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Jane’s Slush Week entry

by Jane

(For details on Slush Week, see Chasya’s introduction.)

We’ll start with the query on its own, then the response after the jump:

Dear (Agent’s name):

I am seeking representation for my romantic suspense novel, SAVAGE MOUNTAIN, complete at 100,000 words.

When Dan and Kay Logan find the body of the young woman in the woods, their lives change forever. Moving from the city to the sparsely populated Warner Mountains of California, the two are excited about their new life style and look forward to living full-time in the wild, rugged country where they have enjoyed vacationing for years. But mysterious dead bodies have a way of interfering with happy plans and memories.

The sheriff barely arrives before the killer strikes again; this time the victims are the rancher and his wife who befriended Dan and sold him his small ranch. The murdered man had told Dan weeks ago that a shiftless hunting guide, Pat Riley, was jealous of Dan, held a grudge against them both, and mentally was “not quite right.”

Riley’s known by the locals to be a nasty piece of work. Dan suspects he is the killer, and that he and Kay could be next in line, but running from trouble has never been the Logans’ style, and they are not about to change now. They prepare themselves and stay to face the threat, be it from Riley or someone else.

The authorities investigate in their slow and meticulous way, while Dan and Kay attempt a normal life, hoping the killer will be apprehended, but expecting an attack at any time. SAVAGE MOUNTAIN is the classic story of two people in love, who face adversity and danger the old-fashioned way – on their own.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
(Author’s name)



Dear (Agent’s name):

I am seeking representation for my romantic suspense novel, SAVAGE MOUNTAIN, complete at 100,000 words.

Don’t begin a letter with “I.” It suggests a certain amount of self-involvement and perhaps a bit of lazy writing. In this case I would suggest you say something about knowing from looking at the website etc that I am interested in romantic suspense and as a result you would like to interest me in your novel currently entitled….

When Dan and Kay Logan find the body of the young woman in the woods, their lives change forever. Moving from the city to the sparsely populated Warner Mountains of California, the two are excited about their new life style and look forward to living full-time in the wild, rugged country where they have enjoyed vacationing for years. But mysterious dead bodies have a way of interfering with happy plans and memories.

The sheriff barely arrives before the killer strikes again; this time the victims are the rancher and his wife who befriended Dan and sold him his small ranch. The murdered man had told Dan weeks ago that a shiftless hunting guide, Pat Riley, was jealous of Dan, held a grudge against them both, and mentally was “not quite right.”

Riley’s known by the locals to be a nasty piece of work. Dan suspects he is the killer, and that he and Kay could be next in line, but running from trouble has never been the Logans’ style, and they are not about to change now. They prepare themselves and stay to face the threat, be it from Riley or someone else.

The authorities investigate in their slow and meticulous way, while Dan and Kay attempt a normal life, hoping the killer will be apprehended, but expecting an attack at any time. SAVAGE MOUNTAIN is the classic story of two people in love, who face adversity and danger the old-fashioned way – on their own.

Rather than providing the narrow details of the story, I would prefer you describe it in more general terms. You’re summarizing too much without giving a larger sense of what this story is. You should compare your work to other bestselling suspense novels. You might also want to describe the potential audience in this letter.

You can say how excited you are about sending it and then ask if I would like to read it.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
(Author’s name)

I like this closing–it is sincere and respectful.

All of this sounds familiar, and if I were only to have this, I admit that I would turn it down. You need to work on distinguishing what is unique and exciting about your novel rather than running through the whole story.

Thanks for submitting!

7 Responses to Jane’s Slush Week entry

  1. David Jarrett says:

    You don't know how grateful I am for your evaluation of this query, as it is mine. I admit it is not as good a query as it should be, and I have learned much about the art of querying since I submitted it. However, even though I was not querying you directly, you are the very first agent to give me any real feedback concerning what was wrong with it and what I could do to improve it. After receiving numerous form rejections, you don't know how refreshing that is.
    Thank you again,
    Dave

  2. Anonymous says:

    'The authorities investigate in their slow and meticulous way, while Dan and Kay attempt a normal life, hoping the killer will be apprehended'

    It didn't ever hook me, but that sentence was the one that killed it stone dead. It sounded so anti-story. The police do something boring while the main characters sit around waiting.

    I'm sure in practice, the book is more exciting than that. The thing that drives the story – and would make it stand out from Standard Log Cabin Thriller – seems to be the love and challenge in adversity. I'd highlight that more.

    It also wouldn't hurt to give some touchstones. Other books or movies that it's like or reacting against. I can't tell if this is middlebrow horror or literary psychological thriller.

  3. Alli says:

    Thanks Jane for commenting and thank you to David for being brave and submitting your query. Are you pitching this as a straight suspense?

    You mention the couple are in love, but I'm wondering if it is challenged in the story. If that's the case, then maybe weave this into your query letter. We can see the external conflict (killer on the loose, etc) but what about the internal conflict – their relationship and the stress it no doubt will endure? Maybe this could give your query another dimension.

    Here's wishing you luck in the land of queries and I hope my comments help.

  4. Falen says:

    I agree with Alli. Since this is a romantic suspense novel, i'd like the query to be both more romantic and more suspensful. If that makes sense. Right now, it's kind of blah.
    Good luck!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dear (Agent's Name)

    My name is (Author's Name) and I (detail any previous writing experience). I'm seeking representation for my novel SAVAGE MOUNTAIN. I'm writing to Dystel and Goderich because you represent (author they represent) and (author they represent), and I feel Savage Mountain is a romantic suspense novel in the same vein as their work.

    Dan and Kay Logan have left the frustrations and temptations of life in Los Angeles for the chance to start over in the rural idyll of the Warner Mountains. On their first night in their new home, they find the body of a young woman.

    Dan immediately alienates their new neighbors by pointing the finger at Pat Riley, a local trapper. Dan saw him at the scene, but Riley's a popular young man with learning difficulties, and the Sheriff refuses to even investigate. When a second young woman is found dead, Dan and Kay realize they are on their own in the woods.

    Riley is hanging around their property, and they can do nothing about it. Dan and Kay draw strength from their trust in one another, but halfway through the book, when Pat Riley is found dead, even Kay begins to suspect her husband.

    As I hope I've made clear, Savage Mountain is a suspense thriller, but the story is driven by Dan and Kay, the tiny telling doubts and details that make up any relationship (give an example).

    I have completed a full draft of Savage Mountain, around 100,000 words. If it sounds like the sort of novel you would be interested in representing, I would welcome the chance to send you sample chapters.

    Thank you for taking the time to consider this,

    (Author's name)

  6. Linda Johnson says:

    Yes, thank you Jane for commenting, this is so helpful, I hope you do this again and again.
    Thank you David for submitting. Best of luck with your book!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Seriously? A straightforward declarative sentence that one is seeking representation is "lazy" and self-absorbed? Seriously?

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