Friday, March 19, 2010
Guess the Plot
1. Carrie Holmes rules the multimillion dollar world of vanity magazine publishing. When her rival Justin Kerr outmaneuvers her and buys 51% of her business, Carrie vows to stop at nothing to get her company back . . . even if it means unleashing the fire-breathing dragon she has staked in her cellar.
2. The concept of retribution has a problem: it's in love...with hunger. But hunger is a bodily signal, not a concept, and doesn't feel the same. Will retribution kill itself out of despair? Or will it enter the heart of a starving artist to be close to it's one true love?
3. Attila is tired of being picked on by the sons of the senators. He returns home when his uncle dies and picks up an army. Now it's pay-back time. Also, a non-talking dog.
4. When Julia loses the money she invested with real estate mogul Clay Hughes, she takes retribution by framing him for arson. Now he faces the death penalty. Wouldn't it be ironic if the method of execution were burning at the stake?
5. Pete Haskill is driving ladder truck 42 to a three-alarm fire when he realizes the address he's heading for is that of his ex-wife and her lover. Man, it's so easy to get lost in this town.
6. Tired of authors spelling his name wrong, comparing their books to classics, and looking forward to hearing from him, a New York editor sets his slush pile on fire, a conflagration that ups the global warming timetable by half a century.
Dear Evil Editor,
I am seeking representation for Retribution’s Flame, a work of commercial fiction, complete at 98,000 words.
Clayton Hughes had [has] never known the fury of a woman scorned – until now.
In a desperate attempt to save his crumbling real estate empire from the ravages of an economic downturn, he [writes a book called Retribution's Flame. Also, he] teams up with a neophyte investor with a checkered past. His judgment clouded by financial pressures, he falls for Julia’s seductive charms and the troubles begin. After placing him high on a pedestal, she turns on him when he fails to live up to her impossible expectations. [This is pretty vague. What were her expectations and in what way did she turn on him?] He ends their short-lived affair and she seeks revenge. Julia’s scheming leads to arson and murder with Clay as the prime suspect. Her skillful frame-up lands him in jail facing a possible death sentence.
A series of twists and turns leads to a showdown between Julia and Clay’s daughter, Melissa. That violent confrontation ends with Julia dead and Clay a free man.
[Judge: You're free to go.
Clay: Just like that? What happened?
Judge: The woman who testified against you was murdered, so you must be innocent.]
In the end he learns that image and pretense mean nothing. Everything he ever needed had been there in plain sight – his family. [All he needed was a family member to murder the woman he duped into investing in his crumbling real estate empire?]
I am currently the consumer columnist for the Vegas Voice newspaper. In addition, I have contributed over 125 articles on various real estate topics to the Bigger Pockets Real Estate Dispatch. [Real estate. That's where the big money is.] In 2008 I self-published A Rehabber’s Tale, a non-fiction work designed to complement various speaking engagements pertaining to rehabbing and flipping real estate. [So it's like prison work-release programs, except you go to rehab centers and recruit addicts to help you flip real estate in return for a few hours out of the center, during which you provide them with booze and cocaine . . . How do I invest in your company?]
If you're going to state that Clay learns that image and pretense mean nothing, I think the plot summary should show how believing the opposite led to his downfall.
It's not clear who's the villain. Calling Julia a neophyte investor who places Clay on a pedestal and has impossible expectations makes it sound like she was naive and fell for his scam, lost everything, snapped, and took revenge. But bringing up her checkered past and her seductive charms makes it sound like she was out to scam him from the beginning. Who sought out whom?
Does she want revenge because he dumped her or because she lost her investment?
Posted by Evil Editor at 10:38 AM
Labels: Commercial fiction
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Mentioning a self-published work in a query will only hurt you, or so I've been taught.
In the end he learns that image and pretense mean nothing. Everything he ever needed had been there in plain sight – his family.
Gee, the only thing missing in this query is rabbit stew. The new supermarket sells rabbit in the meat section. It's the first time I ever saw game meat in a supermarket.
I read the comment-free query and still wasn't moved to read the book. That is why I put the quote up there. I have no sympathy for Clayton. Melissa is an unknown in the query other than being the one-dimensional faithful daughter. I might have found the book interesting if Julia was somehow the hero and Clayton was the cad. But Clayton is falsely accused and Julia is a homicidal maniac. That's way too normal to be interesting.
Queries are selling jobs. You have to sell your novel to an agent. The query treads that fine line between advertising hype and legitimate fascination. Your job is to make the reader care about Clay and Melissa's predicament, get emotionally involved.
If that sounds familiar, it is. Sorry to repeat it.
Maybe: Melissa saves her father from a death sentence.
Or: Someone has framed Clay for arson and murder. It is up to his daughter to find out who before he fries in the electric chair.
Or possibly: When Clayton breaks up with Julia, the fires of love might have burnt out but Julia reignites her passions by burning his house, burning his friends and framing him for the arson/murder. All so that she can watch him burn in the electric chair.
I would agree with Anon @ 2:17 -- unless you list a sales figure, and it's in the thousands. If you're successfully selling a self-pubbed book, don't hide the fact. (If you're not so successful, you might just want to leave it out.)
As for the query synopsis itself, specificity is your friend.
It's too vague. Like 150 said, we need details.
I think the "women scorned" line is too cliche to be a good hook.
I agree with Anon 2:17 and others, even if you've sold a self-pubb'd non-fiction in the thousands, it might not help you and can only hurt you. Agents will rep or not based on the words and the story.
As for the query itself, I completely agree with Dave. I can't even get an inkling from this query what type of book this is...and that's bad. You mention commercial fiction, but the tone of the query and pitch need to support the tone of the novel.
If this leans toward suspense (which is a guess), the letter needs to bring that out. As is, this is almost like a random series of events. Hope my comments help.
I wouldn't worry about the reference to your self-published book being a bad thing (although I don't think it helps either). It seems to be in the 'good reason to self publish category': i.e. designed to complement various speaking engagements/sold at the back of an auditorium.
Is Clayton the main protag? If so it worries me that it sound like someone else solves his problems for him.
Regardless, you don't need to include the end of the story in the query - save it for the synopsis.
Hope this helps.
Does Julia boil Melissa's bunny?
Who's your protagonist? Clayton seems almost entirely passive. Julia falls for him and pursues him (is this expected between business partners?) and frames him, then he's rescued by his daughter. He seems more like a Maguffin than a protagonist.
If Melissa is the protagonist, make her the centre of the query.
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