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A Terrible Query that Worked

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#1 Gruffbane


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Posted 07 October 2016 - 10:53 AM

You are all going to cringe when you read this query. However, it got me a full 2 week exclusive from one of the top 5 agents in sci-fi and fantasy on my first 10 submissions.


Unfortunately, I thought that meant that I'd written a good query...when in actuality I'd probably just piqued an assistants curiosity who just had a particular interest in the subject matter.


I had also made a bad mistake - I'd really just sent out the queries to see if there was any interest and to see if my HM from WotF carried any weight, and I wasn't done editing the MS.


So I sent him the part that had won the HM and got to work.


Two months later  when I finally submitted the complete MS the assistant/ first reader was in the hospital on indefinite leave.


So I sent that same "successful" query out to more and more agents, sometimes very sloppily, and 150 agents later I still didn't have another full request.


Yes, it's single spaced and in size 8 Times New Roman.



Dear Agent,


My "fantasy" novelette "The Man of Parkho Khatune Bears Favor" just won an Honorary Mention in this past quarter's Writers of the Future contest.

The story is comprised of the POV chapters of one character in a novel I've tentatively named "The Age of Ancestry." The novelette can stand alone but is also a part of the greater novel's story arc, and is an "origin story" for one of my main characters. Kind of like the Daenarys short story that G.R.R. Martin produced before ASoIaF.

It has been sixteen generations since the Age of Winter ended. All but the wisest of sages have forgotten the kingdoms and peoples that thrived before the thaw. New civilizations swell along three great rivers that divide the vast continent into separate regions and climates.

Among these cultures great city-states arise to expand their territories deep into the wilderness. There, treading through unknown forests where no human has ever set foot, lost secrets old and new have begun to be revealed.

Shiromain Shitek is a Magus in service to the illustrious King Mokla, who has recently acquired lands along the River of Sorrows. A strange creature of shadow is stalking children in the border towns. The Magus must solve the monster's riddle, and restore peace between his own people and the conquered Misha, who he knows little about.

The Initiated One is a novice in an ancient band of hunter-assassins, who must travel into the highlands that were once ruled by his ancestors, but are now overrun by those of ogre-kind. There, he must prove himself worthy of respect to those of his Order, and finally earn his name.

The Queen of a forgotten people comes of age in the cruel lands of the north, but slowly realizes that she is not of her subjects' kind.

On an island far to the south, a shipwrecked sailor battles for survival. With the help of a mysterious race of dwarves, he must escape cannibalistic goblin-men and flesh-eating dragons, even as a smoking volcano threatens to erupt. He has no knowledge of the woman, last daughter of an ancient line of chiefs , who will be the final decider of his fate.

The age in which these characters live has been painstakingly recreated through over 15 years of research into myth, anthropology, archeology, and genetics. The result is an alien world of magic and mystery, stranger than science fiction and more wondrous than fantasy. It is a world that never existed... or did it?

I have submitted a second "stand-alone or not" novelette from the same proposed novel to TOR magazine as of last month. It is comprised of the chapters from another of my POV characters, and is a stone age mystery or a fantasy mystery, depending on whether or not you've read the appendix.

If a prospective buyer doesn't like the idea of free advertising from Tor magazine, I can withdraw it before it's read without ramification. Alternatively, I can pen a second mystery novelette for the character "Shiromain Shitek." The story's purpose within the novel is to establish the character as a stone-age detective, as well as to expose the culture in which he lives . That way the 12000 word TOR novelette would be a prequel.

The complete novel will be the first book in a trilogy. I also have a second stand-alone trilogy planned for a different period in the same "world."

My work reads like fantasy, and will seem like fantasy to most who read it. However, it is actually meticulously researched prehistoric fiction and involves such things as The Hobbit of Indonesia, The Red Deer Cave People,  giant pangolins (that I believe inspired the dragon at Ishtar's Gate), Balangoda Man, Megalania Prisca, Denisovans, Ursicus Rossicus, horned gophers, giant rocs, etc.

The first novel in the trilogy is comprised of seven "origin stories," some of which can stand alone and others which depend upon one another. In novel form, they can be presented chapter for chapter, in the same way that Martin presents his POVs. Additionally, the POVs that survive their "origin stories" have a "bonus" chapter that introduces the challenges they will face in book II. A new culture is invading the land, and only clues and rumors of its existence have been put into the "origin" stories. And they don't follow the ancient tribal rules of war.

I've been published as a music journalist in many newspapers and magazines but never for fiction.  The WotF Win was my first submission.

I am confident that I can attain endorsements from XXXXXX, bestselling Tor author of the XXXXs series, and XXXX, medieval history professor and author of the "XXXX" series from XXXX books.

I'm also a professional recording artist and write soundtracks and songs for my stories. I have a home studio with which to record audiobooks in high quality.

In preparation and as a scrapbook for this publication, I have maintained a popular "Prehistoric Fiction and Fantasy" blog since 2007 with articles at the top of many google searches.

I believe that my novels will appeal most to fans of Robert E. Howard, G.R.R. Martin, and Jane Aule.

Although I didn't write the novel as a YA, it involves mostly teenage and new adult characters, and my beta readers have suggested the genre. I think it would have to be "Dark YA" if put in that category, because of certain violent and/or sexual prehistoric practices that may be considered controversial.

Other genres to consider would be fantasy, historical fiction, or prehistoric fiction.

I have attached a sample of my work..

Thank you in advance for your consideration.


#2 Jen Mannering

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Posted 26 November 2016 - 05:35 PM

So long! This reminds me of my clumsy rants when someone asks me what my book is about and I have no idea how to properly tell them lol. The story sounds interesting though! Are you currently tightening it up to try again?


Good luck on your writing journey!

Please help me with my query letter! Trying to write it feels like trying to run through wet sand...while drunk....and on fire...wearing ten tonnes of steel armour....


Query Letter



“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

― J.K. Rowling



#3 Gruffbane


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Posted 28 November 2016 - 09:11 AM

Yep I removed three POVs and a prologue, won a line and dev edit on Twitter, currently waiting on the dev edit and entering pitch contests. One pitch got me a partial and then a full from a cool small press.

Four pitch contests to enter in December, but holding off on cold queries until I get some more feedback on my cover letter from actual buyers.


Even though it got me this most recent full, I still think the new query needs work:


A nameless boy-assassin seeks fame in an abandoned crypt, but must master anonymity and an ancient puzzle to free his clan and claim a reborn soul.


Denied the rites of manhood, a boy of sixteen fears he'll never be named.and feels almost invisible. Sapa Mainu, leader of the Rik-Sika hunter-assassins, sees the boy's anonymity as a talent and chooses him for initiation. To earn his name and pass the trials, the boy needs training in stealth. He receives this training from his new brothers on the way to an abandoned fortress where the first Rik-Sika, a warrior named Shentak, once saved their people from invasion.


In the highlands, ogres attack and drive the Rik-Sika into the fortress. Sapa Mainu dies from injuries and is placed in a tomb. The boy 's sent to retrieve a Heart-Stone from another tomb, where he sees Shentak's ghost in a vision. The boy rejoins the group and they attempt to elude the ogres by taking a secret passage filled with traps and hibernating monsters. At the tunnel's end, the ogres ambush the men and awaken the sleeping beasts. The boy needs everything he's learned to save his companions from both threats. After their escape, the Rik-Sika capture an ogre whose eyes are amber like the boy's, revealing a common heritage. He sets her free and the Rik-Sika approve, calling him Sapa Shentak in acknowledgment of his spiritual reincarnation and new role as their spiritual leader.


But news has come of an invasion from the East, where the refugees of a sinking continent have gathered under the rule of a mysterious figure known as The Dragon King. Patriarchal and warlike, the immigrants threaten to end the peaceful rule of the Queens of Parkho Khatune. Though barely a man and untried as a leader, Shentak may be his people's best chance to preserve a way of life that has existed since the the dawn of history.


THE ORACLE OF LOST SAGAS is the story of the birth of the legendary kingdom of Khitan, told through the eyes of its founders and interspersed with the songs and folklore of its people. Conan the Barbarian meets Clan of the Cave Bear and complete at 78000 words, THE ORACLE OF LOST SAGAS is a stand-alone historic fantasy with series potential. I've studied and explored Asia's mythology and prehistoric period for fifteen years and what I've learned greatly influences my fiction


Thanks in advance for your time,


#4 asmcdermott


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Posted 01 March 2017 - 09:57 AM

Yep I removed three POVs and a prologue, won a line and dev edit on Twitter, currently waiting on the dev edit and entering pitch contests. One pitch got me a partial and then a full from a cool small press.

Four pitch contests to enter in December, but holding off on cold queries until I get some more feedback on my cover letter from actual buyers.


Congratulations on getting the full request. Just curious, who did you win the line and dev edit from? I've been looking for contests to win an edit on my novel but they're really hard to find. Thanks!

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