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Author Topic: Query: Outlier (scifi)  (Read 264 times)
KyleHarris
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« on: July 08, 2018, 07:59:51 PM »

Revised query further down.

Hey all,

I received fantastic feedback when I posted a query here several months ago--though I could never hope to publish that book because it was 300k words. So, I've written another:
-----

Dear [Agent]:

To nineteen-year-old Chaz, a computer hacker for hire, the only value people have is the secrets they keep. She'll sell out anyone. If lives are ruined, it's not her problem.

When her reputation attracts a grudgeful businessman with a proposition to steal a computer program, she's initially disinclined—first, the mark is Matthew Pruitt, Crystal City's wealthiest financier; second, the safest way to his home computer involves wooing his lesbian daughter, Libby. Like hell she's going to fake some feelings for a spoiled snob.

Until she hears the reward: five hundred thousand dollars.

As Chaz delves deeper into the job, she uncovers a family in shambles: Pruitt, a religious absolutist, has bullied his daughter because of her sexuality all her teenage life. Stalkers, hateful news articles, a pain-inducing implant—the list goes on. Yet Libby, a Christian herself, remains faithful to a God who encourages love in all forms.

But Pruitt isn't alone—with Chaz getting involved, a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities has just put her in its crosshairs. And the police don't care.

Chaz knows she should walk away while she still has her neck. But with her feelings for Libby becoming genuine, it's no longer just about herself. Surviving will take teamwork, faith, and Chaz's prosthetic legs—for cracking some skulls.

Oh, and there's still the job. Her employer isn't expecting failure.

OUTLIER is a 99,000-word revenge story set in a dystopian future where BLADE RUNNER meets THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A stand-alone novel, it is also written as an introduction to a universe with series potential.

I have made a living as a self-published author for six years.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-----
I feel like it's a good, solid query. The character, plot, stakes all seem clear--it's just a matter of hooking the agent. But I've read and edited it a million times by now and want to see what others think.

I appreciate any feedback.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2018, 02:17:57 PM by KyleHarris » Logged
koji
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« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2018, 07:56:44 AM »

Overall it seems like a strong query to me, but a bit wordy in some places.

Hey all,

I received fantastic feedback when I posted a query here several months ago--though I could never hope to publish that book because it was 300k words. So, I've written another:
-----

Dear [Agent]:

To nineteen-year-old Chaz, a computer hacker for hire, the only value people have is the secrets they keep. She'll sell out anyone. If lives are ruined, it's not her problem. You could tighten this paragraph. Something like: Nineteen-year-old Chaz, a computer hacker for hire will sell anyone's secrets.  If lives are ruined, it's not her problem.

When her reputation attracts a grudgeful I feel like this could be strengthened by tying in the grudge to the job... otherwise it seems extraneous. Something like "her reputation attracts the former business partner of Matthew Pruitt, Crystal City's wealthiest financier.businessman with a proposition to steal a computer program, she's initially disinclined—first, the mark is Matthew Pruitt, Crystal City's wealthiest financierTo me, this doesn't really say WHY that would make her decline. Because he has high security? Because he is well-known? ; second, the safest way to his home computer involves wooing his lesbian daughter, Libby. Like hell she's going to fake some feelings for a spoiled snob.

Until she hears the reward: five hundred thousand dollars.

As Chaz delves deeper into the job, she uncovers a family in shambles: Pruitt, a religious absolutist, has bullied his daughter because of her sexuality all her teenage life. Stalkers, hateful news articles, a pain-inducing implant—the list goes on. Yet Libby, a Christian herself, remains faithful to a God who encourages love in all forms.

But You started the previous sentence with "yet" and now use "but." You might want to try mixing things up to make yet and but stronger when they are necessary.Pruitt isn't alone—with Chaz getting involved, a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities has just put her in its crosshairs. And the police don't care. This paragraph is a little confusing. It is unclear whether Chaz getting involved puts Chaz in the crosshairs or whether it puts Libby there. It might make more sense: Pruitt isn't alone in his hate for homosexuality. A sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities targets Chaz when she gets involved with Libby.

Chaz knows she should walk away while she still has her neck. But with her feelings for Libby becoming genuine, it's no longer just about herself. Surviving will take teamwork, faith, and Chaz's prosthetic legs—for cracking some skulls.

Oh, and there's still the job. Her employer isn't expecting failure.

OUTLIER is a 99,000-word revenge story set in a dystopian future where BLADE RUNNER meets THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A stand-alone novel, it is also written as an introduction to a universe with series potential.

I have made a living as a self-published author for six years.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-----
I feel like it's a good, solid query. The character, plot, stakes all seem clear--it's just a matter of hooking the agent. But I've read and edited it a million times by now and want to see what others think.

I appreciate any feedback.

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aelend
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2018, 09:44:30 AM »

I think this is good, though I agree, a little wordy. Here are my thoughts:

Quote
Dear [Agent]:

To nineteen-year-old computer hackerChaz, a computer hacker for hire, the only value people have is the secrets they keep. She'll sell out anyone. If lives are ruined, it's not her problem.

When her reputation attracts a grudgeful businessman with a proposition to steal a computer program, she's initially disinclined—first, the mark is Matthew Pruitt, Crystal City's wealthiest financier; second, the safest way to his home computer involves wooing his lesbian daughter, Libby. Like hell she's going to fake some feelings for a spoiled snob.

Until she hears the reward: five hundred thousand dollars.

As Chaz delves deeper into the job, she uncovers a family in shambles: Pruitt, a religious absolutist, has bullied his daughter because of her sexuality all her teenage life. Stalkers, hateful news articles, a pain-inducing implant—the list goes on. Yet Libby, a Christian herself, remains faithful to a God who encourages love in all forms.

But Pruitt isn't alone—with Chaz getting involved, a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities has just put her in its crosshairs. And the police don't care. I don't think you need this part -- it complicates things, but distracts from the main story question

Chaz knows she should walk away while she still has her neck. But with her feelings for Libby becoming genuine, it's no longer just about herself. Surviving will take teamwork, faith, and Chaz's prosthetic legs—for cracking some skulls.

Oh, and there's still the job. Her employer isn't expecting failure.

OUTLIER is a 99,000-word revenge story set in a dystopian future where BLADE RUNNER meets THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. <---- wordy/awkwardA stand-alone novel, it is also written as an introduction to a universe with series potential. I would just say: It is a stand-alone novel with series potential.

I have made a living as a self-published author for six years. Unnecessary

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2018, 10:30:42 AM »



To nineteen-year-old Chaz, a computer hacker for hire, the only value to people have is their secrets they keep. She'll Chaz will sell out anyone out If lives are ruined, it's not her problem.

Chaz's reputation precedes her. When her reputation attracts a grudgeful businessman proposes she to steal a computer program, she's initially disinclined. First, the mark is Matthew Pruitt, Crystal City's wealthiest financier. Second, the safest way to his home computer involves wooing his lesbian daughter, Libby. Like hell she's going to fake some feelings for a spoiled snob. ( the attitude is really endearing  Grin  )

Until she hears the reward is five hundred thousand dollars.

As Chaz delves deeper into the job, she uncovers a family in shambles: Pruitt, a religious absolutist, has bullied his daughter because of her sexuality all her teenage life. Stalkers, hateful news articles, a pain-inducing implant—the list goes on. ( this previous sentence- is it referring to Pruitts abuse of his daughter? It's confusing )  Yet Libby, also a Christian herself, remains faithful to a God who encourages love in all forms. ( Why is this necessary to know? I am struggling to know who the main characters are at this point. Chaz and her boss, or the Pruitt family? )

But Pruitt isn't alone—( In what? I missed something ) with Chaz getting involved ( involved in what? I thought Chaz was there undercover as a potential love interest. This sentence makes it sound like Pruitt believes Chaz is involved in something. 'involved with his daughter', you mean?) , a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities has just put her in its crosshairs. ( You've lost me, I don't know what you're talking about at this point. Where/who is the sadistic cult? ) And the police don't care. ( I don't blame the police when 'sadistic cult' isn't exactly specific or listing a felony. Tell us what the cult, whoever they are, are doing. And to who )

Chaz knows she should walk away while she still has her neck. ( Who is threatening her? I'm lost ) But with her feelings for Libby becoming genuine, it's no longer just about herself. Surviving will take teamwork, faith, and Chaz's prosthetic legs—for cracking some skulls. ( this is nice and voicey but I don't know what is going on. Surviving against what enemy? Need to answer that in query. Best not to say 'surviving' when there must be a specific plan against a specific antagonist ( even if it's the cult )  )

Oh, and there's still the job. Her employer isn't expecting failure. ( That last bit sounds like a passive way of saying she needs to get the job done or ....and I don't know the consequences as I didn't write the book )

OUTLIER is a 99,000-word revenge story set in a dystopian future where BLADE RUNNER meets THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A stand-alone novel, it is also written as an introduction to a universe with series potential.

The general rule is comps need to be less than 4 years old. But to me personally this story sounds really interesting but ideally have newer comps. I actually am thinking of MR.MERCEDES by Stephen King. There was a computer hacker dude as the antagonist in that and an retired PI who joins up with a couple of loveable but unlikely sidekicks, a teen boy and an anxiety ridden single 40 something chainsmoking lady and together they catch a serial killer with the ladies IT skills. Not totally sure what your story is about at this stage but might be close enough as a comp, and it's recent. 

I have made a living as a self-published author for six years.  ( This could work for or against you. Personally I think they might take it as 'if you are so great you made a living from it, why do you need us? Or get insulted somehow. Your story sounded good so I'd leave it out. )



« Last Edit: July 09, 2018, 10:35:38 AM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
mgmystery
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« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2018, 11:13:37 AM »

I didn't have much trouble understanding what was going on because I basically just made assumptions. I do think you could make the query stronger with some of Koji's suggestions. (Her actual reason for not wanting the job, Chaz's notoriety putting Libby in the crosshairs.)
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KyleHarris
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« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2018, 02:16:54 PM »

Thanks for the feedback. I made some changes:
-----

Dear [Agent]:

Nineteen-year-old Chaz, a computer hacker for hire, will sell anyone's secrets. If lives are ruined, it's not her problem.
   
Her reputation attracts a businessman with a daring proposition: to steal a computer program from Matthew Pruitt, Crystal City's wealthiest financier. Seems straightforward. Except for one tiny catch—the safest way to gain access to Pruitt's home computer involves wooing his lesbian daughter, Libby. Like hell she's going to fake some feelings for a spoiled snob.

Until she hears the reward: five hundred thousand dollars.

As Chaz delves deeper into the job, she uncovers a family in ruins: Pruitt, a religious absolutist, has bullied his daughter because of her sexuality all her teenage life. Stalkers, hateful news articles, a pain-inducing implant—the list goes on. Yet Libby, also a Christian, remains faithful to a God who encourages love in all forms.

Worse, Pruitt isn't alone—by dating his daughter, Chaz has been put in the crosshairs of a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities. And the police don't care.

Chaz knows she should walk away while she still has her neck. But with her feelings for Libby becoming genuine, it's no longer just about herself. Surviving Pruitt and the cult will take teamwork, faith, and Chaz's prosthetic legs—for cracking some skulls.

Oh, and there's still the job. Her employer isn't expecting failure.

OUTLIER is a 99,000-word revenge story set in a dystopian future where BLADE RUNNER meets THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. A stand-alone novel, it is also written inside a universe with series potential.

I have made a living as a self-published author for six years.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-----

The wordiness I agree with, especially with the second paragraph. It hurts a little to excise some of the content between Chaz's employer and Pruitt--their relationship is very important, and Chaz senses not just a grudge, but a job that reeks of corporate espionage, which she refuses to do. But telling all that in a query just clutters it. Hopefully it's still clear initially that Chaz is very antisocial, and part of her development in the novel is warming up to Libby. Other parts of the query have been clarified and streamlined based on feedback, though it didn't lose too many words. And I feel like I do need to keep in that Libby is Christian, otherwise the general premise of the novel seems very anti-religion, which isn't the goal (and also that "faith" is mentioned at the end, about surviving). Being LGBT and Christian is a huge theme of the book.

I think I can do more with the Pruitt family's paragraph (like I say the family is in ruins, but that's more implied by the different religious viewpoints of father/daughter), but I think the changes so far are all positive.

Pineapplejuice, I don't understand half your critiques. For instance:

...a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities has just put her in its crosshairs. ( You've lost me, I don't know what you're talking about at this point. Where/who is the sadistic cult? ) And the police don't care. ( I don't blame the police when 'sadistic cult' isn't exactly specific or listing a felony. Tell us what the cult, whoever they are, are doing. And to who )

I say a cult is "lynching gender and sexual minorities" and you're wondering what that cult's felonies are? I hope that's an error.

I'll keep the comps in mind. I only want to put down forms of media that I have devoured extensively or am extremely familiar with, and those two spring to mind. Blade Runner should be safe (BR2049 is recent enough).
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koji
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« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2018, 01:28:44 AM »

For me it reads much tighter and clearer now.

I agree the paragraph about the pruitt family could use a little more tightening.


As Chaz delves deeper into the job, she uncovers a family in ruins: Pruitt, a religious absolutist, has bullied his daughter because of her sexuality all her teenage life. Stalkers, hateful news articles, a pain-inducing implant—the list goes on. Yet Libby, also a Christian, remains faithful to a God who encourages love in all forms.


Could you flip the paragraph so it centers Libby instead of her father?

For instance...

As Chaz delves deeper into the job, she uncovers Libby's tragic story: Libby has been bullied by her absolutist Christian father for all her teenage life. She's had stalkers, hateful new articles written about her, and even undergone a pain-inducing implant (I assume this is a corrective/conversion therapy implant? If so, you might want to add that in, but not fully necessary). Yet Libby remains faithful to a God who encourages love in all forms.

I feel that by concentrating mostly on Libby and Chaz in the query, things come together more clearly.
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mgmystery
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« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2018, 07:12:52 AM »

It works either way for me, but Koji's suggestion about the second paragraph might clear any doubts. I think this query looks long because of the way it's formatted, but it packs the punch you want instead of combining into 2 more traditional paragraphs.
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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2018, 07:47:15 AM »

-----

Pineapplejuice, I don't understand half your critiques. For instance:

...a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities has just put her in its crosshairs.
I say a cult is "lynching gender and sexual minorities" and you're wondering what that cult's felonies are? I hope that's an error.

Sorry I was drinking alcohol while revising my first pages ( I don't normally drink ). My thoughts and comments were perhaps a bit fuzzy. What I meant is you're saying it like it's happening in general. It feels distant and a brief example of what the cult does to Chaz  or Libby in particular would be more twisty and suspenseful
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 08:54:04 AM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
KyleHarris
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2018, 03:34:07 PM »

^ Thanks for clarifying. I did use some of that advice.

Another revision:
-----

Dear [Agent]:

To nineteen-year-old Chaz, a computer hacker for hire, the only value people have is the secrets they keep. She'll sell out anyone. If lives are ruined, it's not her problem.
      
Her reputation attracts a businessman with a proposition: to steal an unspecified computer program from Matthew Pruitt, Crystal City's wealthiest financier. Seems straightforward. Except for one tiny catch—the safest way to access Pruitt's home computer involves wooing his lesbian daughter, Libby. Like hell she's going to fake some feelings for a spoiled snob.

Until she hears the reward: five hundred thousand dollars.

A few successful dates in, Chaz realizes she has entered a war zone: Libby, a devout Christian, has been bullied by her absolutist father because of her sexuality all her teenage life. Stalkers, public shaming, a pain-inducing implant—the list goes on. Worse, Chaz uncovers a possible connection between Pruitt and a sadistic cult known for lynching gender and sexual minorities. Seventeen people have already been killed.

Now they've targeted the eighteenth: Chaz. And the police don't care.

She knows she should walk away, save her own neck. But with her feelings for Libby becoming genuine, this is no longer just about herself. Rescuing Libby from her father's persecution and stopping the cult will take teamwork, faith, and Chaz's prosthetic legs—for cracking some skulls.

Oh, and there's still the job. Her employer isn't expecting failure.

OUTLIER is a 99,000-word revenge story set in a dystopian future where BLADE RUNNER meets THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB. A stand-alone novel, it is also written inside a universe with series potential.

I have made a living as a self-published author for six years.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-----
I did put my original opening line in again (I just prefer the cadence of it, and it makes it clear that Chaz believes people have no worth beyond what her job entails). koji, I agree that the Pruitt paragraph should focus on Libby, and I've made that change while keeping the content of it generally the same--and also moving the mention of the cult (and giving it more implications with the main characters) in there. The implant is used as conversion therapy, but going into that detail just feels like too much, and it's only one of several ways she's persecuted (unless I just say something like "a pain-inducing implant for conversion therapy"). And I also changed Dragon Tattoo to Spider's Web, since that's more recent and the movie is coming out soon.

It's a little long at ~280 words, but I've seen plenty of successful queries that were over 300. It has a good flow and packs a punch at the end, like mgmystery said. I like it.

Edit: I still worry that the pool of potential agents for this book is small. Obviously there's a heavy LGBT angle, which dwindles the lot considerably, but also not-insignificant science fiction elements (it takes place on another planet, which isn't even mentioned in the query). But I feel like the LGBT themes take precedence over the science fiction, and I should focus on those agents. Otherwise, if I focus on scifi agents, it'll get passed every time.


« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 03:48:15 PM by KyleHarris » Logged
JBeachum
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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2018, 12:35:50 PM »

OUTLIER is a 99,000-word revenge story set in a dystopian future where BLADE RUNNER meets THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB. A stand-alone novel, it is also written inside a universe with series potential.

My only comments: you don't have a genre or an age range in here. Revenge story isn't a genre, and I don't know if this is supposed to be YA or adult. Excluding either piece of information is a no-no to most agents.
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RockWhitehouse
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« Reply #11 on: July 12, 2018, 07:16:49 PM »

Hi Kyle -

You've already received some good feedback from smarter/more expert folks than I.

But the first sentence really trips me up. What value is anyone's secret if you can't get access and (a) use it as leverage against them or (b) sell it to someone else who will (a).

So maybe something like To nineteen-year-old Chaz, a ruthless computer hacker for hire, the only value other people have is the secrets she can silently wrest from their digital wall safes.

Or maybe I'm just too literal. It's been said before.

And, I can't decide whether it's value other people have is the secrets or value other people have are the secrets. No one else is commenting so maybe its 'is'. Reads funny to me both ways.

In any case, it sounds like a cool premise. Best of luck with it.
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mgmystery
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« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2018, 07:46:25 AM »

JBeachum makes a huge point. Your summary reads well, but it's important to show agents you know your genre. I assumed it was adult, which (I think) you wouldn't have to mention --but with a 19 yr old MC it would fit for YA. You'll have to decide based on your target audience. I'm thinking your genre would be dystopian (since you mentioned it--Wait- dystopian IS a genre, right?) but I'm not sure if a different universe would indicate sci-fi or fantasy instead.
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Munley
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« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2018, 11:30:32 AM »

JBeachum makes a huge point. Your summary reads well, but it's important to show agents you know your genre. . . .

Agent Janet Ried's thoughts on knowing your genre -- more flexible than most writers think. Even agents can see where something might fit across various categories, so I don't think a writer can expected to be firm on genre, just somewhere in the ballpark. A publisher might end up marketing the book as some other genre than the agent did, and the agent might market it as something other than the writer specified.

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2015/02/more-on-how-to-figure-out-what-agents.html

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JBeachum
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« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2018, 02:44:39 PM »

I like how Janet sees it, and it might not matter to some agents, but a lot of what I read when I was querying said you need to know your genre and age range and include both in the query. I'd play it safe by trying to pinpoint both because it gives most agents a better idea about the story and whether or not they want to request more pages.
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