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Query letter critique

Hello all. I am a new member hoping to learn from the community here. 

I wrote a novella of around 15,000 words and am looking to find a literary agent. I used the Jericho Writers Query letter template to work on my first draft letter and I was hoping to get some feedback before submitting it for the review process. 

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Dear X, 

I am writing to seek representation for my first book, Aka’s Pilgrimage, a novella of around 15,000 words inspired by the writings of Haruki Murakami. 

Aka is a middle aged physician that finds himself lost in grief after the sudden and mysterious departure of his lover Suri, and goes on a journey of finding meaning in a life where death is inevitable. 

Aka’s story begins with Suri’s farewell letter to him, which provides no explanation and makes him question the very reality of what had transpired between them. As he struggles to find meaning in his life, he is met by a courier who arranges a meeting with an old woman that hints that there is more to Suri’s disappearance than first meets the eye. He is given the possibility to free her and regain her, but not without a price. 

Aka and Suri’s story sets the reader up to question our eventual mortality, and perhaps understand the universality and timelessness of our deepest emotions. Similar to Murakami’s style, there is a sense of surrealism that permeates every encounter and leaves the reader wanting to find out more. 

I am an Obstetric and Critical care physician and deal with decisions involving birth and death and end of life care on a regular basis. I have been published on KevinMD, ‘An obstetrician in the ICU’ for a similarly themed non-fiction work. I enjoy writing fiction that asks meaningful questions. 

I have attached X

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Best regards, 

Tagg

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Do you feel my story description needs to be flushed out more? What can I improve upon to catch the agents eye? 

Thanks in advance

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Replies (3)
    • HI Tagg 

      Welcome to Jericho and congratulations on completing a piece of work, completing any piece of work should be celebrated. 

      Finding an agent, any kind of agent is a hugely tricky business and is hard enough when you have a full scale novel to sell or even a series of novels. selling a Novella, or asking an agent to sell a Novella is maybe 10 times harder. Novella's have a place - and are usually a device used by well -established authors to promote their next novel or perhaps as a spin off story that didn't make it into the main novel. (Dean Koontz does it a lot as do other multi-billion selling writers who have an eager and waiting audience.)

      As a new author with only a novella, no matter how brilliant it might be, will be a tricky proposition for any agent to take on. A novella is basically a short story and they rarely appeal to agents as they can't really pitch it to a publisher with any hope of making a return. Agents are in business to make money, everything else (despite what they may say) is secondary - if they can't sell it, they don't want it. 

      If the storyline is string enough - could you not make it into a novel of substance? Your premise is intriguing, but there's nothing there to make it stand out - you need a hook, an elevator pitch that makes an agent unable to resist opening your email.

      Hope this helps.

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      • Hi Danny, 

        This is incredibly helpful. Thanks for taking the time. I did consider that a novella is likely a harder sell but I was fairly happy with how it came out and didn't want to add unnecessary fluff just to up the word count. I guess I will try my shot with it and work on additional works that may be more 'agent worthy' down the road. 

        Ravi



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        • Hi Ravi,

          It sounds like you have a lot of interesting ideas here. We shouldn't shy away from the big questions, and this even sounds like it could be quite commercial. I have to agree with what's been said about agents and novellas.

          Padding a 15k novella with 60k of 'something' to make it novel length doesn't sound like the best strategy, but incorporating the novella as a story-within-a-story might be a possibility? Depending on where inspiration leads, maybe this could be in terms of the lives of several generations of a family, the same events viewed from different characters' perspectives, parallel timelines, parallel universes - you name it.

          I might be a little more circumspect about comparing myself to Murakami. It's helpful to have a comparison, but it shouldn't be too close. The usual advice is to make a comparison with more than one writer. "This would be an ideal read for readers who wish Haruki Murakami had written Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'." (Ludicrous example - don't want to influence you too much.) 

          I'd also be wary of talking about the impact the writing would have - "leaves the reader wanting more" - let the writing speak for itself.

          Hope this helps.

          Cheers, S.

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