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Feedback Request

I'd welcome feedback on the main part of my query letter for my novel 'Love Not Included'. I'm having sleepless nights about this! I'm currently submitting to agents but have just had four rejections so far so I'm re-jigging everything at the moment. Many thanks.

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  • Hi Hazel,

    I feel your pain. Two rejections of my own this past week. At least they were personal notes, not form rejections. I believe they must have read my query!

    One thing I changed in my own letter was to include a short sentence in bold that is the gist of the book. Something short, an attention getter that makes them want to read more.

    Your story seems interesting with drama and emotion that make your characters interesting.  I lose track of the story line, however, with all the negative adjectives. To provide feedback, I had to read it several times to make sure I had the gist of it. I doubt an agent will take the time. But I'm not an agent, so who really knows? Just my take on it.

    Anyway, I would tighten considerably, spell the plot out rather than the emotions. My rewrite of the first paragraph would be something like this:

    Ava, a London solicitor, searches for her missing jailbird father, Andrew. What she finds instead is Nick, an acrimonious and antagonistic half-brother of which she had no knowledge. Together they stumble along, discovering family secrets of murder and blackmail. Is her father the rogue she has been told, or is her domineering mother the one behind the lies and secrets?

    The second paragraph can explain something about Ava's past and her self-discovery.

    Just my thoughts but maybe they'll be of some use. Regardless, it sounds like a good read.

    Good luck!

    Connie

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    • Thanks so much Connie. Some great advice there.

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    • Hi Hazel, 

      I think Connie had some good points there.  

      I was given some good advice by an agent who said: treat the reader (or the agent) as an intelligent being and only tell them what they don't already know. You don't need 'dual timeline' for example, when she is searching for something in the past, it is a given.

      I also thought the third paragraph had too much information. That could be in the synopsis, rather than the query.

      Mind you, I don't really know anything having had so many rejections I could start a political party.

      I hope you find someone. I thought the story sounded interesting.

      Georgina




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      • Thanks a lot for this Georgina. I'll certainly take your advice on board. There's a fine line between not giving the agent enough information and writing a mini-synopsis. I haven't quite got the hang of it yet!

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      • I read the query a few times to get the gist. I took it that the metre and rhyme had something to do with heavy edits, which I do not agree with. Every one has their own metre and rhyme, and conscience as well, so perhaps in some cases a heavy edit is appropriate. Ava seems to me, an interesting character, bound on a journey of self discovery. I imagine a timeline flashback dealing with her past and her mother Laura, revealing hurtful secrets as she uncovers more of Nick’s sinister nature. The remains, were they of her father Andrew’s or was there a deeper meaning to her mother? I wondered how the story would reveal these hidden truths.

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        • Hi Vincent, thanks so much for your interesting take on things! No, the bones don't belong to Andrew but to someone (the blackmailer) who was present on the night of the car crash and which changed Laura's - and her companion's - life forever. Reading your last comments I've just realised that none of my main characters are exactly what they initially seem.

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          • I really brainstormed for that one. Was the blackmailer a jilted lover, was there some kind of earth to the reason he did those things? I get the feeling that some rearranging of the manuscript would really change a lot more than a straight down the line story would. Dualism does that.

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            • No, he isn't a jilted lover. He's part of blackmailing ring targeting wealthy people, in this case a gay man in the 1950s/early 1960s.

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            • Hi Hazel.

              I had a quick read-through, and must admit that I found the outline as provided in the letter to be overly convoluted. (And I'm usually the one accused of that.)

              The sentences that start "As the search gets underway" and "As the story progresses" have the feel of an attempt to tease the existence of juicy bits, or perhaps to oversell a lack of juice (it could be read either way).

              I would recommend starting with the JW article on query letters. And, importantly, don't try to tell the story of your book in the two paragraphs - that's what the synopsis is for. Go deeper than that. Get to the real meat: pull out the theme, expose the flavour of intensity that will grab your reader.

              You already list a series of elements in your second paragraph. For me, at least, these fall into two categories: labelling of events (Nick finding human remains, car crash, a murder) and pressure points (a long-term blackmail campaign). Of those, it's the pressure points that are interesting, the emotional levers that your story uses. The events are more like triggers to change direction, rather than the persistent pressure that ramps up the story's emotional intensity. But it's the pressure you want to be teasing out for the cover letter.

              What is your story about (theme)? And what tools squeeze the story into that shape?

              I don't know if that makes sense to you. I can only hope…

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              • Sorry Rick, my reply to you has come up after another post. Please scroll down to see it.

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              • Hi Hazel. First of all Good Luck!! I had a quick read and the one thing that I would suggest you should reflect on is: what is your book actually about? Finding their father and why? Her relationship with her newly found brother? Finding love? Or the relationship with her mother? I would also consider some personal reference about why you wrote this story and why it would be worth reading! 

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                • Hi Anya, thanks for this. It's mainly about Ava's search for self-knowledge but it's about the other things too, hence my quandary! 

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                  • I would build on that. Through.....Ava is on a ....to find herself and...... What she doesn't realise is.....

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                    • Yes, I'll certainly do that. Thanks.

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                    • Thanks so much for this Rick. I was hoping you'd give me some feedback as you always give such insightful comments. I think the mist is slowly beginning to clear and I have a better understanding of what's required. I'm finding the query letter so much harder than writing the actual book! All the best.

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                      • Yep, that great truth of writing. Getting your initial story out is the easy bit. Editing it into shape is a whole other project, craft rather than free-flowing art. Selling it - including all the contracted variants required as part of pitching - is yet another skillset. And let's not even get started on the whole promoting thang…!

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