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THE FRATERNITY OF GREED (literary/commercial fiction)


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#1 shiptastic

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 07:16 AM

REVISED: PLEASE SEE POST #21 FOR LATEST VERSION

Current Title: The Fraternity of Greed
Current Subtitle: Salvation and Capitalism in the Gulf Coast

Overview

Young and ambitious Jordan Driscoll works himself to the center of the energy trading world. He finds himself with the elite of Houston indulging in the truly epicurean lifestyle, from Ipanema Beach to the Bellagio penthouse. At his peak, he leads Twin Peaks Capital, a Houston energy hedge fund to wild success.

The wishes of his dying father send him to meet with a reclusive ex-hedge fund manager, John Shannon, in the Texas Hill Country. After seeing how John has traded his decadent hedge fund life for service to those in need, Jordan must now decide if he wants to live for others like John or move back to Houston and continue his path of financial success. John, as well, must decide if he is ready to end his life of hiding from the fraternity of greed and reveal his philanthropic ideas to the world.

THE FRATERNITY OF GREED is a 55,000 word literary fiction novel with a commercial feel. It was inspired by my personal encounters with the unique and often overwhelmingly decadent lifestyle of the hedge fund industry in Houston.

Author Bio

Jeff Shipp is currently working as a software vendor in the Energy Industry with Logical Information Machines. He started as a proprietary futures trader in Chicago and moved to Houston to join the energy trading industry. After networking as a vendor to the large energy companies and hedge funds of the area he was taken on as a Quant for Whiteside Energy in the summer of 2008. Specializing in high frequency trading and derivatives in the energy market, Jeff found himself at the apex of financial controversy. As the market crashed, Jeff and Whiteside parted ways in the spring of 2009 at which point Jeff worked as a consultant and trader. He has a BA in Mathematics from Trinity University in San Antonio and a MS in Financial Engineering from Kent State. He currently lives in Houston with his wife Kirsten and while his background is not in writing his insider knowledge of the energy hedge fund industry and unique knowledge of their hopes and fears puts him in the best spot to write this novel.
Jeff Shipp
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Available on Amazon Kindle

#2 Al N

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 07:47 AM

Below is the full 1 page query I send out. Critiques on the overview are obviously most important but format and other general stuff would be appreciated as well. Thanks so much in advance.

-----------

Author’s Information
Jeff Shipp
1950 Winrock Blvd #139
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 487-6384
shiptastic@gmail.com

Current Title: The Fraternity of Greed
Current Subtitle: Salvation and Capitalism in the Gulf Coast

Overview

Young and ambitious Jordan Driscoll works himself to the center of the energy trading world. He finds himself with the elite of Houston indulging in the truly epicurean lifestyle, from Ipanema Beach to the Bellagio penthouse. At his peak, he leads Twin Peaks Capital, a Houston energy hedge fund to wild success.

The wishes of his dying father send him to meet with a reclusive ex-hedge fund manager, John Shannon, in the Texas Hill Country. After seeing how John has traded his decadent hedge fund life for service to those in need, Jordan must now decide if he wants to live for others like John or move back to Houston and continue his path of financial success. John, as well, must decide if he is ready to end his life of hiding from the fraternity of greed and reveal his philanthropic ideas to the world.

THE FRATERNITY OF GREED is a 55,000 word literary fiction novel with a commercial feel. It was inspired by my personal encounters with the unique and often overwhelmingly decadent lifestyle of the hedge fund industry in Houston.

Author Bio

Jeff Shipp is currently working as a software vendor in the Energy Industry with Logical Information Machines. He started as a proprietary futures trader in Chicago and moved to Houston to join the energy trading industry. After networking as a vendor to the large energy companies and hedge funds of the area he was taken on as a Quant for Whiteside Energy in the summer of 2008. Specializing in high frequency trading and derivatives in the energy market, Jeff found himself at the apex of financial controversy. As the market crashed, Jeff and Whiteside parted ways in the spring of 2009 at which point Jeff worked as a consultant and trader. He has a BA in Mathematics from Trinity University in San Antonio and a MS in Financial Engineering from Kent State. He currently lives in Houston with his wife Kirsten and while his background is not in writing his insider knowledge of the energy hedge fund industry and unique knowledge of their hopes and fears puts him in the best spot to write this novel.



Hi Jeff,

You asked for comments on format. Did you not read Agent Query Connect guidelines for query letters? – Apparently not. Your query isn’t even close.

Al

#3 shiptastic

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 07:49 AM

Hi Jeff,

You asked for comments on format. Did you not read Agent Query Connect guidelines for query letters? – Apparently not. Your query isn’t even close.

Al


I'm sorry Al, I did read them and tried to stay within the guidelines. Can you explain to me what I did wrong? I appreciate your criticism but constructive criticism is much more helpful.
Jeff Shipp
Author of: Massacre in the Suburbs
Available on Amazon Kindle

#4 JMB

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 09:07 AM

Jeff, I will try to be helpful, but Al is right. Even if you read the guidelines posted here and didn't understand them, if you scanned through some of the entries (especially the successful query section) you'd see your query doesn't conform.

The query is a business letter. You've written a hybrid between a memo and a letter. Since 99% of your queries will be sent by email, you don't need/want an address block in the body of the email.

In the subject line of the email most agents say put the word Query, Your Title, Word Count. Be sure to check every agent's webpage for specifics on format/content.

In the body of the email, jump right in with the Dear Mr. or Ms. Agent (which I note is missing from your query), by which I mean personalize the letter with the individual's actual last name, spelled correctly. Then hook 'em with your opening lines.

You have have given us a paragraph of set-up. Instead, write one or two sentences that describe the basic dilemma faced by the Main Character (MC) in your story and doing it in a clever, intriguing way. Then, give us one or two short paragraphs telling us what the MC must do to succeed and describe the greatest challenge/obstacle in his path. Stop at a point that leaves us wanting to know how it all works out.

While it is good to include a line of biographical information if it is relevant to the book (which is the case here) nobody wants a whole paragraph. This is not the inside flap of the book. Just something that tells the agent you know the subject about which you have written.

Also, most people add a line about why they have chosen to submit to a particular agent. Some compare their books to other books in the market. Finally, sign off with "thank you for your time."

Read through a bunch of the queries posted here and look at the comments made by some of the regulars, then try again. Be sure to post the revised query in this same thread, or you'll get yelled at again :-)

In addition, read as many entries as you can on agent Janet Reid's Query Shark blog. She points out all the classic mistakes and shows writers how to fix them.

Re-post when you are ready. People are happy to help but, not unreasonably, expect that, at a minimum, you have the format right.

#5 Pete Morin

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 10:49 AM

Hi Jeff.

So, this "HOOK" thing they talk about - you need to ponder that for a good long while and do what JMB suggests.

In addition to AQ's How to Write a Query Letter, there is a bunch more stuff in the Library here - check out the contents on the right sidebar on that page.

This is one page you can't work on hard enough.


One observation: 55,000 words is on the short side for lit/commercial fiction. You might want to bulk it up a bit, say by 15,000 words?
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#6 Pete Morin

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 10:51 AM

Hi Jeff,

You asked for comments on format. Did you not read Agent Query Connect guidelines for query letters? – Apparently not. Your query isn’t even close.

Al


Al, might you be a tad harsh?Posted Image
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#7 Andrew Rosenberg

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 10:54 AM

To add a couple things:
The first paragraph (after Overview) is backstory...are you selling your story or what happened before your story?
Only include what actually happens in the query.
The names Jordan and John are too similar...consider changing one of them...even if it's just for the query.
Twin Peaks??? Really?? I would consider changing that name too.
55,000 words seems short to me.
I don't know what "literary with commercial feel" means...I would choose one. No "hedging" your bets. (get it? :) )

But on the up side, I really like the title. Already I could see a lot of douchebags with too much money.

#8 RSMellette

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 11:36 AM

First - your bio is more interesting than the book you present. Have you thought about a non-fiction book? You have a good platform in a broad market.

Next - I don't know if anyone told you but never, EVER say "fiction novel." A novel is a work of fiction and the phrase is like fingernails on a blackboard to anyone in publishing.

I think the biggest problem you might face in your query has little to do with your letter writing skills and more to do with your MS. It sounds like your hero's objectives and obsticles may be vague and/or internal/philosophical. As one of the old Hollywood Moguls put it, "if you want to send a message, call Western Union." Don't get me wrong, I love a good message in a story, but just that - "in a story." You've got to wrap that sucker up in so much action, drama, life-&-death, in-your-face conflict that no one knows they've been delivered a message until they digest the entire thing.

If your book is like that, great. Sell it. If not, get back in there and pack every philosophical point between two thick slices of action, romance, whatever.

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#9 RSMellette

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 11:38 AM

Oh, also, you might want to delete out your personal contact information - both from here (don't want that posted in public) and your query e-mail. They have your e-mail address, so put in your phone number and you're good. But, you know, not here. :)

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#10 EMDelaney

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 02:38 PM

First - your bio is more interesting than the book you present. Have you thought about a non-fiction book? You have a good platform in a broad market.

Next - I don't know if anyone told you but never, EVER say "fiction novel." A novel is a work of fiction and the phrase is like fingernails on a blackboard to anyone in publishing.

I think the biggest problem you might face in your query has little to do with your letter writing skills and more to do with your MS. It sounds like your hero's objectives and obsticles may be vague and/or internal/philosophical. As one of the old Hollywood Moguls put it, "if you want to send a message, call Western Union." Don't get me wrong, I love a good message in a story, but just that - "in a story." You've got to wrap that sucker up in so much action, drama, life-&-death, in-your-face conflict that no one knows they've been delivered a message until they digest the entire thing.

If your book is like that, great. Sell it. If not, get back in there and pack every philosophical point between two thick slices of action, romance, whatever.



Wow! This should win a Pulitzer Prize for Critique. LOL

Jeff, read this 10 times, have a drink, then try again.
If you continue to think the way you've always thought, you will continue to get what you've always got!

#11 shiptastic

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 09:57 AM

Thanks very much to everyone. Really some pretty outstanding ideas. Let me mull on them a bit and see what I can edit together. I really do appreciate all of you for taking the time to read and critique.

Take Care!

Jeff
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Author of: Massacre in the Suburbs
Available on Amazon Kindle

#12 shiptastic

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 02:33 PM

Dear [Agent],

I'm contacting you because I've read that you are expanding your literary and commercial fiction client list.

THE FRATERNITY OF GREED is a literary novel with a commercial feel that takes place over 3 years in between the present day south Texas hill-country and Houston. A protagonist like Mitch McDeere of The Firm in the world of the energy hedge funds and trading must decide between a life of decadence or service in the vain of Atlas Shrugged.

I am an ex-quant and trader in the energy hedge fund industry of Houston. My unique knowledge of the setting puts me in an advantageous position to write this book.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Jeff Shipp
shiptastic@gmail.com
(713) 487-6384
Jeff Shipp
Author of: Massacre in the Suburbs
Available on Amazon Kindle

#13 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 16 October 2010 - 03:00 PM

Dear [Agent],

I'm contacting you because I've read that you are expanding your literary and commercial fiction client list. [THIS IS A LITTLE LIKE SAYING "I am contacting you because you are an agent" all agents are looking to expand their lists and you don't narrow it down much with what you add (literary AND commercial). THIS IS NO WAY TO START A QUERY]]

YOU ARE TELLING ME WHAT YOUR NOVEL IS RATHER THAN weaving the story by showing me salient facts. I HAVE NOT READ THE PRIOR VERSIONS OF YOUR LETTER BUT THIS LOOKS LIKE A COMPLETE NEWBIE MISTAKE -- THE FRATERNITY OF GREED is a literary novel with a commercial feel that takes place over 3 years in between the present day south Texas hill-country and Houston. A protagonist like Mitch McDeere of The Firm in the world of the energy hedge funds and trading must decide between a life of decadence or service in the vain of Atlas Shrugged. AT THE END OF THIS PARAGRAPH (WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE A MINI-SYNOPSIS) I DON'T EVEN KNOW THE NAME OF YOUR PROTAGONIST LET ALONE WHAT CONFLICT HE IS TANGLING WITH.

REMEMBER YOU NEED TO PUT YOUR TITLE/WORD COUNT/GENRE IN YOUR CLOSING PARAGRAPH. AS FOR THE BIO -- IT CLEARLY SHOWS YOU HAVE THE CHOPS TO WRITE THIS BOOK BUT IT DOESN'T READ WELL:

I am an ex-quant [OKAY perhaps you think we know what an "ex-quant" is but most of us don't and most agents won't either -- so why not something simple like "As an ex-trader in the engergy hedge fund industry I have used my unique knowledge to add realism and depth to my portrayal of the industry and its players."] Thank you for your time[.] ,and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Jeff Shipp
shiptastic@gmail.com
(713) 487-6384


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#14 shiptastic

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 03:08 PM

Good stuff, thanks Lit. I was going off the Noah Lukeman guide that AQ has a link to. I certainly plan on changing the first line to whatever is appropriate for the particular agent I'm querying. AQ has some really good info on works sold and special interests that I want to put in that first sentence.

Lukeman said to avoid using character names and focus instead on keeping things short and sweet by using comparisons with other novels. As long as I got across the setting, duration and genre I'd be good. I'm putting the word count in the subject line of the email as per a comment I saw someone else make but if it should be in the middle paragraph I can do that too.

The conflict in the story is really a philosophical one (hence the literary fiction genre) and it is simply going to be the difficult choice of service or material possessions. What is true happiness? I can't exactly summarize it in any other way as it is not plot heavy. It's just a story.

Thank you again and let me know if looking at Lukeman was incorrect.

Jeff
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#15 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 16 October 2010 - 04:33 PM

Thank you again and let me know if looking at Lukeman was incorrect.

Jeff


Perhaps not "incorrect" but I sure don't think his formula is going to hook an agent. It seems very outdated to me. If I were you I would read the "queries that worked" thread. I think leading with why you are querying a particular agent is a waste of an opening. Why not put that in the closing paragraph? After all the most important thing your query can do is plunge the agent into your story and hold his/her head underwater. I don't care if the conflict is physical or psychological -- you must make us feel it, the stakes have to seem high (and what stakes could be higher than finding true happiness?).
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#16 shiptastic

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 05:35 PM

you must make us feel it, the stakes have to seem high (and what stakes could be higher than finding true happiness?).


And thus is why you're agented...well said. And I will mull some more and continue to read successful queries.
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Available on Amazon Kindle

#17 Mark Friedlander

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 09:31 PM

Your overview indicates that Jordan Driscoll faces a choice between two lifestyles. While developing your hook for this query, you may want to focus on the reason(s) for his need to choose and the consequences of Jordan's decision. Let us see the conflict and what's at stake.

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#18 julie waters

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 09:53 PM

Hi Jeff
One of my favorite books has to be "The first 5 pages" by Noah Lukeman. He has great insight, so I wonder if his direction was to help shorten and tighten a query without leaving out the fundamentals for hooking your audience. Try it again and good luck! Julie
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#19 Rick Pieters

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 07:25 PM

Great advice. Litgal's right about putting the agent stuff at the end (and her other comments.) Look at other agents' blogs. Both Nathan Bransford's and Janet Reid's are very helpful. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/ http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ There are others, too. Do more research. Besides the very good info right here on AQ.

The main thing I'd say is, if this is a novel, you're selling a STORY. Even if it's mostly an internal conflict, there's a story with conflict, stakes, what he needs to discover, overcome, what his obstacles to that resolution are, and something to pull us into the story. Don't tell us your protag is like Mitch McDeere, tell us who he is (by name), show what's at stake for him, and we should be able to infer that he's like McDeere. As has been said, don't tell us about the book, put us into the STORY. It's a novel, right?

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#20 Bugsy

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Posted 28 October 2010 - 02:01 PM

Good stuff, thanks Lit. I was going off the Noah Lukeman guide that AQ has a link to. I certainly plan on changing the first line to whatever is appropriate for the particular agent I'm querying. AQ has some really good info on works sold and special interests that I want to put in that first sentence.

Lukeman said to avoid using character names and focus instead on keeping things short and sweet by using comparisons with other novels. As long as I got across the setting, duration and genre I'd be good. I'm putting the word count in the subject line of the email as per a comment I saw someone else make but if it should be in the middle paragraph I can do that too.

The conflict in the story is really a philosophical one (hence the literary fiction genre) and it is simply going to be the difficult choice of service or material possessions. What is true happiness? I can't exactly summarize it in any other way as it is not plot heavy. It's just a story.

Thank you again and let me know if looking at Lukeman was incorrect.

Jeff


I'm new as well. I love the title and was wondering if you have thought about going deeper with the plot- like murder, cover up or even a law firm covering for the crooks. I think you could have a John Grisham story with all of your experience. It's just a thought.

I think the short synopsis (second paragraph) could tell more about the protagonist and antagonist struggle and what is at stake. Does anyone get killed?




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