Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bryan Russell's Query Letter

Okay guys, so for a little more Bryan Russell, today he is going to share his query that won him an offer of representation, after revision, from Nathan Bransford (who, for those who noticed, stopped by my blog yesterday ... yes, I am that awesome).

I want to get right to it because Bryan and I (mostly Bryan) will be analyzing this query for you all tomorrow. You will see that it is a little unconventional, but then so is Bryan, and so is his novel.


Dear Mr. Bransford,

I stumbled across some of your comments as a guest-host at Absolute Write and was impressed enough to trace my way back to your blog. I've been happily lurking there ever since. As a fellow lifelong fan of the Sacramento Kings… um, well, I'm not exactly a Kings fan, despite being an NBA addict. I do, however, miss watching Vlade drop dimes… and drop to the floor. True artistry is hard to find. Along with your NBA devotion, I was also impressed by the diversity of your reading interests and by your emphasis on representing stories that truly appeal to you regardless of genre or form. Considering this, I thought you might be the right agent to represent my novel, The Dreams of Crows, a dark epic fantasy with literary undertones.

After killing his father, Japheth flees into the wilderness only to be captured by Legion soldiers. He's given a choice: face a trial or join the Legion. The choice is not so simple, though, as a war between empires looms on the horizon. Japheth, however, has no desire to face the Strangler's Rope, and so he becomes a soldier, as his father was before him. Embroiled in the politics of the Malisc Empire, Japheth is sent to Maresh, his mother's homeland, a place simmering with rebellion. Balanced between two empires, between love and betrayal, Japheth must find a safe path to travel, guided only by the Ghost King, an enigmatic figure with uncertain motives. Unclear where his loyalties lie, he is given little time to decide, for war descends on the city known as the White Garden. Amidst death Japheth finds his path in life and an answer to his question. He is a soldier, and his loyalty is to the men who stand at his side.

My professional publishing credits include two previous literary stories (The Windsor Review), as well as an interview and an article on writing. I have participated in many writing workshops, and hold both a BA and MA in Creative Writing, as well as a degree in Education. I currently haunt numerous writing blogs and sites while running my bookstore, Inklings Bookshop, from its cozy home in Windsor, Ontario.

I have appended the first five pages of The Dreams of Crows. Upon your request, I'd be happy to send you a partial or complete manuscript. Thank you for considering my work for representation. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Bryan Russell

So that's it. That's the query. I will share more thoughts tomorrow, but for now I will just point out that this is a clinic in how to personalize a query letter.

Feel free to share your thoughts or ask Bryan questions, but please save any of your own analysis or feedback for tomorrow.

Thanks!

24 comments:

Ted Cross said...

I really liked the query and would certainly love to read the book. If I had any criticism at all (and it's just my own opinion) it would be that the MC's name doesn't thrill me.

Vicki Rocho said...

If the focus is personalization, he obviously nailed it but I'll hold my tongue and hope I can remember to swing back tomorrow to share my two cents.

Em-Musing said...

I love how he connected with Nathan. I usually only include one sentence, but in his case, I think more is better.

Justine Dell said...

Oh, I love INK!!! He's so great! Can wait until tomorrow. No I'm going to go find the other Bryan post!

~JD

lbdiamond said...

Nice!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

holy crap. I want to read that book

Matthew Rush said...

Yeah. Me too. Epic Fantasy by a literary master? WIN!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm very curious to hear the critique tomorrow! Thank you to Matt and Bryan for sharing this - knowing Bryan (via blogs) for a while, this letter certainly captures the feel of who he is, something I think is no small trick to capture in a query letter.

Christina Lee said...

Very NIIIICE!! And oh yeah, talk about personalization!

Chris Phillips said...

That was the perfect kind/amount of personalization. It's a scary thing though, because it's so easy to do wrong.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He certainly knows a lot about Nathan.

Paul Joseph said...

Thank you Matthew and Bryan for sharing this awesome sample. I must read a dozen articles weekly about the art of querying, but nothing beats seeing a solid, successful one in front of me. Thanks again! (And Bryan, congratulations! You certainly nailed this one.)

LTM said...

This sounds like a very male-oriented book. And very biblical. My only question is who's repping Bryan now?

And I missed your guest visit yesterday, but I know you were psyched. :D you are awesome~

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

That is serious personalization! I struggle with that part of a query letter. I do mega research, but I'm afraid as coming across as stalkerish or maybe vain in assuming because they have such and such interests they would LOVE my book. It's a fine balance, I think. Bryan did nicely.

Copyboy said...

Man I learn so much on this blog about a profession I dream to be a part of. FYI...that's not the opening of my Query letter.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Well, technicaly, Nathan never represented me, as we weren't at the point of submission and so we didn't have a contract. But we'd been working together for quite awhile. I'm not repped by anybody, as of now, but that's okay as Nathan's revisions are still kicking me in the butt. A slow and painful form of forward progress! :)

Jared Larson said...

Awesome job. Very intriguing query.

K. M. Walton said...

Your opening paragraph shows your personality AND it personalizes the query in a completely genuine way. Nice work.

I wish you the best of luck with your revision and can't wait to hear that you've accepted NB's official offer...

Robert Guthrie said...

Wow. So bold, so clear. I look forward to learning more.

K. M. Walton said...

Oh, yeah, NB isn't an agent anymore. Boo. BUT, I still wish you the best of luck and still look forward to hearing that you accepted an offer from someone!!

Elana Johnson said...

This is a great example of how you should throw the formula out and write a good query. Unconventional or not. Great job, Bryan!

BTN Hip Hop said...

when did bryan get involved?

Kelly said...

Way to hook the sports fanatic in the first paragraph about a book not about sports!

JM Leotti said...

Love the query. It felt "brave." I don't think I would have had the courage to write such a long, personal first paragraph. It's great to see what can be done, and how a letter as different as this can grab the attention of an agent. A valuable lesson already. Looking forward to the analysis. Thanks again! You two make a great team. :-)