Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Face-Lift 472

Guess the Plot

The Great Granellie

1. In post-apocolyptic California, one man rises to power in the Hipee tribe when he unearths the "Nola Cookbo" and deciphers the ancient secrets of the demigod Gorp. It's Zardoz meets The Road Warrior when a rival tribe, the Silicoes, arrives and tries to enslave Granellie's people.

2. Part MacGyver, part Nancy Drew, New York City girl Jackie Smart uses her knowledge of science and her street smarts to solve the mystery surrounding the Great Granellie. The mystery, of course, is who--or what--is the Great Granellie?

3. Six clever urchins pick pockets in the subways of London, supervised by an evil gnome: the Great Granellie. Then a kindly missionary takes them in. But soon the kids discover she's making bombs in the cellar. No one believes them, except the Great Granellie. Can the tiny gnome free the kids in time to thwart her diabolical scheme?

4. Just as Screaming Mimi feared her top would fly apart and blow away, the minor Granellies were blasted from the sky by Thor Jones' manly ray gun. She was saved! Whew! But that night as the sexy duo celebrated their victory, the great Granellie landed on the roof, sword in hand. Plus a naughty maid and her dancing poodles.

5. After three years of night school, aging accountant Dora Granellie got her Basic certificate and started moonlighting as a birthday magician. All went well until she disappeared Tobey Jones, son of billionaires. Now Dora and Wizard Myrrhill must search 17 time warps for the brat. They have plenty of Monster Poison Juice and Zombie-Kickers but if Queen Noarraon stole the tyke to be her page-turner, it's all over.

6. When midget wrestler Steve Granellie makes it big in Hollywood as one of Cleopatra's henchmen, the sky's the limit and he signs on for a show in Las Vegas, never realizing he'd soon be running for his life because of a misunderstanding about a coconut, pursued by two prissy guys and their undisciplined tiger.

Original Version

[I've purchased the writers' guide books and followed all the rules and still, even with a Disney producer waiting for my next move, _______ told me she wasn't interested. Please help me understand why.]

Dear Agent,

Per your request, enclosed please find the first three chapters of The Misadventures of Jackie Smart and the Great Granellie, a middle-grade mystery novel complete at 77,000 words.

As you may recall, this is the story of Jackie Smarthers, a teenage girl who does extraordinary things with ordinary objects (quickly gaining her the nickname of “Jackie Smart”). Part MacGyver, part Nancy Drew, New York City girl Jackie uses her street smarts and knowledge of science to solve the mysteries that await her in rural Riverdale, CT. [Riverdale? Is this the Archie and Jughead Riverdale? Here's the first mystery Jackie can solve: why Archie couldn't ever decide between Betty and Veronica. I mean, it's totally obvious which one any sane man would be happier with. Then she can look into how Moose ever made it past fourth grade. Also, Jughead's nose looks a lot like Miss Grundy's. Coincidence?]

I enjoyed meeting you at the BEA conference and appreciate your time. I was recently introduced to NAME HERE who produced a mini-series SHOW NAME HERE for the Disney Channel. He was intrigued by the character of Jackie Smart and asked to see the manuscript. He has since asked me to have the book re-written as a movie script. [Have it rewritten? Why doesn't he have it rewritten? Surely he has better connections with screenwriters than you have.] I’m hesitant to move forward without an agent’s representation and would love the opportunity to work with you on this project.

The Great Granellie is the first of a four-book series. I’ve included a chapter summary for the first book and a series overview for your convenience. I hope you enjoy this sample and I look forward to hearing from you regarding the rest.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions. Thank you for your time.



First off, I don't understand calling it "Misadventures," rather than "Adventures." "Misadventures makes me think Jackie's a bumbling heroine, like Inspector Clouseau or The Three Stooges. I wouldn't refer to stories of MacGyver or Nancy Drew as misadventures.

Also, is each book in the series going to be titled The Misadventures of Jackie Smart and the X? Plain old Jackie Smart and the X sounds better. Don't worry, you won't be accused of stealing the title format from Harry Potter; Harry stole it from Tom Swift.

As you're enclosing the first three chapters, a chapter summary, and a series overview, and telling us nothing about them, we can't tell if there's something about your plot/characters that's turning an agent off. So what you want to know is why the one agent to whom you wrote isn't interested. Possibility: The agent you met at BEA sells books to publishers and doesn't deal with scripts. And she doesn't think your book is ready for publication, or she doesn't think she's the right person to sell it.

There are agents who specialize in scripts and agents who want nothing to do with them. The agent asked to see your chapters without knowing anything about the Disney producer. It seems better to let the agent get enthusiastic about your book before trying to interest her in setting up a film deal for you. If it's just the film deal you're interested in, it sounds like that's not going anywhere until you have a screenplay. If you're seeking an agent to contact this producer you met and tell him you'll be happy to turn your unpublished manuscript into a screenplay after he shows you the money, that's not how it works (unless you've had success in the field already, anyway).

Presumably you originally approached the agent because you want an agent to sell the first book of your series to a publisher. Yet this query could apply to any book in the series. There's nothing here about this book. Who's the Great Granellie? What mystery awaits Jackie Smart in her first misadventure? That's what the agent wants in your one-page query letter. (It's also what Evil Editor needs in order to compose a fake-sounding real plot.) If it intrigues her, she'll read your chapters.

There are hundreds of agents, and they all have many clients. That you met this one gives you a bit of an opening, but she met dozens or hundreds of people at BEA. She can't take on everyone. Try someone else. And send us your first 150 - 200 words so we can tell you if they're working for you.


Stacy said...

Did you tell the agent at the conference what your book was about? If that was the only introduction s/he had to the story, you need to recap more of that in the letter. No way the agent is going to remember the plot even a couple of days later (especially if s/he's anything like EE and demanding beer).

The letter sort of reads like 'Ah, a Disney producer is interested. I have this in the bag.' You don't. You're not done pitching until the book is sold, or until 100+ agents tell you it stinks. Obviously it doesn't, or you wouldn't have gotten a Disney producer interested. But you have to sell just as hard as if you'd never met the agent. Ditto for when you finish the script. Think the producer is going to remember you? Hah!

So, in addition to a new query letter, get busy on that damn script! My nieces need a new MacGyver/Nancy Drew role model - pronto!

Anonymous said...

... why Archie couldn't ever decide between Betty and Veronica. I mean, it's totally obvious which one any sane man would be happier with.

Well, DUH. It'd be Betty because she's so... or maybe Veronica because, well, you know... or... oh, dammit, you've returned me to my own personal adolescent hell, EE.

Anonymous said...

What's this stuff about some anon "producer" asking you to "have" it rewritten?

Either he's not real, he's bullshitting you, or you're not telling this correctly because that's not how things are done. If he really liked your story as movie material he'd buy all rights now, or at least he'd buy the film rights, and then follow Hollywood protocol by paying his own writer to turn your story into a screenplay, when the strike ends. Screenwriters have a union and they don't work on speculation, unlike novelists.

Dave Fragments said...

I would open with the line:

I enjoyed our meeting at the BEA conference. We discussed "Adventures of ..." a 77K YA novel about Jackie Smart, a teen who uses her knowledge of science and her street smarts to solve mysteries.

Jackie has a problem, She ... {Add the plot of the novel}...

This gets the agent to the story as fast as possible. As you have written it, you're depending on the agent's memory to remember a conversation that he or she might have forgotten. I went to many technical conferences in my career as a chemical engineer and most of the time, they turned into blurs. That's what business cards are for and copies of papers and notes. I'd get home Sunday night and try to do four or five days laundry, eat, sleep and then use a quick cup of coffee to gather my thoughts to report to the boss. Now I might be good, but not that good. I'd face a small mountain of inter-office mail, travel forms etc...
Sorry to go on and on but you get the idea.

That poor agent might not remember you. Give him or her a break. Write a decent hook and make the query a bit more formal.

You could leave that first paragraph until the end, too. But that's an after thought.

pacatrue said...

EE is trying to put us all into fits. Which one is the obvious choice between Betty and Veronica. And, more importantly, which one does EE choose? I think I'd have to go with Betty as I can't afford Veronica's shoe habit. But wait she's independently wealthy, so I don't have to afford anything. And she does have dark hair; I always prefer brunettes to blondes. Hm.

Nah, I think Veronica'd eat me alive. I'm going with Betty.

Maybe being eaten by Veronica isn't so bad, though....

Wasn't there a hot redhead, too? I choose her. But, wait, she was ditzy.

Crap, I can't decide. I'm going to go play Warcraft some more instead.

none said...

The agent probably assumed the conversation with the producer went like this:

Author: My book would make a great mini-series.

Producer: Sure, have it made into a script and I'll look at it.

Robin S. said...

Hey, paca, what the hell's wrong with blondes? Even fake ones?

You choose Warcraft over Betty OR Veronica? Good Lord. We can't be having that.

ND -- Good one, buffy.

Hi, Author. What/who IS the Great Granellie? Is it the girl's Great Gran, Ellie? Sounds like a fun story. I can give you absolutely no valuable query info.

Hopefully, phoenix will be by shortly.

Chris Eldin said...

Oh man. I'm going to do a post on my blog about the difference between a YA and a middle-grade.
Middle-grade novels usually range from 25,000 to 40,000 words. Of course there is flexiblity, but that is the normal range.
You may actually have TWO middle-grades. Or a YA. Depending on themes.

Anyway, your letter doesn't give much info about your story.

Sarah Laurenson said...

In this business, agents / editors / publishers / producers / etc. are generally nice to your face and don't want to say anything bad about your manuscript. That doesn't mean the producer was lying to you or the agent didn't want to read your sample chapters. What that means is that you telling the agent that a producer is interested means, well, diddly to the agent.

Plus, whether or not the agent believes you have a film deal in the bag, that won't make her/him necessarily want to jump on the bandwagon. It's not like they're sharks circling waiting for the first glimpse of a huge pile of money to bite into. Some of them actually want to like their clients and be excited about their clients' manuscripts.

Do you want to work with the first agent you approached if you know nothing about them? Have you asked this agent what was the last thing he/she sold? Do you know if this is a reputable agent? Have you checked Preditors and Editors?

You sound like someone who has scratched the surface of the homework necessary to be successful in this business. Perhaps you have amazing writing talent and a great set of books waiting to be published. Now it's time to do the footwork and find the right person to work with on this project.

In the meantime, keep writing, get critiques from your peers, and think about if you want to write the screenplay yourself or hire someone to do it for you. You may be able to find someone who'll do it on spec, maybe. Then you'll have the book and the screenplay to shop around, but not necessarily to the same people.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping it was Plot #3.

Anonymous said...

I think the device of calling her Jackie Smarthers (ugh!) so that she can be nicknamed "Jackie Smart" is a bit contrived. Frankly, that puts me off...

Anonymous said...

This is by far the most honest critical feedback I've gotten! Thank you all for taking the time to do this. So here's the deal:

I did think the agent would remember me and the plot of the book. That may have been my first mistake.

Yes, Jackie is a bit of a bumbler. Nothing goes quite right for her at first...which is part of her charm. She has to try a little harder to make things work than the slick MacGyvers and Nancy Drews of the world.

The Disney guy not only asked to read the book, but hounded me for a week until I got it to him (I wasn't convinced that he was legit either - until I googled him. Then I got a little more skippy with the idea.) He called and asked to meet again within a week of receiving it. He offered to connect me with a "script rabbi" if I did the re-writing first. I know nothing about writing a script though and didn't want to pay anyone to do so without an agent working out some sort of deal first.

I LOVE that EE picked up on Riverdale. In fact there are many characters in the book who relate back to The Archies, though I use Elizabeth instead of Betty (and guess what? She marries Jughead, whose real name is Forsythe - and he's a doctor now). Her grandmother's last name is Bloom, a nod to Vic Bloom, the creator of the Archies, and I dropped in a line that her wealth came from the grandfather's comic book "collection." All of this aside, that was just my little way of hiding fun clues - something I really love to do. Clues not paramount to the story, but I do have a scavenger hunt on my website for miscellaneous things that I hide in my books just for fun.

Pick your poison folks, I owe you all a drink or two for snapping me out of it. I have a 2 page synopsis that I've been trying to make fit into a 1 page query letter for other agents (and yes, I did think I had it in the bag. ugh. thanks for waking me up!)

I'm going to throw myself at your mercy and try again. THANK YOU! (and yes, I'm shouting!)

:o) Susan

Sandra Cormier said...

My boss's name is Jackie Smart. When this book is published I'll hunt down a copy for her!