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Well, it's been a rough winter so far.  The isolation in this part of the US has been really tough and my ability to get online has been spotty at best.  I've been hard at work though and have finished my rewrite (again), fashioning my story based on JW online courses and the fantastic feedback from my peers here.  Now it's time for the all important query letter/synopsis.  I'm tackling one at a time (since my brain is still kind of mush from pushing out 117,000 words in three months).  If anyone would be kind enough to offer their opinions, I would be grateful.  I'm wanting to go through with the Agent 121 on the JW side but the feature isn't working at the moment (it seems to be stuck in December), so that gives me time to sharpen up.  Most appreciated.

Dear (Agent Name)

I am seeking representation for my first novel Clouds of Separation, an 117,000 word science fiction novel exploring prejudice and self-doubt in a post-apocalypse setting.

“You’re a monster.”

It’s all Micah has heard in the ten years since he awoke from his encounter with the Cloud, memories locked behind a dark curtain in his mind, body mutated by the Cloud’s cruel touch.  His home village of Skykom fears him for how he looks.  He fears them for how they treat him.  But he awoke with something else: the power of the Blessed, a thing no man on earth has ever possessed.  Micah fears the power inside him even more for it only comes when he is angry or fearful.   To use it would make him the monster they believe him to be.

When a new Cloud attack devastates Skykom, Micah flees into the unknown ruins of the world, seeking a new home where prejudice and fear don’t exist.   Instead, he finds the Norads, a brutal race of mutated conquerors who will stop at nothing to learn the secret of Micah’s powers.  Trapped in the ruins of an ancient city, Micah finds himself caught between two societies, separated by a century of hate, suffering beneath the Norad’s cruel hand.  Micah must find a way to bridge the gulf between them and embrace the power that lies dormant within him before the Norads destroy them all.

While I have no writing credits yet, I belong to and have benefitted greatly from the Jericho Writers workshop online writing and drafting courses as well as the Jericho Townhouse conversation forums where I’ve been able to work with my peers to enhance my understanding of the craft.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.


Stephen Phillips

  • Hey!

    I like your query, but watch out for spelling and grammatical errors (eg. your first sentence about the cloud needs a full stop not a comma, and it's 'fear doesn't exist', not don't). One thing is with the extract I was left with some questions which I think more specificity could clarify (what is it about his appearance people fear? How does he find out he has this power?) 

    I think your last paragraph about belonging to Jericho could be tidied up too. How has it specifically helped you? (I'm sure it has just need to clarify)

    Good luck!

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    • Thanks for the feedback.  As for the grammar, doesn't will not work because I'm referring to both 'prejudice and fear.'  If you break up the contraction, your version would read "prejudice and fear does not exist' whereas it reads 'prejudice and fear do not exist' in the above.'  See the difference?

      As for the full stop, I'm assuming you're referring to the line directly following 'You're a monster.'  If so, these three portions of the sentence can't be separated by a full stop as each is dependent on the previous.  The Cloud caused the memory loss and the body mutation.

      I do agree that there are questions that are left needing clarification.  That's the driving force behind the query.  The answers are ready and waiting to be found inside the writing chunk provided with (or requested because of) the query.

      Again, thanks for the feedback.

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      • I like the sound of it but I think for a query letter you need to be more succinct.   After the opening sentence you need something akin to the elevator pitch of no more than a sentence or two that sums up what the book is about.  Then a paragraph on the basic plot and then the biography paragraph.  You only need about 3-400 words so, for example, you don't need to say that the skycom inhabitants fear him because they've already said he's a monster. I must say it sounds fascinating so I hope you find your agent!

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        • Thanks for the feedback.  You know, I've tried the succinct and I've gotten much of what the first poster wanted.  MORE DETAILS!!!!   :)

          I decided to put a little more in because the elevator pitch (Troubled teen fights prejudice and self-loathing to explore a ruined world and his own unique supernatural powers) seemed too... lacking in details.  I could condense it back down again.  I'm not sure.  That's why I'm here!  To work out all the kinks before I commit to sending it to agents.

          And I thought writing a 117,000 word story was hard...

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        • 177,000 or 117,000 words?

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          • A case of beer, a box of chocolates and a kick-ass query?  Think that'll work here?

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            • I wish I had an answer to that one....probably better to use the latest catch phrase. But then, I am jaded. Seems the best way is to make friends with someone they know. I did have a full manuscript request from an agent but when I checked in four months later she said she hadn't had time to read it. Never heard another word. I have had four or five agents give me good feedback, even with a rejection; one other mauscript request but nothing further. Three agents I met at a conference, one was a friend of a friend, the other three were blind submissions. It's a crap shoot. What I've been doing lately is looking at who they publish, read a blurb from a recent book on Amazon 'Look inside', and see if it's something I'd want to read. If not, then I doubt they'd want to read what I've written. Carefully selecting the right agent to query is key but so is timing, I think. Jericho seems like a good venue to get 'there'. I've learned so much from their webinars and the Summer Festival. Thank goodness for it during Covid!

              Also, writing a single sentence that describes your story will help you hone your pitch. You can embellish, but I find it helpful, for myself, to put the concept in as succinct a way as possible and build from there. Good luck!

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              • Thanks.  I've gotten the query and synopsis written.  I'm letting them stew for a bit (since I'm making slow-cooker beef stew for dinner) before tackling them with a full rewrite (using feedback from here).  I'm working with the Agent Match on JW though there's a few out of date.  It helping me create a short list.  I'll be reviewing each agent over the next week to see how likely they are to be a match.  You're right, it's a crap shoot but I've already racked up 5 delivered rejections (one with a typo and one telling me I wasn't Stephen King because I submitted a horror query for a 200k book) and 9 'silent' rejections.  Each one stings but now that I have a story worth submitting, I'm ready to go at it again.

                Thanks for the encouragement.  Every little bit helps.

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