Query Letter Critique

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All but the first two paragraphs of your post
For the attention of Lee Harris.
Hello, my name is and I would like to submit my manuscript, Tracing the Shadow, to you. It is a fantasy novel with an alternative timeline and time travel. It is the first book of three.
seems to be text destined for the Summary, i.e. the Characters, Plot and Inspiration/Intentions. When I was inserting your text into Word (purely to check the number of pages), I did not paste those two paragraphs.


By the way, I'm assuming you would put the one-line description of your book in your query letter but have decided (wisely) not to post it here. (I wouldn't post it here if I were in your shoes.) :)
 
The first line at the beginning of the Plot description you mean?

I have thought of just doing something basic and keep the Synopsis for if they want to see the whole thing. I think from the summaries you get a good idea.

This novel is about destiny and lives that have been manipulated in order to complete a woman's milennia old rivary. Anthorn and Nikita are the main point of view and their plot is the mainone. As Anthorn who is disatisfied with the Guardians is forced to bring Nikita, a merchant's daughter back to Caraksand. Nikita is a member of a resistance group called the Dumas Erandi and has been tasked with learning as much as she can about the Guardians so they can launch an attack on them. She has been told under no uncertain terms to seduce him if needed. Nikita however decides to take the piss out of him instead, though this changes when he saves her from a kidnapper and learns he's not so bad after all. There are other plotlines too, minor ones that hint at a greater danger at hand etc etc

Like that?
 
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If that's you're one-liner, fair enough**. :)








** - Note , though, that I'm not posting here to critique your query letter and Summary: I have enough problems with my own synopses as it is. (And it isn't as if I've ever written a successful query letter. :()
 
I read Ursa's one-liner as meaning the one-line synopsis or elevator pitch, which apparently Angry Robot also now want -- per his post in your other thread http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/1469545-post13.html

If it's of any help, I'd put the elevator pitch in the ordinary mail where you confirm the name of the book, the genre and word count, and have the character and plot summary as a separate document.

As far as the summaries are concerned, I think it might help if you concentrate on the two, three or four most important people and their motivations and plot, rather than try to include everyone and everything.
 
During the collapse of an Empire they came, three races fleeing an unseen terror: Luarith, Ferilim and End-Lord. Of the three only the Ferilim and Luarith flourished upon Onchara. The third, the End-Lords or the four as they became known destroyed themselves through feuding and betrayal.

Do you think that could count as an elevator pitch?
 
Does that describe what happens in the book?

If this Anthorn is the lead character, I'd suggest the elevator pitch should deal with him. Basically, what is the book about?
 
So something along the lines of. What if everything you believed was a lie? What if your whole life had been manipulated and the only one who told you the truth was the one person meant to be your enemy. Anthorn is about to find out.
 
Your elevator pitch should be 22 words, it doesn't have to name the main character but it has to give the tagline that they can pin on your story. So focus on that first and then try to bring the main synopsis to be under 2 pages, preferably 1 page.

Here's an example, "Intel, the world’s largest silicon innovator, creates products and technologies that change the way people live, work and play. Whether it’s a mobile lifestyle or a new way to enjoy entertainment at home, Intel is helping people all over the world accomplish things they never before dreamed possible." (44 words, so double the ideal)

Your elevator pitch should be something like this: "In the time when three armies march to meet each other, a young man dreams about becoming an old order guardian, without realising that the destiny is already knocking on the door. Destiny, where he'll see the future of his own world in an alternative timeline(?)." (46 words)

So what you need to is to encapsulate the essence of your story in one or two striking sentences. This "tagline" can then appear at front of your longer pitch, where you should again just tell the essential information.
 
I'll defer to others more experienced than I am on the issue, anthorn, but I'd have said what you produced was a teaser -- the kind of thing on the back cover blurb, or posted on adverts. What actually happens? eg King Lear -- Old man mistakes flattery for love and loses first his kingdom, then his mind, his three daughters and his life.


EDIT: ctg came in ahead of me, and made my witterings redundant.
 
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Okay thanks. But what about the character summaries? Should I just list their role in the novel I.E love interest.
 
Caveat: I don't know if I know what I'm talking about or not.

Re the "elevator pitch", it might help to remember where the term came from. Imagine you're a busy Hollywood producer. You've just got into an elevator on your way to a meeting with George Clooney, who's about to pull out of your film because he doesn't like the colour of the lingerie he's been asked to wear in the Segway-chase scene. You're stressed. To your dismay, you find you're sharing the elevator with a kid who's sweating profusely. You know what this means. Sure enough, he says: "It's Mr Sneezlehorse, isn't it? I have a great idea for a film ..."

What you should try to do is make your one-line pitch good enough to make a film producer put off a meeting with George Clooney so he can talk to you instead. That might not be realistic, but it's what you should aim for. Mr Angry Robot said the one-line pitch was the joint-most-important part of your submission. So work on it like crazy.

My only other point, which I don't think anyone else has picked up on, is the opening: "I would like to submit ...". That sounds like you're asking permission to submit, but unless you've hit the send button instead of attach, you've already submitted it in the same email.

The businesslike expression is "I attach"**. And not "Please find attached" or "Please beg my forgiveness for my temerity in submitting" or anything else overly formal or deferential.

Just my tuppence

** although actually, since the email itself might be part of the submission, I might have to rethink that. Gawd, what a minefield.
 
The first line at the beginning of the Plot description you mean?

I have thought of just doing something basic and keep the Synopsis for if they want to see the whole thing. I think from the summaries you get a good idea.

This novel is about destiny and lives that have been manipulated in order to complete a woman's milennia old rivary. Anthorn and Nikita are the main point of view and their plot is the mainone. As Anthorn who is disatisfied with the Guardians is forced to bring Nikita, a merchant's daughter back to Caraksand. Nikita is a member of a resistance group called the Dumas Erandi and has been tasked with learning as much as she can about the Guardians so they can launch an attack on them. She has been told under no uncertain terms to seduce him if needed. Nikita however decides to take the piss out of him instead, though this changes when he saves her from a kidnapper and learns he's not so bad after all. There are other plotlines too, minor ones that hint at a greater danger at hand etc etc

Like that?

I'm sorry but this is about as throat grabbing as an old sock.

These people read pitches every minute of the day. You need to stand out and grab them by their eyeballs and burn your strap line into the back of their brain.

Anthorn: disillusioned, his dreams of becoming a Guardian and a force for good shattered, must now become a renegade, slipping through time to fight the forces that have corrupted his world and so become, the legend that inspired his youth.

OK it's not shakespeare and it's probably crap but it's short and to the point and has the potential to spark interest in betwen those sips of coffee.
 
Not bad, TEIN.

anthorn, the character summaries should describe the characters. Not what they do, or what they have done. Not their roles in the story. Just tell us about them, what they want, why they are the way they are (if that is relevant), perhaps what they must do. TEIN has given you a good example. Don't bother with the same information you are just going to write about all over again in the synopsis.

Then, when you write the synopsis, you concentrate on what happens, and only on what happens. You've already described the characters, so you don't have to go through that again. What happens, what the characters do about it, what happens after that, how it changes them, what they do next, and so forth. What happens. That's it. Don't bother identifying something as the main plot, or someone as the main character. If you write a good synopsis, these things will be obvious. And don't mention that there are side plots or subplots. Concentrate on the overall plot, because that will sell the story ... or nothing will.

Be economical with words. You don't have a word limit, but don't fill up your two pages with words that fail to do the one necessary thing, which is to convince an editor to read your manuscript. Don't say, "We first meet him as a child, as he journeys to Caraksand to become a Guardian." Get to the point. "As a child, Anthorn journeys to Caraksand to become a Guardian."
 
I sent an email asking for clarification

Character descriptions - just the main characters, who they are, any important relationships, etc.

And we'll need a 2 page synopsis covering all important events in the novel.

Cheers,

So, does that mean that if they have a page of character description they still want two pages of synopsis?
 
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Well, if they say they want character descriptions and a 2-page synopsis covering all important events in the novel, I would say they want character descriptions and a 2-page synopsis covering all important events in the novel, not a character description page and a 1-page synopsis. A list of characters can't really be described as "covering all important events in the novel", by any stretch of the imagination...
 
Well, if they say they want character descriptions and a 2-page synopsis covering all important events in the novel, I would say they want character descriptions and a 2-page synopsis covering all important events in the novel, not a character description page and a 1-page synopsis.

The trouble is, they've said several things in various places that seem to contradict each other. From which one might conclude that either they don't know what they want, or they're not really that fussy exactly how the info is put to them, as long as it reads well and excites their attention.
 
This is what they ask for on the Open Door Month page (which they say will be updated during March):
We require a brief (two pages max) summary of characters, plot and your intentions/inspiration, in that order — plus the opening five chapters. No more, no less. DO NOT send us the opening chapters of your unfinished manuscript – we’re only interested in novels that have been completed.

This should be emailed to us, either as Word, RTF or PDF files (we prefer RTFs). Please don’t just send us a complete manuscript. Please note that we do not accept hardcopy manuscripts. SIngle- or 1.5-line spaced please, in English.

As a help to authors, they've also included a series of tips, taken from an article that "our Lee wrote for SFX magazine’s website". One of the tips is:
Tip 4 – Write a professional query letter
Your book may be the best thing ever written, but that does not mean you should forget the rules of written English when composing your introductory letter. Be polite, be professional (“Dear Mr Treeblossom”, rather than “Hi Steve”, unless you already have an existing relationship). Check your spelling and grammar. It’s astounding how many submissions are received accompanied by query letters that appear to have been written by a hedgehog with learning difficulties – your introductory letter is a sample of your writing, and will be treated as such, so don’t allow yourself to fall at the first hurdle.
Note that the comment about the elevator pitch comment came from elsewhere.

By the way, the imprint's Submissions page (for authors who have an agent, or are "personally known to us or recommended to us by someone we know"), includes this text:
We require a brief (two pages max) summary of characters, plot and your intention/inspiration, in that order — plus the opening five chapters.
Note that the SFX article also appears on the Submissions page.
 
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