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Query No. “Repeating History”

Welcome to Query Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a query to be read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. Published authors may do so under their own name or anonymously.

Readers, though, the way that I look at it is this: Would the hook itself interest you in reading the book. If yes, what interests you and if not, what would you change to make it more appealing?


Start of the query with prefatory note for blog readers: While this is not a romance, there is a romantic thread, which I do not mention in the query (although I do mention it in my synopsis).

Dear xxx:

Chuck McManis has been through all this before. He just doesn’t know it yet.

During the summer of 1877, the Nez Perce Indians, fleeing from the US Army, passed through Yellowstone National Park on their way to sanctuary in Canada. Along the way, they inadvertently kidnapped a party of tourists. But one of these tourists is not what he appears to be.

Chuck is from eighty years in the future. A geological anomaly where the web of time is thin has flung him back to a place where he is forced to become a hero. Whether he thinks he can be one or not.

Repeating History is a 120,000 word historical adventure novel with fantasy elements.

May I send you the complete manuscript?




Interested in participating as an author or an aspiring author? Send your query to jane at All queries are kept confidential.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ann Somerville
    May 03, 2008 @ 05:56:17

    I’m hooked. It’s short, sharp, and has an interesting premise.

    ‘Geological anomaly’, though? That sentence too is a tad flabby and could be better written, but I doubt it would put a publisher off.

    And others may complain about the word length, but personally I think the publisher should be the one to decide how long a book they want. They can always ask for cuts.

  2. Jackie
    May 03, 2008 @ 06:03:12

    Wow. Yeah, I’d want to read this. Absolutely. Well done!

    Regarding length, I think for alternate history/fantasy, you’re at the longer side of acceptable, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

    Send it! And good luck!!!

  3. Holli
    May 03, 2008 @ 07:02:09

    What you have is interesting, but it’s too brief. Aside from the fish-out-of-water aspect inherent in a time-travel, I don’t get a feel for the kind of book this going to be – an action adventure, a historical epic following the journey of the Nez Perce to Canada, a ‘time machine’ kind of story line with multiple time jumps… What will the main conflict be? How is Chuck forced to be a hero?
    And I keep wondering about how you can inadvertently kidnap a group of tourists- which might prompt me to read the beginning, just to find out.

  4. ChoptLiverz
    May 03, 2008 @ 07:31:33

    I’d switch that to temporal anomaly. I would definitely read this one, but I want one or two more sentences. Ratchet up the tension. What is at stake? I am going to take terrible liberties here since I know nothing about your story. This is just pretend on my part and I’m only doing it because the query hook is almost there.


    A geological anomaly where the web of time is thin has flung him back to a place where he will discover friendship and love and have to risk everything for their sake.

    (Or if you have some sort of seriously weird antagonist going)

    A geological anomaly where the web of time is thin has flung him back to a place where he will discover friendship and love and have to risk everything for their sake. To save his new tribe, he must face an enemy unlike anything he had ever imagined.

    He will have to become a hero. Whether he thinks he can be one or not.”

  5. DS
    May 03, 2008 @ 07:36:10

    The only thought I had was “were there tourists in Yellowstone park in 1877?”

  6. Shiloh Walker
    May 03, 2008 @ 07:43:57

    I’m intrigued.

  7. Anon76
    May 03, 2008 @ 08:01:24

    I like it.

    The only thing I might suggest is to somehow change the last line, “May I send you the complete manuscript?” Most every publisher requires a synopsis, no matter if the request is for a partial or a full. Mentioning the syn just adds a little more sauce in the effort to appear publishing “worldly”. (Gads, what a horrid sentence.)

    You might try something along the lines of, “Sample chapters, a synopsis, and/or the completed manuscript are available upon request.” (That needs tweaking too.)

    Then you could end with, “Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.”

  8. Sarabeth
    May 03, 2008 @ 09:33:43

    First, yes, this sounds interesting.

    Second, ChopLivers had suggestions close to my own. I would work on the number of “is” you use. Can the web of time wear thin?

  9. Bev Stephans
    May 03, 2008 @ 09:41:42

    It definitely hooked me. I’m a sucker for time travel stories and this is right up my alley as I also love history.

    On another note, I’m also wondering about tourists in Yellowstone at that time. Please be sure of your facts or your readers will definitely let you know!

  10. Jill Myles
    May 03, 2008 @ 09:56:24

    ZOMG a time travel! *love*

    My only complaint – once you mention he’s back in time, it kinda piddles out. What is he back in time to *do*? How will he get back *home*? Those are the two main questions I have when reading a time travel, and you answered neither. If you answer both, I think this would be excellent. :)

  11. Maya
    May 03, 2008 @ 10:14:35

    I’m intrigued. but personally would have liked a little more detail.

    His having the chance to be a hero – to whom? The kidnapped tourists (implying that the villains are the Native people, which, IMHO, the literary world does not need to see more of)? The Nez Perce people (implying the villains are the representatives of the US army)? In his own eyes, perhaps to make up for an opportunity he failed to grasp in his own contemporary life?

    I agree with an earlier commenter who asked (I think) whether he will remain where he is or return to his own time? I know it worked for Diana Gabaldon not to send her heroine home at the end of the introductory story, but there was that big scene of her being torn about whether to go or not.

    And from my ‘mental baggage department’ – at the words ‘Chuck’ and ‘hero’ I was powerless to stop ‘Norris’ from jumping in, and at the word ‘McManis’ I was equally powerless to stop the character from the movie ‘The Usual Suspects’ from jumping in. But that’s probably just me.

  12. Hanne
    May 03, 2008 @ 10:51:45

    The first sentence is confusing. I only read on because I wanted to read the whole thing and review it. When I finished, I still didn’t understand the first sentence – it begins to sound as if there is a parallel, modern-day plot.

    Second paragraph – tense switch is confusing.

    I do not like protagonists who are forced into it. And I think it is a waste of space to say he will be a hero – ’tis a given.

    For me, I think I would be hooked better if you begun with the time travelling premise, then gave the stakes he faces in the past.

    …Chuck McManis is in trouble. A geological anomaly where the web of time is thin has flung him back to the summer of 1877, just in time to be kidnapped by a group of Nez Perce Indians, fleeing from the US Army. [use saved space to explain the stakes for Chuck – getting back to the future, how the hostage situation works, etc]…

    The plus is I would love to read a historical adventure novel with fantasy elements. Best luck!

  13. Diana Pharaoh Francis
    May 03, 2008 @ 12:19:48

    I’m really interested in the storyline. Especially since I live near Yellowstone and the Big Hole Battlefield, both of which have strong Nez Perce history.

    What I don’t like is your third paragraph. At this point, I want you to give a little bit more plot. What will the conflict be? Who is he a hero for? Why doesn’t he think he can? (And geological anomaly is really vague, as someone pointed out. And sort of raises Outlander in my mind since I don’t have anything more specific to hook into).

    Then you need to say somewhere that the manuscript is complete, and offer to send a partial or a complete manuscript. You might also want to insert something about why this agent or editor–show you know the market and this person’s work and think that your work will be a good fit for them, and that you think they will be a good fit for you.

    Good luck!


  14. Tracey
    May 03, 2008 @ 14:15:29

    I’m really interested in this. It hooked me immediately. The description is short, sharp, intriguing and to the point. I’d definitely want to read it.

    I checked to see if Yellowstone National Park was open at that point. I was surprised to find out that it was.

  15. Jenyfer Matthews
    May 03, 2008 @ 14:35:36

    I like the premise and find it interesting, but the letter is too brief. At the very least you need to add a little personal information about yourself and what your background in writing is, whether this is your first completed novel or tenth, etc.

  16. Jessica Barksdale Inclan
    May 03, 2008 @ 14:39:59

    This was the quickest query I’ve read in a month of Sundays. While I dig a good time travel, I was in want of some additional information. I need more details. About four sentences worth. You say this is a fantasy adventure. But what or who is Chuck going to have to deal with. Some terrible angry force? Is there a woman that chuck (really, Chuck? I went right to Charlie Brown)is going to hook up with? Is she a Nez Pierce tribal gal? A tourist? Who? What is the big issue Chuck has to battle against?

    And who are you? Do you want to mention anything here?

    Jessica Inclan

  17. Jill Sorenson
    May 03, 2008 @ 15:22:56

    Most of the queries we’ve seen here have been too long. I agree with those who say this one is a tad too brief. But maybe I don’t know how to grade a non-romance query, because what I’m really missing is mention of a love interest!

    At the very least, we need to know who the villain is. Don’t we? If the Nez Perce Indians are the antagonists, I’d be interested as long as your depiction of this culture is well-researched and non-stereotypical.

  18. Janine
    May 03, 2008 @ 15:54:32

    I’m intrigued too, though I’d also like to know a bit more.

    Chuck is from eighty years in the future.

    When I first read this line, I wasn’t sure if Chuck is from eighty years from now (2088), or if he is from eighty years after 1877 (1957). I’m still not certain, though since other futuristic elements aren’t mentioned in the query, I suspect it’s 1957. Still, I think it would be good to clarify.

    ETA: I really like the title Repeating History.

  19. Leah
    May 04, 2008 @ 14:53:45

    I’m just a reader, so I have no query expertise–but if I saw this on the back of a book jacket, I would SO buy it! Hope to see it out on the shelves one day!

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