11.23.2009

It's Peanutbutter QUERY time!

11.23.2009
That's right.. that's right, lets dance, lets... ah, crap. I don't know that song. I have no clue how the lyrics, or even the beat goes. I heard my son singing it once, and that lead into a 30 minute session of "WTH?"
Anyway, take out your red pens kiddies, here is your chance to take as many cheap shots at me as you'd like. I'm posting my query letter for you all to criticize the bejesus out of it. So go ahead, please, lemme have it!


Dear Stellar Agent of superb and unquestionable taste:
My name is J.m. Diaz and I am seeking representation for my first novel entitled “Mend”.

GOT ANOTHER FOR YOU.

It was just a simple text message that marked the beginning of the end to Jacob Santos’ life. Like a cockroach running from the light, his legs sprung into action before his brain knew where they were talking him: Toward the worst serial killer Atlanta had seen in recent history.

Entire families are being slaughtered by a murderer that leaves little to no evidence behind, and he has chosen one person to be his captor. Jacob Santos. A man with an inexplicable compulsion to decipher the killer’s messages. While feeling responsible for the lives the killer has and will take, Jacob finds his obsession further fueled by the macabre inscriptions left for him at each of the crime scenes. The handwriting that inked the bloody messages echo from Jacob’s past, rustling memories of a boy he saw buried over fifteen years ago. Each step Jacob takes brings him closer to unveiling the secret that links him to the killer, and to the dark chasm that lies in its revelation.

Unbeknownst to Jacob, Lieutenant Nate Barker of Fulton County Criminal Investigations Division is assigned to the Atlanta slasher killings. With nothing but his analytical mind, a prescription drug addiction and a rookie partner, he too must find this killer, while attempting to keep the reins on his disintegrating marriage. Walking a tight rope between duty and family, Lieutenant Barker has a gnawing feeling that the killings go deeper than just ritualistic serial murder. After four families have been slaughtered inside of six weeks, Detective Barker is racing against time to find this killer, before his or another family is lost, along with his last shred of purpose, his faith or his life.

Mend is a 70,000 word, completed novel.

Thank you for your time and all that Jazz. Please let me know where you think I can improve this.

Thank you all.

JD

9 comments:

Matt

Bejesus beware.

This is way too long. Not to mince words.

The main problem I have is, I don't know who the main character is. Jacob? Or Nate? I feel like I know Nate better. A little too well actually. To me this reads more like a synopsis than a query. I like the idea of the text message, but I don't think you connected it enough to make me care about Jacob. The bit about him is too cryptic and rambling.

You can probably cut half of this, and then cut some more. Are you planning to sign the letter? Then you don't need to introduce yourself in the beginning. Cut stuff like that.

Was that brutal enough? I can be meaner.

Travener

OK, here's what I think with the understanding that given my own less-than-spectacular success at querying, I may just be full of poop:

The query is too long.

First para: Drop your name, capitalize MEND (that's publishing convention), no need to say it's your first novel, give the length and the genre (mystery? suspense? thriller?).

Second para: I wouldn't start with the text of the text message, just say something like, "It was a simple text messsage that propelled Jim Santos into the investigation of the worst serial killer Atlanta had seen in decades."n Combine with third para: "little or no evidence". Other than that, boil what you've written in the third para to at most two sentences.

fourth para: Way too wordy.

But I would say the fundamental problem with this is what Matt touched on -- who's the protagonist here? Are there two of them? Do they work entirely in parallel, or do they wind up teaming up together at some point? The way you've got it written now, it sounds like two separate novels.

Never use the word "unbeknownst" in any context, unless you're Mel brooks.

Good luck. Queries suck! Only synopses are worse!

quixotic

Just off the top of my head, it's too long. To me it sounds like the info in the second paragraph is the important stuff. Remember this isn't a synopsis, it's a query, a teaser if you will. Just stick to the main plot. The last paragraph is overkill.

Hope it helps. The story does sound interesting. =)

Roni @ FictionGroupie

Alright, here's my input:

Dear Stellar Agent of superb and unquestionable taste:

A simple text message marks (keep it all in present tense) the beginning of the end to Jacob Santos’ life. Like a cockroach running from the light, his legs spring into action before his brain knows where they are taking him--toward the worst serial killer Atlanta had seen in recent history.

Entire families are being slaughtered by a murderer that leaves little to no evidence behind, and the killer ( don’t use he—does your protag know for sure it’s a he? )has chosen one person to be his captor. ( let us know what Jacob does for a living, the first read through I thought he was a cop, but based on the next paragraph I’m guessing he’s not) (insert job here)Jacob Santos ( delete: a man with an inexplicable compulsion to decipher the killer’s messages—since you mention later he’s obsessed with the messages). While feeling responsible for the lives the killer has and will take, Jacob becomes obsessed with deciphering( delete:his obsession further fueled by) the macabre inscriptions left for him at each of the crime scenes. The handwriting that inked the bloody messages echo ( echoes--since handwriting is subject of sentence) from Jacob’s past, rustling memories of a boy he saw buried over fifteen years ago. Each step Jacob takes brings him closer to unveiling the secret that links him to the killer, and to the dark chasm that lies in its revelation.

( This is confusing having the two protagonists—maybe specify how they interact—if they do). ( delete:Unbeknownst to Jacob, ) Lieutenant Nate Barker ( delete: of Fulton County Criminal Investigations Division—unnecessary words you can cut) is assigned to the ( delete: Atlanta—u already mentioned where it is) slasher killings. With nothing but his analytical mind, a prescription drug addiction and a rookie partner, he too must find this killer, while attempting to keep the reins on his disintegrating marriage. ( delete:Walking a tight rope between duty and family—you just told us this in the previous sentence—a clause is fine here but choose something else that gives us info we don’t already know), Lieutenant Barker ( if you’re looking to shorten and cut words, just use Nate here and later when you say Det. Barker) has a gnawing feeling that the killings go deeper than ( delete:just) ritualistic serial murder. After four families have been slaughtered ( already used slaughtered earlier, pick another word) inside of six weeks, Detective Barker is racing ( delete: against time—redundant) to find this killer, before he loses his family, his faith, and his life. ( delete: his or another family is lost, along with his last shred of purpose, his faith or his life—too much going on in that sentence. )

Mend ( either MEND or put in italics) is a ( insert genre) complete at 70,000 words.


I think overall, you need to shorten it (which is me calling the kettle black because mine are always too long). I also think you need to link up the two characters and how they relate to each other. And give us a bit more of what defines this from other serial killer books since there are many out there. Lastly, you have such a distinct/sarcastic voice here on your blog, my guess is that your book has that as well, and I don't hear much of that in this query, so may want to look for opportunities where you can inject that.

Hope that helps! Your story sounds intriguing for sure. :)

Michele Emrath

I think someone else said this, but right out of the gate you switch tense -- keep it in present or it gets confusing. Otherwise I think it does a good job of using your voice and not sounding too form. the story sounds interesting. Might consider moving the serial killer part down, I hear serial killers aren't the selling point they once were.

Michele
SouthernCityMysteries

Jm Diaz

Thank you all! This is all great stuff, so please keep it coming. Right off the bat I know that I need to shorten the darn thing and do a better job at explaining that yes, there are two protagonists, and yes, there are two stories that will eventually collide with one another, but I cannot say how or why without giving surprise elements away.

Y'all are the best!

Anonymous

hey primo!!!!!!! jajaja como le va???? :) tqm!!!!!! luv ur writing!! very artistic that can relate to anybody. keep it up!! :D

♥ X.D.

Sierra Godfrey

PEANUTBUTTER query time!!! That is perhaps the best subject EVER.

Right, here are my comments.

-is Jacob the protagonist? What happened to to him right out of the gate--I THINK he got caught by a serial killer but I'm not sure...

- Then I got to the detective, who sounds like a protagonist. I'm confused.

- Which guy do we care about and why?

- I don't think length is an issue here. Just try to get the elements right and whittle it down later. I don't think an agent will care about length if the synopsis is good.

Tatiana Lensky

Keep the suspense by using less forceful verbs and adjectives. Make it simpler: "A murderer is killing entire families without leaving a trace."

Through simplicity, an economy of words you achieve more power. More umph.

Also - include something personal about yourself. Something that gives insight and makes YOU stand out. Doesn't have to be: I've climbed Mount Everest......."If you write, I’d like to talk to you. If you read, I’d REALLY like to talk to you!" that type of thing you wrote on fb is good. Just adjust to fit a query letter. You know, without trying to be too smart or witty. Just don't overthink it.

And yes, less is more. Always. Remember......suspense.

Hope this helps.

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