You may not want to appear egotistical - but I have to say, you are coming across as somewhat egotistical whether you question your own ability or not.

MOST books are too complex to communicate in one paragraph. The challenge to the query writer is to distill the essence and craft something that generates interest. It is not easy to do - but it can be done. You seem to have a lot of reasons why it's different in your case - it's not different in your case.

Obviously you have been doing something wrong. You have apparently been taken in by scammers more than once. If I remember correctly you are now signed with an agency that has no experienced agents on staff and were considering another POD.

If you would stop being so stubborn and seeing yourself as different and just did what has been consistently proven to work - you'd probably be published by now.

I do wish you luck but it would serve you to readjust your attitude and your approach.
 

Sarashay

Re: Sir Scammed

You don't have to be humble or egocentric; just leave your ego out of it. Focus on the BOOK.

'shay
 

DaveKuzminski

Re: Sir Scammed

With most of my books, I've challenged myself to come up with a short blurb of ten words or less like what might be printed on the cover as a come on to the reader that describes the essence of what the story is about.

If your book is about someone faced with making a choice, you might encapsulate it as, "He was faced with deciding what action was more honorable." If you can do that, then it should be easier to distill the book down into a couple of sentences. If you can do that, then a paragraph or two for a query letter should be a snap.

Try it. Just look for a very brief description. Then allow yourself something more to say and make it sound exciting. Remember, it's like a bacon commercial on TV. You can't sell the taste, so you're selling the sizzle because the sizzle can be heard while the taste can't be experienced until the buyer purchases and uses the product.
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

Thanks, Dave. I appreciate the specificity of input and respect for me and for what I'm trying to accomplish. I've made some mistakes but am trying to correct.

Let me say that I've read several of your posts in other areas and I find you very informative and tactful (which, as evidenced in some posts, can be in short supply). Thanks again. - Sir S.
 

vstrauss

Re: Sir Scammed

Ludlow looks to be serious in its intentions. The two books it offers have nicely designed covers, are blurbed by actual writers and appear to have gotten trade reviews. One was a Booksense pick, which indicates that this publisher markets to the book trade. Another indication of this: it works with a distributor (as opposed to just a wholesaler). These are all good signs, indications of professionalism.

It sounds as if they'd expect the author to be very active with marketing and promoting, which you'd expect with a smaller publisher--however, what exactly do they mean by saying they want the author to share this cost? Pay his own way to booksignings (no problem) or buy his own books for resale (not so great)? Also, like some other small publishers, they recoup the publishing costs before they pay you any royalties. This isn't exactly like asking you for a fee, but it is a way for the publisher to palm some of its financial risk off on you.

About your query. I'm one of those people who thinks that quirky, unconventional queries can work, if done right. Your query is amusing and distinctive, and I don't see any reason why you shouldn't try such an approach, especially since you haven't had much luck with something more straightforward. The problem I have with it is that while one does get the sense that this is a wild and wacky mix of stuff, one doesn't really get a sense of what the book's actually about. Your "book statement" does give that sense. So--IMO at least--you need to combine the two (and lose the separate "marketing" statement).

Here's a stab at it, not much altered from your own prose--though I did cut the Kafka reference, because at that point it seemed to me that the whimsy had gone on long enough, and we needed a cut to the chase.
-----------------------​
One day, a bit bored, I asked myself a literary question: Would it be possible to combine the carnal rants of Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” and existentialism of Kerouac’s “On the Road” and, while I’m at it, weave several obscure, Warhol-like pop culture references into the tale, all while maintaining plot consistency?

Hmmm…with your writing ability?

Easy now. What if I were to embellish my main character (“Alex”) with an alter-ego who likes to write poetry and dwell on idiosyncrasies and then have them engage each other throughout, in a steady stream of witty banter and philosophical debate?

Yeah, the mental health angle. How novel.

Patience, unbeliever. What if Alex then fell in love with a superstitious college girl with golden Bo Derek-braids who just so happened to be a distant relation to Count Dracula, and what if he began to blow things up in his spare time for money?

Oh, great; sex, violence, greed…and Dracula? You’re nuttier than this guy.

No name calling, please. Assuming the answers to the prior three questions are “yes,” could I then possibly weave this bizarre hodgepodge of dizzying variables into a fairly classic espionage tale, with corrupt FBI agents, car chases, burning SUV’s and assassinations?

Hmmm…

The result of my temporary insanity is a novel entitled “Green Asylum,” just under 93,000 words in length. Meet Alex Booker. Brilliant…hip…sexy…and frankly, a bit mad. Alex is a carnal-obsessed, ex-army demolitions expert who performs contracts for a secretive, radical environmental group known simply as the “Organization.” As time progresses, the contracts become more complex and dangerous, eventually calling for targeted assassinations against CEO’s of major industrial polluters. But Alex has a problem. He has unwittingly fallen for the daughter of a CEO who is soon to be targeted, and the FBI is hot on his trail. More important, he must deal with an increasing sense of alienation to the world in which he lives and a fleeting reality which is beginning to elude him. Eventually, he has no choice but to surrender to the dark forces tormenting his soul.

A sassy, street-smart, slang-infested diatribe of existential furor and “beat” rhythms, Green Asylum is the Dr. Caligari of espionage thrillers, an unrelenting foray into poetic madness.

- Victoria
 

HConn

Re: Sir Scammed

Scammed, SimonSays and Sarashay are both giving you good advice. I'd advice you pay closer attention to them.
 

vstrauss

Re: Sir Scammed

Just checking for typos, and I noticed there are two Hmmms...my brain is now officially offline for the night, so I can only suggest you find a substitute for one of them.

- Victoria
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

Victoria, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your help. You really nailed the query; after looking at it I couldn't understand why I didn't see the idea of combining it with the marketing statement long ago. But that's why you're the pro. I'll do some tweaking and modifications and go into the next round of querying more confident.

As for Ludlow, it looks like there are pros and cons; I may query them and see if they are interested, and if so, cross the other bridges when I come to them.

Now, on to watch the NFL playoffs!

Thanks again...Sir S.
 

maestrowork

Re: Difficulty finding an agent

You asked for it. You got it:


One bright, sunny day, I asked myself a literary question: Is it possible to combine the carnal rants of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and existentialism of Kerouac’s On the Road, and weave several obscure, Warhol-like pop culture references into a tale?

What if I were to embellish my main character, Alex, with an alter-ego who likes to write poetry and dwell on idiosyncrasies, constantly engaging each other with witty banter and philosophical debate? What if Alex then falls in love with a superstitious college girl and begins to blow things up in his spare time for money?

Sex, violence and greed.

What if I weave this bizarre hodgepodge of dizzying variables into a fairly classic espionage tale, with corrupt FBI agents, car chases, burning SUV’s and assassinations?

Six months later, the result of this temporary insanity is a novel entitled Green Asylum. The manuscript is a 95,000-word crime/psychological/experimental tale.

[...followed by story synopsis, credentials and contact information]
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Difficulty finding an agent

Wow, Maestro--I must admit, I'm impressed with the pary. In other words, ask the proper questions but don't presume to answer for the reader/agent. I like! Between your take and Victoria's I'm gonna knock 'em dead next time! Thanks to you others, too--all info is appreciated and will be incorporated. - Sir S.
 

DaveKuzminski

Re: Difficulty finding an agent

Good, Maestrowork, but I liked Victoria's just slightly more, especially with both Hmmms in it. Then again, that's part of the problem we're dealing with. Some recipients are bound to like yours over Victorias. At this point, the author will just have to make a judgment call because both versions are good.
 

vstrauss

Re: Sir Scammed

Sir, what I liked about your query is the way it echoes one of the aspects of your book, the alter-ego dialogue. The query is a dialogue with yourself. I think you should keep that angle--it's smart and witty.

Whatever an agent may think of this query--and there will be some who hate it--it makes it clear that you can write. IMO, anyhow.

- Victoria
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

Victoria, you're the first to actually understand exactly what I was trying to accomplish in the query. The entire query is meant as a reflection of the main character's dual nature. I don't think I ever fully explained that in my posts. And though it doesn't show up in the posts, the second (and corresponding) voice is actually in italics, further distinguishing it from the questioner.

There are those who believe I am proposing to use the second voice to speak for what the reader/agent might think, or are using it to question my own ability, and frankly, that's understandable. The reader may not have enough info at that point to make the proper distinction.

You're right--I believe this is one of those love/hate type of queries. But I believe using is worth a shot, seeing as how the generic versions didn't generate much interest. And as you said, at the very least it does provide an example of my writing style so it's an improvement in that respect.

Thanks for taking an interest. - Sir S.
 

maestrowork

Re: Sir Scammed

I understand what you and Victoria and Dave like about it. On the other hand, from an agent's point of view, some might hate it -- because they're reading what the "author" is "querying" and not the character "Alex." I don't know. I think it's a delicate balance to show them what you're trying to do with the novel itself, and coming across as a sane-minded writer who knows exactly what he's doing...

If you really must doing the alter-ego dialogue thing, I'd suggest italicize those, like:

hmmm.... not so fast. What if I ....


I would ease up on the "hmmm... with my writing capability?" stuff... an agent might not get the gist of your letter right away and think of it as what SimonSays says: your own doubt about your writing ability.

There are those who "might" get it, but agents are busy. Chances are they might give it a chance once they think "the author doesn't even know if he can write."

Just be cautioned.

So if in your real "intro" (info about your ms, contact info, credentials part) you might want to make them realize that you were playing off the character and that you are, indeed, confident about your writing.
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

Maestro, I do see your point. You have perhaps hit on the final sticking point with this query. If there was a way to tinker with the intro so the agent knew I was speaking through my main character, I would have this thing exactly the way I want it. The thing is, it's me speaking as well, because I wrote the book, not "Alex." So in a bizarre way it's both of us speaking. Yeah, this is difficult.

What if I prefaced my query by simply stating: "Let me speak through my main character for a moment." On the other hand, it might be better to leave an agent a little confused than to begin a query like that. Any ideas? I'll divulge some time to see what I can come up with. I certainly don't want to do anything to make the problem worse. -Sir S.
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

This thing really has me bamboozled. Actually, to better define the problem, it's me asking the questions in the query and my main character "Alex" is giving the retorts. I'm at a loss to know how to let an agent in on that without ruining the query I have. I admit, it could be a real problem for some...Sir S.
 

maestrowork

Re: Sir Scammed

One bright, sunny day, I asked my alter-ego a literary question: Would it be possible to combine the carnal rants of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and existentialism of Kerouac’s On the Road, and weave several obscure, Warhol-like pop culture references into the tale, all while maintaining plot consistency?

Hmmm…with your writing ability?

Easy now. What if I were to embellish my protagonist, Alex, with an alter-ego (you're joking, right?), who likes to write poetry and dwell on idiosyncrasies, then have them engage each other throughout in a steady stream of witty banter and philosophical debate?

Yeah, the mental health angle. How novel.

Patience, unbeliever. What if Alex then fell in love with a superstitious college girl who just so happened to be a distant relation to Count Dracula, and what if he began to blow things up in his spare time for money?

Oh, great; sex, violence, greed…and Dracula? You’re nuttier than this guy.

No name calling, please. Now, could I possibly weave this bizarre hodgepodge of dizzying variables into a fairly classic espionage tale, with corrupt FBI agents, car chases, burning SUV’s and assassinations?

Hmmm…

Six months later, what came out of that temporary insanity was a novel entitled Green Asylum...

(follow up with your real pitch... contact info, etc.)
 

Sir Scammedalot

Re: Sir Scammed

Hmmm...interesting idea. I think you may have something there. Of course, I, as the author, don't really have an alter-ego--only Alex--so I feel I may need to add a caveat of sorts; first, perhaps, defining the alter-ego as a "literary alter-ego" might help. Here is how I would change it based on your input:

One bright, sunny day, I asked my LITERARY alter-ego an UNUSUAL question: Would it be possible to combine the carnal rants of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch and existentialism of Kerouac’s On the Road, and weave several obscure, Warhol-like pop culture references into the tale, all while maintaining plot consistency?

Hmmm…with your writing ability?

Easy now. What if I were to embellish my protagonist, Alex, with a SEPARATE alter-ego...

My only changes to the first paragraph were to move the word "literary" in front of my alter-ego so the agent wouldn't think I have a REAL alter-ego, as well as using the word "unusual" as an adjective to describe the question.

In the next question I added the word "separate" to differentiate my literary alter-ego from the alter-ego I give Alex.

Now that everyone is totally confused, I'll let some of the others weigh in before making a final decision.

Thanks, Maestro--you've been a big help. I now better understand the problem the query presents. - Sir S.
 

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