Query Letter

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Dan Jones

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Just for fun, I thought I'd write up a query letter for Man O'War. I won't be using the dang thing for a while yet seeing as I'm still only 75% through the 1st draft, but thought 'what the hell'?

What do people think?

~

London, mid 22nd Century. Giant biospheres provide constant cooling rain over the city. Overfishing means jellyfish is the main source of seafood. Jellyfisherman Dhiraj Om needs a good catch to provide for his family and thinks he has one, but discovers a kokeshi – a highly illegal pleasure robot designed for the underground sex trade – in his nets. He tries to sell it for a profit, but the deal goes south, plunging him into the murky world of the illegal sex trade, populated by ruthless gangsters, murderous robots, biomechanically engineered doctors, and he discovers a trail of corporate and political corruption that takes him halfway across the world.

Man O’War (X words) is a fast-paced science fiction thriller set in a London where cutting-edge companies vie for market space with cut-throat black market operations, and in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, a wild frontier land on the Niger Delta where one of the world’s most powerful oil conglomerates is fighting dissident rebels over historic grievances.

~
 
The opening is all infodump. Protagonist doesn't seem to want anything other than to sell a sex robot he found. Antagonist is vague.

Format is: protagonist - conflict - antagonist.

The subject matter may also concern agents/editors - is this going to be rapey novel? Are women in this only going to be treated as sex objects?

Last paragraph rambles somewhat - simplifiy, ie: Man O'War is a science fiction thriller that moves between the black markets of London and the frontier town of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

Also - don't use the phrase "fast-paced".

You'll also need to include word count - just FYI.

Hope that helps - and do check out How to write a query letter in the Writing Resources section.
 
Yes, what Brian says

Title - genre - word count

Who is your protagonist - Jellyfisherman Dhiraj Om
What does he need to achieve - needs a good catch to provide for his family
What stands in his way - but catches a kokeshi, a highly illegal pleasure robot designed for the underground sex trade, instead. When he tries to sell it for a profit, he gets plunged into the murky underworld of mid-22nd c London.
The stakes if he fails - This is missing... :)

Short bio
 
Cheers chaps and chapettes.

Yes I know about the word count and bio - like I said, it's just a bit of "distraction activity" (read: procrastination ;)), and I don't know what the word count will be yet.

The stakes if he fails - This is missing... :)
Yes. Good point.

is this going to be rapey novel? Are women in this only going to be treated as sex objects?
Ugh, no. I like to think (he says) that I've subverted some of these expectations/roles in the novel, but in giving away the high-level set-up (man finds sex robot) I suppose I can begrudgingly see that it could be interpreted that way. How to avoid this in such a short overview? (I know this will be extrapolated in the synopsis, but given many agents are turned off at the query latter stage, how to overcome this?)

Antagonist is vague.
Hmm. Again, good point. I'll have a think on this. There's no single "Big Bad"; rather people with conflicting goals. Way to express this with clarity in such a short space?

Good job I won't have to worry about this properly for a good few months yet!
 
Pick a worst of the worst for the focus, like lexcorp in superman.
Or the ancient evil moving behind the scenes. Like Mr. Burns in the Simpsons.

Mention something about the robot doll presenting to him as a person. That the corporations are doing illegal personality implants into cyber consciousnesses from human hosts. To train cyber brains to respond as humans. But that makes them human. So this man thinks he's got a machine and he quickly realizes its a person in plastic. Which is illegal and immoral in the overcrowded warrens of resurrected city's.

And give the robot a name so they know its a character.
 
I agree that the subject matter needs careful attention. You may not view the protagonist as callous, but it will appear so to the casual reader (and the literary agent or publisher will be reading your submission as one of possibly dozens they will have read that day) If you are looking to sell this work then first impressions are everything.

I agree with Mad Alice that you need a less abstract antagonist, even if it is only a henchman, pursuing Dhiraj.

Also, I would recommend that Dhiraj, rather than failing to sell the robot, chooses not to sell it, and it certainly needs a name if the reader is to be engaged with the plot. You need a more positive main character, and you may wish to consider giving the robot a more proactive role. Even if you decide to provide a more positive motivation for Dhiraj, avoid making the robot the proverbial damsel awaiting rescue.

Good luck.
 
Sorry I don't know anything about query letters but I just want to say this book sounds awesome, like something Paolo Bacigalupi or William Gibson would write. Also jellyfisherman is my new favourite word.
 
Sorry I don't know anything about query letters but I just want to say this book sounds awesome, like something Paolo Bacigalupi or William Gibson would write. Also jellyfisherman is my new favourite word.

Well that's just a lovely message. I just hope I can write something that lives up to the promise! Thanks so much Wruter!
 
DG, sounds interesting. Not my normal cup of tea. I did read The Wind-up Girl, but found it a little too morose and disturbing for my taste, but I know you're a good writer so you will be able to pull it off. :)
 
Thanks, @ratsy. I've not actually read TWG, and so far the opinions of it from people I know who've read it include terrible, beautiful, morose, offensive... clearly it's one of those very divisive books!

At present I've no desire to read TWG, as from what I can gather there are some (though not all) high-level thematic similarities to MOW. But the plot and tone is probably very different. If /when I get MOW published then I may well turn to it. And IMO my writing style is very different to Bacigalupi's judging from the one or two short pieces of his I've read.

But we shall see.
 
I look forward to reading it one day, that kind of credible near future fiction is pretty rare and exciting and I think it takes a special kind of writer to pull it off (no pressure or anything):)
 
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