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Query Saturday: Unnamed Science Fiction Romance

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?

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Dear Ms. X,

I saw on Publisher’s Marketplace you represent science fiction and romance. You may be interested in my 95,000 word Science Fiction Romance novel, Title Deleted.

Lena McAllister has it all – wealth, fame, family, and a past that has come back to settle a score.

A charming (yet psychopathic) crime lord takes her nieces hostage. To get them back, Lena must assassinate Rogusta’s most respected senator, who just happens to have GIA bodyguards surrounding him at all times. An impossible task gets even harder when she discovers Chief Agent Finn Droverson can read her thoughts – and emotions – like she is a comm display. If the GIA learns of her plan, she’ll never see the girls again.

If only Finn’s superpowers stopped at telepathy. Lena is a bit startled when their hands fuse together, and her knuckles suddenly spurt black hair. The saying ‘two become one’ is not supposed to be literal. This wondrous leap in human evolution has her running for the door.

Lena and Finn soon find their abilities make them stronger, faster, and more powerful than they ever thought possible. Together they attempt to battle double agents, outwit the smartest criminal in the galaxy, save her family, and figure out what their abilities mean for their future – and the future of the galaxy.

My short story, “Title Deleted”, is e-published with Publisher X. I am a mechanical engineer specializing in armament research and development for the U.S. Army.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I’d be happy to send you the manuscript if you are interested.

Sincerely,

A Writer in Need of Query Assistance

***

Interested in participating in Query Saturday? Send your query to jane at dearauthor.com. All queries are kept confidential. We are also going to start a First Page series in which we post the first page of both published and unpublished books to see whether the opening scenes hook you as a reader. If you are an author, either aspiring or published and want to participate, send your first page to jane at dearauthor.com or use our handy dandy input form.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

15 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 04:34:46

    Speaking strictly as an author, I found this query confusing. She uses acronyms without explanation (GIA), the wording of the paragraph about the fused hands doesn’t make it clear whether it’s Lena’s hands or Lena and Finn’s hands which are joined, the relevance of the bizarre detail about the spurting hair escapes me, the ‘saying’ isn’t exactly common enough to drop in without explanation, and evolution doesn’t work like that. I feel like there’s a whole paragraph before this which would explain some of these things which has been omitted.

    The plot has some similarities – and not in a good way – with the Johnny Depp film, ‘Nick of Time’. There’s no reason stated why Lena, with no special training, should be chosen to carry out a high profile assassination – the query makes it sound almost like she was selected at random.

    In short, there’s too many questions and omissions in this to stir more than irritation. Unnecessary details like the spurting hair should be dropped, as should elements of the world building which don’t immediately aid comprehension, and more should be done to make this smooth and coherent. I don’t know how a publisher would react to this, but I wouldn’t buy a book with this on the back cover.

  2. Anion
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 06:31:35

    I actually liked the first paragraph, but I laughed out loud at the second. If Lena’s hand is fused with Finn’s how does she run out the door? And the line about “two become one” is unecessary and a bit clunky.

    If Finn is the love interest, don’t tell us how charming the villain is. I expected him to be the LI, and it confused me.

    While I agree with Ann, I don’t think this is awful, it just needs polish. Take out the cliches and tidy it up, basically. I like the idea that she has to assassinate someone to save her family; it feels fresh to me (but sf isn’t really my genre either.)

  3. Leah
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 06:44:22

    Oh, see, I thought it was really good. I am not a sci-fi fan, but if I were, I would pick it up. I understood the black-hair thing–it means that their bodies meld together when he touches her. Now the black hair is a little “ew,” but I figured it was supposed to be a shocking visual. I imagine his ability would make for some fascinating love scenes. I did think that maybe that ability should be explained a little more, rather than just implied. We all understand telepathy, but is he absorbing her body, entering it, becoming one, or what? If they have sex, does she cease to exist? Can he do it at will, just with some beings, can he control it at all? Also, since he is a guard, perhaps you should explain a little bit how their attraction forms, because it is not clear how he is motivated to risk his job and the life of the senator to help her. Well, duh, I guess it’s because he’s a telepath, right? Still, not everyone would take that course of action. What is it about his character, and his view of her, that makes him willing to jump into this? Also, why did the crime lord take her nieces hostage? You say he is psychopathic, yet charming (no way, is he based on my ex? :) ). Does she have a history with him as well? If so, you might want to allude to it very briefly.

    At any rate, I thought your query was well-written, and if I were an agent, I would probably want to see more. Even though, as I said before, I am not into sci-fi, I still find these characters interesting. I hope this is helpful. Best of luck!

  4. Anon76
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 06:59:37

    As authors, we sometimes forget that what seems perfectly clear to us…can totally befuddle the reader. This is especially true when attempting to write a query. Trying to reduce a 95,000 word manuscript into a few short paragraphs is TORTURE!

    Relevance and clarity are the things to keep foremost in one’s mind.

    My thoughts, in no particular order.

    On first read, I totally didn’t “get” what was going on. I had to go back and reread a number of times (never a good thing). After doing so, I’m still unsure of some key points.

    “and a past that has come back to settle a score.” This phrazing seemed awkward to me.

    “A charming (yet psychopathic) crime lord takes her nieces hostage. To get them back, Lena must assassinate Rogusta's most respected senator, who just happens to have GIA bodyguards surrounding him at all times. An impossible task gets even harder when she discovers Chief Agent Finn Droverson can read her thoughts – and emotions – like she is a comm display. If the GIA learns of her plan, she'll never see the girls again.”

    Okay, I’m going to assume that the crime lord being charming has relevance. In the following sentences, I myself found it unclear as to whether Finn is a GIA agent. That confusion seems to be caused by the last sentence. Perhaps if “GIA” was replaced in that instance by agent, things would be a little clearer. Still if he can read her so well, why wouldn’t he instantly know of her plan?

    “If only Finn's superpowers stopped at telepathy. Lena is a bit startled when their hands fuse together, and her knuckles suddenly spurt black hair. The saying ‘two become one' is not supposed to be literal. This wondrous leap in human evolution has her running for the door.”

    The above paragraph is where it gets really murky. As written, I envision these two people attached as if handcuffed together, only instead, their hands are melded together. When she runs for the door, I see her dragging him in tow. Because of this, I would not have bought the book. Picturing them fighting battles in this way was too absurd a notion for me.

    After rereading and rereading, I then realized he is IN her body. (At least I THINK that is what is going on. LOL) If that is the case, this is an instance where the author sees the clarity of the words while leaving the rest of us behind. This then causes the next paragraph to have no reading value at all.

    I’ll stop there. These are strictly my opinions, for what they are worth, and without a rewrite of the sections I pointed out, I can’t really add much more.

  5. Janie H
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 07:30:14

    Content good. However, but the execution needs work. Work for clarity.

  6. Angela James
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 08:58:14

    I’d read on to the story, but it’s hard to find good books in this genre, so I’d be particularly interested enough (because of the genre). While the blurb might be a little confusing, the query is straight to the point and doesn’t ramble. And your first line shows that you did your research and didn’t just choose someone at random.

    As a note, no editor or agent needs to know your job unless it relates directly to your book.

    Remember, the query only needs to interest the editor or agent in going on to your synopsis and chapters, it doesn’t need to convince them to buy the book–they book itself should do that. As long as you have an interesting hook and your book sounds like it might be different and marketable, that’s all you need.

  7. JulieLeto
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 09:05:18

    I think it’s all been said…I particularly agree with Ann…and want to know why the heroine was chosen most of all. What special skills does SHE have? I wouldn’t pick up a book where the heroine was just a victim (in this case of blackmail and coercion) even if it leads to something more.

    But that’s just me.

  8. Jane
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 09:05:35

    I was confused about the reference to the charming villian as virtually the first person we are introduced to. If the charming guy isn’t the hero, then will he be some sort of love interest?

    That’s probably why I wouldn’t pick it up as a reader – because I would be confused.

  9. Jill Myles
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 09:23:08

    Kinda lost me at the black hair on the knuckles and fused hands. I’m a romantic…and a very visual person, and that just totally turned me off. Sorry.

    I understand it’s for dramatic effect, but is there another way it could be phrased?

  10. SandyO
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 10:22:37

    First of all, I think the author needs to establish where this story takes place. Where and what is Rogusta? With names like Lena, I started out thinking this would take place on Earth. then I get hit with Rogusta.

    The acronyms like GIA, etc are confusing. And the black hairs springing from her knuckles made me go back and check if Finn was some kind of off-world species.

  11. Katrina Strauss
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 10:26:38

    Others have already touched on the meat of the query, but it was the opening and closing paragraphs that jumped out at me. Specifically:

    You may be interested in my 95,000 word Science Fiction Romance novel, Title Deleted.

    and

    I'd be happy to send you the manuscript if you are interested.

    The tone of these comes off as a bit too humble to me. I’d use more confident or simply neutral wording. e.g. “A copy of the manuscript is available upon request in such and such format.”

  12. MissKitty
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 13:45:56

    Lena McAllister has it all – wealth, fame, family, and a past that has come back to settle a score. (<—- What enables her to kill a senator, her abilities?)

    A charming (yet psychopathic) (<—- implies the crime lord as the hero)
    crime lord takes her nieces hostage. To get them back, Lena must assassinate Rogusta's (<—–What is Rogusta?) most respected senator, who just happens to have GIA bodyguards surrounding him at all times. (<— second part of the sentence is unnecessary and sounds bad)
    An impossible task gets even harder when she discovers Chief Agent Finn Droverson can read her thoughts – and emotions – like she is a comm display.
    If the GIA learns of her plan, she'll never see the girls again. (<— unnecessary sentence)

    If only Finn's superpowers stopped at telepathy. Lena is a bit startled when their hands fuse together, and her knuckles suddenly spurt black hair. The saying ‘two become one' is not supposed to be literal. This wondrous leap in human evolution has her running for the door.

    (<— interesting idea, but needs work. Perhaps go for “it gets even stranger”. Keep it mysterious)

    Lena and Finn soon find their abilities make them stronger, faster, and more powerful than they ever thought possible. Together they attempt to battle double agents, outwit the smartest criminal in the galaxy, save her family, and figure out what their abilities mean for their future – and the future of the galaxy. ( Try for shorter more poignant sentences and paragraphs, you only need to entice the reader, not explain the whole book.
    Get more confidence, you´re trying to sell a product here, not beg for welfare. You´re not convinced of yourself and it shows in almost every sentence. Short and poignant, keep them guessing.

    Good Luck

  13. Mallika
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 15:48:44

    I think GIA might be “Galactic Intelligence Agency” — kind of like a play on the United States’ CIA?

    I agree though, the story was a bit confusing. In regards to the fusing thing, I also wasn’t sure if it meant that the guy got fused into her, or it was just their hands.

    The story does sound interesting, however, so Author: don’t give up!

  14. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 16:12:31

    I was more intrigued than confused. I understood immediately that Rogusta was a place and that the GIA was some kind of govt. agency. I’m clear on the conflict, have hints about the characters and don’t want to know EVERYTHING else.

    Lena is involved in this plot because her neices have been kidnapped, not chosen because she’s a ruthless assassin. Right?

    I’m not that familiar with Sci-Fi, so I may not be the best judge, and hairy knuckles aren’t my thing (hairy legs are nice, but I digress…) but I like this query. Good luck!!

  15. Robin
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 19:41:07

    As a reader, I can’t help but be persuaded by clear and cogent prose, and this query’s got that, IMO. Which means that I have a baseline level of interest in the story on that basis alone. As to the details of the story and how they come across, I have the sense that Lena has “abilities” beyond her wealth, fame, and family. Do these abilities have something to do with the assassination assignment? This point left me curious because of the dominant reference to the synergistic effect her abilities and Finn’s abilities have. And while I actually liked the unanswered questions I had about the GIA (that’s the kind of thing that would make me want to pick up the book), for example, the question I have about Lena’s talents (are they otherworldly, too?) is an annoyance to me, making the clause about the significance they have for the future fall flat for me. Although I wasn’t grossed out by the hair reference, FWIW.

    On a surface level, I really like this sentence: The saying ‘two become one' is not supposed to be literal.” And I like this sentence as far as it goes: “This wondrous leap in human evolution has her running for the door.” But I keep imagining that it ends in “running for the door instead of . . .” I don’t think the parentheses around “yet psychopathic” are necessary. I like the job detail, a lot, because it’s interesting and could be relevant. And I agree that the final sentence could be more assertive without sounding too aggressive.

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