Feedback Request (300 Words)

Hi,
I'm trying out a new query letter for a new book. I'd appreciate any critiques anyone can give. Be brutal. This isn't my first rodeo.

Buildings crumble and the forests burn as the gods are hunt for one of their lost treasures.

Peter had no idea that a war has been raging since time immemorial. He only learns about the conflict, and the existence of the gods who wage it, as he stands over his father’s broken body.

That’s when Marcus, an ancient being, appears. He offers Peter the chance to become like him. He’ll gain the ability to heal from any wound and run faster than the human eye can follow. Along with it comes the need to “stay in the gray.” Too many bad deeds will permanently rob him of his sanity. Too many good ones will probably kill him.

The difficulty of letting go of his mortal life is nothing compared to what happens after Peter becomes a god. That’s when the others begin to see him as a target. They invade his city and his life while countless innocents are trampled underfoot.

After losing his friends, his fiancé, and his mortality, Peter thought there was nothing else he would have to sacrifice. It’s only as the bodies pile up and the screams of the innocent drown out his life that he realizes there is much more to be lost.

In a battle across continents that brings them to every corner of the world in search of these treasures, Peter is forced to engage in bloody conflict as a newly turned god. At the same time, he has to ensure that the violence he experiences, or dolls out, doesn’t consume what little humanity he has left.

I would like to present my urban fantasy novel, Deus ex Machina: A Sinful Victory (139,000 words). It is the first in a planned four-book series.

Comments

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Librarian
    edited May 16
    gods are hunt => gods hunt, or gods are hunting

    Peter had no idea => Peter has [the remainder of the first two paragraphs are present tense]

    That’s when Marcus, an ancient being, appears. => As he contemplates his father's death, Marcus ... [or similar]

    That’s when the others begin [Okay, let's dispense with "That's when" entirely. Just delete every instance of it right now.Trust me, just do it.]

    After losing his friends, his fiancé, and his mortality, Peter thought there was nothing else he would have to sacrifice. => Having lost his friends, fiance ... Peter thinks ... [Stay in the present tense. You're already committed to Present tense by this point.]

    I'm going to be frank here: You need to give this some punch, and you need to cut out all the redundancy. It's weak, it's passive, and it's flavorless. Moreover, it's weak, and just when I think I've said that, I realize that it's also passive. There is much more weakness to lose.

    To put that another way: You're describing this story from a million miles away. If I were writing this blurb, It would go something like this:

    The gods make war, and humans suffer. Desolation and destruction rain down around the trembling mortals, but the gods hunt one of their own, with no thought of human misery.

    Peter stands at his father's grave, grieving, when a god appears, and offers him immortality at a price. First his friends, then his fiance and his family, finally his own soul -- And much more still hangs in the balance!

    What I've done there is to first cut the redundancy, and then to draw you into the character's conflict. I'm not telling you about the story; I'm dragging you into the story.

    You've got the framework of an interesting story here, but if this sample is any indication, you're about 60,000 words too long. Seriously, go in with a red pencil and cut mercilessly. Take no pity on any redundancy, and be merciless when redundancy is found, to the point of being pitiless (Yes, I did that to make a point). Too many words, and especially too many similar phrases, dull the edge of the story.

    Once you've chopped the story down to its fighting weight, THEN go back and read it as if it were written by someone else. Replace weak, passive phrases with sharp, brisk phrases. Give it some bite! Draw the camera in from a million miles away and put the lens right onto Peter's face. 

    You told us to be brutal, so I haven't pulled my punches here. But let me add -- I appreciate that you're writing this well, in proper sentences, using established style. That alone puts you ahead of many feedback requests. You can write. Now, you just need to write with feeling, and with a concise sharpness.
  • As a query letter, this would lose me on the first sentence. Aside from the grammatical issue Skoob noted, it lacks a hook. The good news is; you've got a really cool idea here and the makings for a lot of action/drama so there is a hook to be found. You just need to find it.

    I'll echo Skoob's comments about redundancy and suggest really pruning the book to it's barest form, then building it up again. This isn't to say you don't have a good story here either. But cutting it back to the absolute essentials will give you less material to edit, help you find the core of the store, and provide an excellent foundation on which to build your story up from.

    Back to the actual passage, I think it might be wise to leave out some of the details. We don't need to know that Peter's godliness is contingent on maintaining a do good/do bad balance. That's a nice twist and certainly will serve you well in creating drama, but to draw us into the story, the ascension of Peter, death of his father, war...all these elements will serve you better to pull us in.

    Basically, cut down on the details here and give us the hook (or punch as Skoob called it) and leave yourself room to develop within the actual book.

    This really is a cool idea and I think you've got solid material to work from. Best of luck with the revisions!
  • TheRulezTheRulez Reader
    Thanks. I can't believe I had that typo in there. Suffering from a little manuscript blindness. I appreciate all the pointers and I'll see what I can do about revisions. Feel free to let me know if either of you need someone to look at your work in the future.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    This is good advice  >> https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writers/advice/12/preparing-for-submission/query-letter-and-synopsis/approaching-a-publisher

    But note that before you send any part of a story, even a brief synopsis, it's best to approach publishers (and agents, and it's often said that publishers would prefer to be approached by agents and not writers) asking them if they would like to see a synopsis. The commissioning editors I have known often admit that they have an annual portfolio of number of books to publish, and when they have reached that figure any further submissions go in the bin unread. They do not hang on to them for the following year. When I published magazines the same applied. When that month's issue was full, any further submissions often went in the bin, unread. But never give up hope. Think of those approaches like spam. The more you send out, and across the year, the more likely one will land on a desk at exactly the right time. But even so it will HAVE TO GRAB THEIR ATTENTION.

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Bibliophile
    Kevin gives some good advice!

    Before you submit anything to a publisher, check their submission standards first...and then follow them to the letter exactly. If you don't, you can pretty much guarantee that your proposal won't even get looked at. Editors can't waste their time with authors who cannot follow directions.

    The current edition of Writer's Market will provide you with all the information you need.


  • On its own, right now, it does seem like overkill. But if the publishers / agents being contacted require the traditional submission back, then it wouldn't seem too bad a little way into the pack, acting as the precis. I don't bother submitting any more, can no longer afford the packs along with the return post, but when I did, the publishers requirements were broadly similar if not the same - intro letter - complete with the briefest of summaries of the book, synopsis and / or first 3 chapters, and maybe a character bio. Among all this, your piece above acting as the precis, would I think be OK.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Bibliophile
    edited May 17
    Again: Find out what the submission requirements are and follow them to the letter. Do not try anything else. 

    Some publishers want nothing but a query letter first, others want to see a letter along with the first chapter or two, some want to see a few chapters and an outline, others want to see a complete MS... If you send a publisher something that is not what they are expecting or asking for all you are doing is setting yourself up for a rejection at best and being completely ignored at worst.

    Do your homework and act accordingly.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Before you submit anything to a publisher, check their submission standards first...and then follow them to the letter exactly. If you don't, you can pretty much guarantee that your proposal won't even get looked at. Editors can't waste their time with authors who cannot follow directions.

    Such details can often be found on publisher's websites. They will also tell you what they are after. There's no point sending SF to ones who only publish cookery books. But very often they will say No Submissions At Present.

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    On its own, right now, it does seem like overkill. But if the publishers / agents being contacted require the traditional submission back, then it wouldn't seem too bad a little way into the pack, acting as the precis. I don't bother submitting any more, can no longer afford the packs along with the return post, but when I did, the publishers requirements were broadly similar if not the same - intro letter - complete with the briefest of summaries of the book, synopsis and / or first 3 chapters, and maybe a character bio. Among all this, your piece above acting as the precis, would I think be OK.

    Often if they show an interest they will ask for a synopsis. If they like that they will ask for a few chapters. If they like those they will ask for the entire manuscript. Although some will allow them via email, many still like it printed (because it saves them doing it!) and they expect at the very least double spacing, wide margins and single sided, so they can make notes in them. If you want it back they insist on you paying the postage.

    Do beware of any publishers who keep saying how amazing your work is, the best they have seen, they can't wait to publish is, and keep asking for more and more of it, each time with no negative comments, because quite often they will start to ask for money in bits and bats. One thinks, "well I have already sent them $20, so what's another $50?" and eventually you may have handed over $1000s, and still not been published. It's like some sort of publishing 'blackmail.'

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Bibliophile


    Do beware of any publishers who keep saying how amazing your work is, the best they have seen, they can't wait to publish is, and keep asking for more and more of it, each time with no negative comments, because quite often they will start to ask for money in bits and bats. One thinks, "well I have already sent them $20, so what's another $50?" and eventually you may have handed over $1000s, and still not been published. It's like some sort of publishing 'blackmail.'

    Absolutely! Never, never, NEVER have anything to do with an agent or publisher who ever asks you for even a single penny.
  • TheRulezTheRulez Reader
    Here's a revision I've done. I focused on adding more "stakes." Thanks.

    A war has been raging since time immemorial, but Peter only learns about the conflict, and the gods who wage it, as he stands over his father’s broken body.

    When Marcus appears, he offers Peter the chance to become an immortal being like him. He’ll gain the ability to heal from any wound and run faster than the human eye can follow. But the promise of eternal life comes with the need to “stay in the gray.” Too many bad deeds will permanently rob him of his sanity. Too many good ones will probably kill him.

    The other gods will stop at nothing to claim the treasures. Countless innocents are trampled underfoot when they begin invading cities all over the world.

    After losing his friends, his fiancé, and his mortality, Peter thinks there is nothing else he’ll have to sacrifice. To prevail over these gods, he’ll have to kill. The act alone might take away his sanity. Or, perhaps, saving so many innocents will mean the end of his own life.

    In a battle across continents that brings them to every corner of the world, Peter is forced to engage in bloody conflict as a newly turned god. At the same time, he must ensure that the violence he experiences, or doles out, doesn’t consume what little humanity he has left.

    I would like to present my urban fantasy novel, Deus ex Machina: A Sinful Victory (139,000 words). It is a stand-alone story, but the first in a planned four-book series.

  • I won't comment on quality or lack of of the summary itself, apart from one thing, never choose a bigger fancier word or phrase when you can put it more simply '. . . since the beginning of time' would be better. Anhyoo - don't forget you'll need a proper covering letter or email, at the very least, to act as a preamble, to gently lead the reader into why you are contacting them. Your statement about presenting the story needs to be before, and preferably in the covering letter. Once you've done that, then let the summary live by itself on its own pages. Once it's over, make any further contributory comments separately on another page, or at the very least make a very clear division at the end of the summary, a line of asterisks, or even just a line. But the separation will be needed. As others have also said, publishers and agents have their own very exact and precise guidelines to what they want to see in a submission pack, and will not give it / you time if your MS does not meet these requirements. Best of luck.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Librarian
    The second sample is better, at least in the first few lines. It is much less redundant. It still could be substantially simplified, but I would now consider it marginally passable.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    TheRulz asked "I'm trying out a new query letter for a new book." But then pasted in a synopsis. We said it's best to first write to ask publishers if they want one sending at all. As we said, most publishers prefer to be asked first, but don't be surprised if they never respond. But what does the OP paste lately? Another synopsis ...

    Actually, I was wondering why the question was asked on a self-publishing site.

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Librarian
    We're not the kinds of doctors who could answer that question.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Bibliophile

    TheRulz asked "I'm trying out a new query letter for a new book." But then pasted in a synopsis. We said it's best to first write to ask publishers if they want one sending at all. As we said, most publishers prefer to be asked first, but don't be surprised if they never respond. But what does the OP paste lately? Another synopsis ...

    Actually, I was wondering why the question was asked on a self-publishing site.

    As you, I and others have said a million times: "Check with a publisher to see what their submission standards are before sending in anything!" Not following the guidelines is a pretty sure way of getting your book tossed out sight unseen. Almost every publisher has their submission guidelines online, or one can easily find them in the latest edition of Writer's Market.
  • TheRulezTheRulez Reader
    Once again, all input is appreciated. Thanks for your help everyone. I think I'm finally starting to get close to where I want to be on this thing.
  • In the Artists and Writers' Year Book it does state the requirements of most publishers and agents, as discussed earlier, some will want the whole shebang straight off, others want a simple introductory letter with a brief outline, but it is all there so you can submit cold, using the guidelines gleaned from the book.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    I do think that this year's Artists and Writers' Year Book costs £20, and is also only in the reference section of libraries. It's quite a trek reading it all. I would suggest looking within books of the type one wishes to have published for the Publisher's name. Then looking at their web sites. Just as examples >>

     https://www.millsandboon.co.uk/np/Content/ContentPage/8

    https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/authors/writing-for-bloomsbury/

    And as we have been saying >>

      https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/corporate/for-authors/submit-a-manuscript/

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
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