The Pain of Querying

Writing a query letter is a skill. It's one I don't have yet, and I'm not as committed to acquiring that skill as I am to the skill of writing. Probably because somewhere in the back of my mind I think that if I can get past the query just once, then the book will sell itself, and then I won't have to write queries anymore. Wouldn't that be nice?

Part of the difficulty is that nobody agrees on what a good query is. Everyone agrees that they are short and to the point, professional and not annoying, but beyond that it seems like there's no consensus. Some suggest the body should be a mini-synopsis, others say it should be a pitch selling the book. One agency says they want to know your influences, another website says to include nothing of the sort as it might sound arrogant. A number of examples have rhetorical questions as their opening tagline, and a number of agents are sick to death of them.

So? I just keep on revising the letter and sending it out. I take some solace in the fact that I have yet to hear from any of the agents who asked for 40-50 pages with the query. Maybe it means they're considering it?

You've seen my original mini-synopsis. That was my first trial, where I was trying to explain what the book was about rather than sell it. It's okay, but not terribly clear and, in most places, not very exciting. It really is a synopsis, in that it tells what the story is about just without giving away the ending.

Below is my second attempt. One of the agents in the batch this was sent to asked for "sales material" along with the query - a promo sentence, back cover summary, etc. It got me thinking about the query in a different way and this was the result.

How can you stop a tyrant older than the oceans and faster than time?

In the mid-22nd century, the Earth is all but destroyed. The survivors live under the heel of a man named Arad who, if the rumors are true, is something more than a man. They say he can dodge bullets, turn invisible, and kill with a prayer. Some believe he is the savior prophesied before the war began, but others call him the devil.

Only a small group of rebels remains to oppose him, and they are quickly losing hope. There is a young girl that can save them, but they are as afraid of her as they are of Arad. And when the girl is hurt and hopeless herself there is no one to believe in her, except for a father and son who are strangers themselves – travelers from the past, trapped in a time that is not their own. Can Alex and his son convince the rebels they should help this girl? Will the girl’s powers be enough to stop Arad?

And when Alex’ son betrays the rebellion, who is left to save them?

Better, but it still doesn't get directly to the point. Part of that is that I don't know what the point is. That attempt was closer to the original seed of an idea I had for Travelers, but that seed has evolved so much since then, I can't say that it's the same story anymore.

Below is my current draft. A couple of days ago I found agents saying they hate rhetorical questions, so I tossed it. The pitch didn't need it anyway - not if I got to the point fast enough. This is the version that will go out with the third batch. Will it make any difference? I don't know. This whole thing is just a learning process for me anyway:

Arad rules the future with a mixture of persuasion and fear. He is not a man; he dodges bullets, turns invisible, and kills with a prayer – if the rumors are true. There is one who might be able to stop him: a young girl with equally strange powers, but because she cannot control them, the people are as afraid of her as they are of Arad.

Enter Alex and Thomas Gaines – father and son, accidental travelers from our time trapped in this post-apocalyptic struggle. They want to help the girl, but can they help her gain control of her powers before it’s too late? Will it be enough to stop Arad?

And when Thomas betrays them so he can go home, is there any hope left at all?
Looking at it again, the middle paragraph needs work. Or maybe that entire aspect of the plot needs work, but I can't toss out Alex and Thomas anymore. The last sentence, which I really like, is the main reason why.

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