Author Topic: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic  (Read 1064 times)

Offline dreamsong24

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After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« on: February 12, 2019, 10:46:37 AM »
Edited query:


Dear Agent,


The human race's reign of power ended long ago but nine-year-old Rachel Turner is one of the lucky few still living in freedom. The rest of the world belongs to the sibla, a humanoid species that raise humans as livestock. But in Rachel's small, peaceful town, humans still reign. She can't imagine that they might ever be discovered. That is until the night sibla come hunting for wild meat.

Witnessing her parents slaughtered and her home burned to ash, Rachel is soon branded, stuffed in a cage and sent to market as veal. Rachel's luck improves when her buyer, Magnus Kendrick, appears to be the only sibla with sympathy towards her suffering. Offering her a new home and luxuries beyond her wildest imagination, Magnus slowly begins to make her feel safe again. But her new master’s business still profits on human meat and Rachel's fight for survival is far from over. To keep herself off the menu she will have to use all her cunning and prove she’s worth more than a pound of flesh.


With a minor in comparative religion from Vassar College, AFTER HUMANITY comes from my continued interest in cultural anthropology, the darker moments of human history, and my own personal struggle with the concept of both eating meat and loving animals. Complete at 125k words, AFTER HUMANITY will appeal to lovers of speculative, soft science fiction like A Handmaid's Tale and The Mount. An earlier draft of this novel has appeared on Wattpad.com garnering over 1.2 Million reads, a #1 placement on both the horror and sci-fi genre hotlists, and a 2017 Watty award. Thank you for your time and consideration.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2019, 09:46:47 AM by dreamsong24 »

Offline kaperton

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2019, 01:59:00 PM »
So I know I have posted here before but I believe I have updated my query since. This query has gotten some full requests but it has gotten more no replies or rejections. Maybe its just subjective response? BUt im not sure so i would love some feedback if people are willing to offer:


Dear Agent,


The human race's reign of power ended long ago[comma] but nine-year-old Rachel Turner is one of the lucky few still living in freedom. In her small, peaceful town, the sibla, a humanoid species that raise humans as livestock, are little more than fairytale monsters. That is [I'd put a comma here but I can't say for sure it's necessary] until the night sibla come hunting for wild meat.

Forced to watch her parents slaughtered and her home burned to ash, Rachel is branded, stuffed in a cage and sent to market as veal. Rachel's luck improves when her buyer, Magnus Kendrick, appears to be the only sibla with sympathy towards her suffering. Offering her a new home and luxuries beyond her wildest imagination, Magnus slowly begins to make her feel safe again. But when Rachel discovers that her new master’s business profits on human meat [comma] she realizes her fight for survival is far from over. This line about the guy's business being related to eating meat doesn't seem like a big deal to me - if he's hunting humans, or is a human-eater, he's already the enemy. If he's being nice to her, I assume he has a reason for it. Finding out he profits from the meat industry doesn't really change anything for me. Is one human really worth that much money that he's going to look at her in terms of profits?
To keep herself off the menu Rachel will have to use all her cunning and prove she’s worth more than a pound of flesh.

With a minor in comparative religion from Vassar College, Most agents aren't going to care what you majored in, much less what you minored in. AFTER HUMANITY comes from my continued interest in cultural anthropology, the darker moments of human history, and my own personal struggle with the concept of both eating meat and loving animals. Honestly, I'd strike this whole first sentence. Complete at 125k words, AFTER HUMANITY will appeal to lovers of speculative, soft science fiction like A Handmaid's Tale and The Mount. An earlier draft of this novel has appeared on Wattpad.com garnering over 1.2 Million reads, a #1 placement on both the horror and sci-fi genre hotlists, and a 2017 Watty award. Thank you for your time and consideration.

I'd say your word count is going to turn off some agents, but if you feel it's justified, it shouldn't be a deal-breaker for everyone. If you can pare it down a little, though, I think that would open more doors.

Not that I'm an expert, I think you should expect more rejections and no replies than full requests. I'd be more concerned if you're getting a lot of rejections from your full request. Is it the manuscript that's the problem, not the query? The query letter is pretty compelling.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2019, 02:00:40 PM by kaperton »

Offline dreamsong24

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2019, 03:37:48 PM »
Yeah the WC is high. I know it. Its down 5k from the original but this is after 5 full cut drafts. I think its justified with the duel povs and dual timelines its just hard to get acorss that complexity in the query without bogging it down :-/ The full rejections have been unhelpful tbh. 2 form. One " couldnt connect with the mc in the first pages ( but other agents have requested after reading more than that). One STELLAR rejection saying she wanted to say yes but didnt think she could sell the content. Still waiting on another full. I was more concerned on the query because... i have a 0 response on cold cold queries and all my page requests have come from pitch events. Not sure what to make of that really other than.. maybe I'm not sending enough out. I just wanted to run this query here and see if anyone saw red flags. Maybe next i ask for feedback on the first 5 hehe. Thanks for taking a look and offering feedback!

Just curious, the minor thing is meant to offer some perspective on where I am coming rom with this work. That didnt seem clear to you? It wasnt a random mention of a minor it was an explanation of the angle I'm coming at this story with
« Last Edit: February 12, 2019, 03:40:30 PM by dreamsong24 »

Offline RJP

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2019, 06:37:21 PM »
You've had no response from your queries? Not even a rejection letter? They might have put your query on the side to show someone later.

Thing is, your story has got a really cool high-concept idea. That's probably what garnered so many views on Wattpad. But the readers on Wattpad aren't concerned with your writing ability or anything like that. An agent however is.

Some things that might be holding you back:
1) The agent perceives this book as being self-published because it was hosted on Wattpad and doesn't want to touch it.
2) The writing isn't strong enough. In other words, you have a good concept with bad execution.
3) The agent feels your story is too similar to Planet of the Apes. You're concept is essentially the same as the classic story with a vegetarian twist.

I'm thinking your issue is probably #2. You've had some passes on your full requests and it's probably because your writing isn't strong enough. There could be plot holes as well. I agree with what Kaperton said about the confusion of why this plantation-owner-guy chooses to play with his food. What's his motivation to toy with the protagonist when he's in the business of selling human cattle?

Good luck!




Offline dreamsong24

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2019, 10:21:56 PM »
And i suppose this is the issue with a paired down version of the query. This isnt planet of the apes. The second POV is the guy who buys her. And he isnt "playing with his food". He makes his business on wild human flesh. Basically he buys humans at low weighs and fattens them for slaughter. The story is pretty complex actually but every longer version of the query has seemed too long ( though the earlier version that had both povs did get a few responses). and im not worried about the writing strength. Multiple fulls came from 50+ page reads so the writing has to have stood. As for responses? I mean i have put out less than 50 queries total I think. Im frustrated by the lack of response to cold queries but maybe this IS normal numbers. Thats why i was looking for some first impressions.
Not getting rejection letters though is pretty common now. Some send form letters but many just dont respond. This def helps me see though the wrong impressions this query might be sending and thats helpful. If only i could figure out an easy way to fix it lol

The reason i cut the second pov in the query is his stakes. They will never seem as high as those of rachel ( literal life and death). Now they are indeed life and death in his mind. There is a third character who factors in ( not a pov character) that further makes this book not planet of the apes. But of course findin that would require agents read on... sigh.

Offline A.J.thekid

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2019, 07:35:59 PM »
This is really interesting... My first impression is that it's something I would read, and probably love. But like the others have said, the word count is high and the fact that 1.2 million people already read it may be cause for pause (for an agent).

I hate the line, "I want to say yes, but I don't think I can sell the content." it's like a sucker-punch right after a kiss... Good luck with that last full request and keep searching for that right agent! with the award and the 1.2 million reads, you must have done something right. Sorry I cannot be more help....


BTW, this is my first read of any of your Queries and as I read, I didn't get the vibe of Planet of the Apes at all.

Offline RJP

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2019, 11:29:35 PM »
This is really interesting... My first impression is that it's something I would read, and probably love. But like the others have said, the word count is high and the fact that 1.2 million people already read it may be cause for pause (for an agent).

I hate the line, "I want to say yes, but I don't think I can sell the content." it's like a sucker-punch right after a kiss... Good luck with that last full request and keep searching for that right agent! with the award and the 1.2 million reads, you must have done something right. Sorry I cannot be more help....


BTW, this is my first read of any of your Queries and as I read, I didn't get the vibe of Planet of the Apes at all.

Let me explain my comment about the Planet of the Apes LOL. I don't think this story would resemble Planet of the Apes necessarily in tone. I don't think if this idea was turned into a movie, it would even resemble Planet of the Apes. What I'm saying is, they are the same "story." They're trying to say the same thing.

The OP's story is: In the future, humans are controlled and eaten by their humanoid alien overlords. And the story is a social commentary on humans eating animals (such as cows.) Or, How would you feel if the tables were reversed?

Planet of the Apes is: In the future, humans are controlled and herded by their humanoid ape overlords. And the story is a social commentary on how humans treat animals in general. (There's even a scene with humans in cages at the zoo). Again, it's a how would you feel if the tables were reversed.

So what I'm saying is, the strength of OP's query (If the writing doesn't blow them away) is that it's very high-concept. And if you write something that is high-concept and original, they simply can't refuse. But because the "main idea" of this story has essentially already been realized with the Planet of the Apes, it hurts the value when pitching agents.

Now, I'm not saying every idea has to be 100% original. Most books aren't. Look at The Woman in the Window. That story is basically Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock but I'm sure there's some differences. They even refer to the book on the back as a "Hitchcockian Thriller" because they are very aware that the concept has been used. But A.J. Finn is also a very, very strong writer. If A.J. Finn was a mediocre writer, the agent would have said, "this has been done. This is just Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock."

If Planet of the Apes did not exist and was not ingrained in pop culture, the OP's idea would be bought yesterday. And the writing wouldn't have to be amazing. I think of it like the book Fight Club. Fight Club does not have the best prose in the world. It's page count is under 50,000. But none of that matters because the concept of men beating the crap out of each other for emotional release was so original, it could not be refused.

I hope that makes some sort of sense. It's something I learned in the screenwriting world. And this view on what's "high-concept" is how Hollywood chooses what books are going to be turned into movies.

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2019, 12:44:43 AM »
RJP I agree it sounds like planet of the apes, basically. But I disagree that the agents don't like it for that reason. It got requests from tweet contests, in which there is no word count room to elaborate and the basic ( planet of the apes type ) premise would most likely have been conveyed.

So I think the similarity is working for the poster, not against.

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2019, 01:30:07 AM »
Dear Agent,


The human race's reign of power ended long ago but nine-year-old Rachel Turner is one of the lucky few still living in freedom. In her small, peaceful town, the sibla, a humanoid species that raise humans as livestock, are little more than fairytale monsters. That is until the night sibla come hunting for wild meat. ( I'd rework this whole paragraph. It's super clunky. It makes us ask what 'freedom is' when Rachel ( who we assume is human ) doesn't have power. Then it goes on to say the Sibla are fairy tale creatures according to the humans - yet then you say they are in fact real, but the way it's worded confused me for many reasons but one being the sibla are attacking the humans but the humans didn't know that was possible, yet how then, have humans lost their power? Assuming the sibla? It's confusing.

Forced to watch ( How is she forced? Who is forcing here? These are the small irrelevent questions you don't want to distract your reader with , so skip it unless it's important to main plot ) her parents slaughtered and her home burned to ash, Rachel is branded, stuffed in a cage and sent to market as veal. Rachel's luck improves when her buyer, Magnus Kendrick, appears to be the only sibla with sympathy towards her suffering. Offering her a new home and luxuries beyond her wildest imagination, Magnus slowly begins to make her feel safe again. But when Rachel discovers that her new master’s business profits on human meat (I I think this is supposed to be the twist
 but it's not reading like a twist. The fact he bought her made me already assume he was not exactly her friend, so then he's friendly and caring but then saying , he's actually running a business with human meat isn't that surprising to his character as he bought her. I'd rework this to have a different reveal. )


she realizes her fight for survival is far from over. To keep herself off the menu Rachel will have to use all her cunning and prove she’s worth more than a pound of flesh.


With a minor in comparative religion from Vassar College, AFTER HUMANITY comes from my continued interest in cultural anthropology, the darker moments of human history, and my own personal struggle with the concept of both eating meat and loving animals. Complete at 125k words, AFTER HUMANITY will appeal to lovers of speculative, soft science fiction like A Handmaid's Tale and The Mount. An earlier draft of this novel has appeared on Wattpad.com garnering over 1.2 Million reads, a #1 placement on both the horror and sci-fi genre hotlists, and a 2017 Watty award. Thank you for your time and consideration.

I've heard agents regard having posted a book on Wattpad as that book having been published somwhere, also the fact 1.2 million people saw it , is super impressive to most people but the same thinking of agents feeling that a book posted on Amazon that say, sold 3000 copies, has 'reached it's audience' , I imagine would apply to your book being on wattpad. Ie; it's reached it's audience, therefor there's no opportunity , marketing-wise for it to explore. ( I know that sounds dumb, that a book on Amazon that sold 3000 copies is sort of considered 'used up' regarding reaching it's audience but I've read this several times, that it's how they veiw it.

So I'd leave the Wattpad stuff out of query. It's obviously not leading to requests , whereas your pitch without the wattpad info ( assuming that wasn't in tweet ) did. I know you only posted 'an earlier version' on Wattpad, but if they don't read your query properly, and just see 'Wattpad' then they might just auto reject it for that reason. It's risky.

Also  the wordcount is not within normally acceptable range for the genre, for a debut author. Even for epic fantasy.




[/quote]

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2019, 02:39:40 PM »
I just looked you up on wattpad and the Blurb for that version is Soooo much better than this query. I know it breaks rules by having rhetorical questions at start but I'm wondering if you've tested it out on agents. The blurb? You could always remove first paragraph ( but I like it ) .

Queries can break rules sometimes.

Have you tried querying with that blurb?

Offline dreamsong24

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2019, 11:39:53 PM »
Interesting... that blurb is SO old lol. Since its just a draft on wattpad I never update with edits. As for the reads... well those are not readers Thats not how reads on wattpad work. That said, with 1.2M I cant not write it in the query. It would be wrong to do so and its more of a positive than a negative with that much success ( yes i have run this by many agents at conferences).

Rule of thumb is that over 100k its worth mentioning in a query. I can also share that from agents who were interested? Its been a non-issue. One was excited by the following the book had ( rejected saying it was too dark for her). The one with the full asked me about it but when I explained i still had full rights? She congratulated me on the success there and said she'd keep reading. Just giving the info for reference. Some agents might care? The majority seem not to. I have 2 friends who signed with agents last year with wattpad books. One got a VERY nice deal with a big pub.

 Your edits are interesting. Thats why I put this up here. I already have my query critiquers but at this point its hard for them to be objective any more than me myself.

To clarify the Planet of the Apes element? Yes, its somthing i use in my pitch. Thats actually my tweet comp and it works fine to get attention ( i pitch this as planet of the apes + Hannibal Lector). The reason this book is diff than Planet of the Apes conceptually is the POV of the farmer being the secondary POV in the story. That and... the end.

So to answer your specific answers in the first paragraph? That ignorance of what the sibla are is 100% where the MC starts the story. She is sheltered and though she knows the sibla exist, to her they are basically like fairytale monsters. She is only 9 and has never seen one. Their village escaped from sibla control before she was born. I did change that reveal element though. Its not a reveal. She knows he raises human meat from the very start. I mean he bought her at a live meat market...Its more that she doesnt want to beleive that her fate is fixed.


It all keeps coming back to my frustration that I cant get the second two characters in there. Magnus, the second pov character is what makes this story diff from others like it. This actually isnt a story of rebellion. Its far more literary than action-packed. The third important character is super important to the plot but doenst fit in the query. I really hate queries  :faint:
« Last Edit: February 14, 2019, 11:51:38 PM by dreamsong24 »

Offline dreamsong24

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2019, 11:46:26 PM »
Ok so... I went back and looked at the old summary. See the reason I hadnt used it? I thought the second paragraph read as too subtle

  "No one is exactly certain where the sibla came from. Some say they evolved from humans long ago, slowly taking power as their numbers increased. Taller, stronger, and longer-lived, than homo sapiens it isn't too hard to imagine. Now humans must face a reality in which they are no more than animals, domesticated beasts bred for their Master's various needs and hungers.
                   
Rachel Turner is only eight years old. Born in Demin, one of the last remaining free human settlements on earth, she has never been forced to face the reality of life under a sibla Master, living a carefree existence in her hidden village.
                   
Magnus Kendrick is a sibla farmer with a sizable estate on which he raises all manner of livestock, from chickens, to sheep, to...humans. He is also the man destined to purchase Rachel's life."



I mean it does bring in both characters. I think the stakes are lacking though for both characters in this. We dont know for what reason Magnus is purchasing rachel. We have no idea how rachel ends up with him. Idk i think its too vague personally

Offline Pineapplejuice

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2019, 03:12:17 AM »
Dear Agent,
Okay I'll point out what I mean more clearly. I know you said how you have it is how the MC feels, but I think you're missing my point. I actually was referring to the sibla bit ( the main part i had a problem with ) in the intro of your recent query, as to why I preferred the blurb.

The human race's reign of power ended long ago  ( How? What is their situation now? ) but nine-year-old Rachel Turner is one of the lucky few still living in freedom ( freedom compared to who? What is the non-freedom situation? ) . In her small, peaceful town, the sibla, a humanoid species that raise humans as livestock, are little more than fairytale monsters. ( How are they fairy tale monsters ( regarded as a myth? ) if they are raising humans as livestock? ) That is until the night sibla come hunting for wild meat. ( But they were eating humans before, in last sentence, so how is now any different to before - except for the fact that the MC's town is inexplicably immune for some reason until now? )

It's a tangle that like you said would be expected if your critiquers already know your book and are filling in the gaps with what they already know. This paragraph, worded this way, raises too many questions.


I think the explanation of the Sibla far better from blurb in wattpad , but then the explanation of the MC good in this version, but the problem being that you don't raise the stakes after they have been explained the first time. Try ending on a strong note.



That's really interesting about some agents telling you the wattpad views didn't matter. I do remember now it was an agent on Twitter that said they wouldn't look at a wattpad book so keep in mind some might not be interested. It's quite strange how you haven't had any requests from queries with success in twitter pitches proving the idea is popular, so that sort of indicates your query isn't pulling it's weight - whether it's the synopsis or the housekeeping, the latter indicating that more agents feel like the agent I saw on twitter re: wattpad, than the ones who responded positively.

 But that's really good to know about your friend.

« Last Edit: February 15, 2019, 04:24:48 AM by Pineapplejuice »

Offline dreamsong24

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2019, 09:29:14 AM »
So just to be clear? When you twitter pitch, you then have to send a query. Those queries ARE getting response and thats the query i have shared. So its working for some agents  ( as are the first pages for a handful of agents). They dont ask for a full from a twitter pitch typically. Its just an invitation to query. From those i have gotten response. 1 agent asked fro 50 pages, then a full. 1 asked for just a query and 10 pages. She went on to request 100 pages. She wrote the most personal rejection saying she wanted it but didnt think she could get it past editors for the darkness level. 1 asked for a full and even took the time for a call( that rejection stung after i was so sure), 1 had requested a full form any she’d ❤️Ed. The query was responded to with a personal sounding message implying real interest. 5 months later she emailed me and said she was still interested but was making certsin i was still agent huntin before getting back into it. ( thats the one i still have out and am waiting on :-/)

So this query HAS gotten response. Just not from pure cold queries. I mean a twiter pitch is very short. It wouldnt be enough if the query and pages were not there. Whats frustrating is you get 0 feedback from agents as to WHY they reject.

Could it be wattpad? Yep. I know some agents wont touch. I also know that the agent with full, in her message to me, seemed surprised it was on wattpad even though i wrote it in the initial query. When i responded that it was a draft and had readership there? She didnt say “ok bye” she said “glad you have a following. Ill keep reading”. None of the rejections have sited wattpad as an issue ( but sadly... agents often reject fulls with a form rejection too so... not helpful). Could it be the Wc? More of a factor thats likely i guess. it's not an insane WC for sci-fi but i know it could be a raise flags. Could it be that im not telling the story well enough in the query? Also yes. Thats why i am interested in new eyes.

I did understand what you were saying about the questions left in the query. But they actually are left questions in the book ( in terms of why humans lost power). Rachel, the mc, thinks of sibla like a myth cause she doesn't know humans are raised as livestock. She knows sibla took her older brother ( before she was born) and that sibla are somthing to fear/ that if their village was found people would be taken ( again she doesn't know for what, Though she has heard rumors they eat people). But I could add more detail Rachel doesnt know to the first paragraph ( ie how the sibla are in power now). Maybe that would make it clearer :-/


« Last Edit: February 15, 2019, 09:35:57 AM by dreamsong24 »

Offline dreamsong24

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Re: After Humanity: Dark Spec-fic
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2019, 09:48:32 AM »

Dear Agent,
Okay I'll point out what I mean more clearly. I know you said how you have it is how the MC feels, but I think you're missing my point. I actually was referring to the sibla bit ( the main part i had a problem with ) in the intro of your recent query, as to why I preferred the blurb.





ok, made some changes in the first post... any better? hehe