Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Monday, November 23, 2009

Query Letters and Book Proposals

I found this little gem at BubbleCow when I was wandering aimlessly about on the net tonight.

I'm struggling with the whole query-letter-and-synopsis-thingy at the moment. I'm trying to write it as I write the novel, the theory being that while I am full immersed in the book I will be able to easily capture the essence of the story.

Honestly, I'm not sure if it is working!

I'm finding all the conflicting ideas about how exactly a query letter should (or should not) be laid out and what should come in where very confusing.

I mean, does it really matter if the hook of my novel comes first or my reasons for approaching the agent/publisher. Will I really be penalised for getting the order wrong here?

Personally I doubt agents are quite that anal. So long as I can hook them with the unique power of my story I should be right, right?

But then, that is a chore in itself, isn't it?

How can I capture the magic of my story in one or two short paragraphs without it sounding like any other fantasy (in a made up country in jeopardy from within, inhabited by fantastical creatures).

After all there are other stories out there about princesses who save the day, other stories with magic and shapeshifters and dryads and centaurs and ... well, maybe not collosus. Sure my creatures are different, but how does one capture that uniqueness in one or two short paragraphs?

Needless to say, it's a work in progress.

Note to self: STOP banging your head against the desk - I'm getting a headache!

Thus ends my rant for today...


  1. Several thoughts & suggestions:

    1) Is your story unique? Do you need to change the story so that it is? Does it matter if the story isn't? Many people love fantasy because of the familiar settings & plots.

    2) Perhaps the story is less important than the characters journey. Focus more on the character's problems & growth than plot points in the proposal.

    3) Perhaps you need to finish the story before you can summarise it. Give yourself some time after the first draft before worrying what it's all about and how you can sell it.

    Good luck.
    - Chris Green
    Spokesman for "Dark Lords R US".

  2. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for your wise and encouraging words. It's always good to have someone put things into perspective.

    The story is unique in a way, but it has all the fimilar fantasy elements.

    The main character's home is threatened by a evil nemesis. Only she can save it. There is an ancient magic that will help her win if she can work out how to use it and overcome her inner weaknesses. There are mythical creatures too (an essential element of fantasy).

    I think you are right too about focusing on the character's growth and development through the story. This is what I've been trying to do since reading BubbleCows blog post.

    I'll keep picking away at it.
    Might throw it your way and see what you think. :D