Friday, August 13, 2010


Today's guest blogger is my good friend Ted Cross. He is in my critique group but I promise to try not to let the fact that I have read some of THE SHARD affect my thoughts on his query.

You know the rules. Follow his blog, then come back and read his query.

I'll let him take it away but first I should point out that I went with dark green for Ted's thoughts, and doo-doo brown for my own. The reason for this should be clear but if not the green represents wise elves, and the brown? Stupid Orcs.

Go ahead Ted:

Dear Nathan,

I’ve been an avid follower of your blog for well over a year; you might recall me (knight_tour) as being the person who would have won your last March Madness Challenge had Butler won instead of Duke. I am seeking representation for my epic fantasy novel, The Shard, which is complete at 130,000 words.

I decided to go with my letter to Nathan since I think the letter sounds too dry without the personalization that I do for each and Nathan is the one agent that I think doesn’t mind us all trying to learn from each other. I wouldn’t do this with any other agent. I knew up-front that Nathan had never signed up a fantasy novel, but he is so awesome that I had to give him a try.

Ahh, I remember that March Madness chaos! What fun. I was on the first page, but had picked Kentucky. What were we talking about? Oh, Ted's query. Right. Well personalization is HUGE I think, especially with a young, hip agent like Nathan. Is hip a hip word still? Was it ever?

Three years after losing a son in an ambush by a troll, the minor noble Midas’s marriage is crumbling and the Known Lands are threatened by an invasion from a mysterious race of dragon men (called wyrmen). Midas is torn between his duty to raise his two remaining sons to be proper leaders and the insistence of his wife that he keep the boys safe.

He takes his sons to war, but hopes to shield them from the worst dangers. His intentions go awry when a seer involves them in a plan to defeat the wyrmen by finding a shard of a shattered magical relic, lost centuries ago in the lair of Kathkalan, a dragon so vicious it has turned the entire eastern region of the realm into an abandoned wasteland.

After surviving the dragon, cannibals, ice-wraiths that can kill with a touch, and a chase through an underground labyrinth, Midas and his companions find the shard and join the armies of the realm to confront the superior forces of the wyrmen, only to discover that the magic of the shard doesn’t work as expected. Midas is faced with the most excruciating of decisions -- save his sons, or save the realm and risk losing everyone that he loves.

Okay, I have tried a few versions but they were all terrible. I’m not in love with this, but it has gotten me two partial requests (out of five responses so far), so I feel it can’t be that bad. I know some say we should only use one paragraph or two at the most for this part, but I couldn’t make it work that way. In fact, I already feel like a fraud since the above describes only a tiny part of what my story is about! I would love to see how George R.R. Martin would have queried his A Song of Ice and Fire series if he had to.

I'm going to get serious now (finally) because I seriously love this book. I've actually only read like the first 6 chapters because our crit group has been taking it slow, but I've known about the premise for a while and I LOVE it.

I would have to argue that for a story like Ted's a query much shorter than this would not do it justice. Yes short and sweet is generally best and the idea is to share just enough to get the agent to ask for more, but you also don't want to leave so much out that they feel betrayed when they do read your pages.

I want to talk more about Ted's story because it is in a vein that I love, but this post is really about his query. The only other things that I'll point is that while Ted's tale does contain some traditional fantasy elements he also has some highly unique aspects like these Wyrmen and his own take on magic.

The only other thing is that while this query may sound a little dry, lacking some of the stronger voice that makes others stand out so much I actually think it is highly appropriate for Ted's story. We talk about voice a lot when I critique his pages and without giving away the secret behind his twist I will simply say that there is a reason that his people speak the way they do, not quite in a medieval tongue, not quite in a modern one. It's subtle, but it works.

George R.R. Martin has shown with his A Song of Ice and Fire series how hungry audiences are for realistic epic fantasy. I believe that the forthcoming movies based on The Hobbit will form a renewed bubble of interest in this genre. Though my novel can stand alone, I have begun a prequel and also outlined two other novels within the series.

I know some won’t like this, but I get the feeling that agents are not as forward-looking as I would like them to be. I wanted to remind them about the Hobbit movies (and now the Game of Thrones series) that are forthcoming. How could there not be a renewed interest in epic fantasy after those come out? I also honestly feel that if someone like Mr. Martin wrote his down and dirty style of fantasy tale within a high fantasy setting it would sell like crazy.

I'm not sure I can talk about this. I keep hearing terrible things about what's going on with The Hobbit films and it makes me very sad. I can say that I think Ted's point to agents is valid. Even if High Fantasy like this never reaches the top of the bestseller list I feel like there is still a strong niche market. Novels of this kind will sell steadily for years I think, rather than like a blockbuster all at once.

I'm no expert on the industry of course but I know I would buy this book and I know several other fantasy fans who would as well.

Below are my first five pages. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Ted Cross

I’ve sent this to only eleven agents so far. I’ve had three rejections and two partial requests that eventually were rejected. Six haven’t responded at all even though it has been quite some time. I was encouraged by the fact that the two partial requests came from very well known agents, but I can’t wait to someday get a full request!

I can't wait either Ted. It seems tough to sell Fantasy right now, not that I've tried personally, but I think your novel stands out.

So what do you guys think? Can Adult Fantasy shine in the YA era? Should Ted give more away in his query about some of the more unique elements of his story?

I can't answer those questions except for with my gut. As far as Ted's query the most important thing is that it's working.

P.S. Yes I did win something over at WriteOnCon last night. I know some of you were hoping I would write about it today. I promise to do a post on the whole thing on Monday, but Fridays are for guest posts. Sorry.


Ted Cross said...

You're the best, Matt! Congrats again on your query win.

Joanne Brothwell said...

This query was great, Ted. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but this one excited me! I really like what you did with the first paragraph, and I think Nathan would respond well to that kind of personalization. This is why it's so important to know who you are querying!

Well done Matthew. Thanks for sharing, guys!

vic caswell said...

oh man that march madness thing was crazy! my hubby was so pleased to see me interested in sports- until all those stupid upsets started....

oh yeah, ted!!!
the thing i loved about your query is that you highlighted the character struggle instead of getting caught up in the creatures. even if high fantasy might not be hot right now (i have no clue!) i believe that amazing characters are always in style!
two partial requests is really good! keep plugging away, we all want to read your book!(esp. after that posted excerpt during that blogfest- AMAZING!!) :)

Stina said...

Can fantasy shine in the YA era? YES!!!!

My 15 yo nephew is visiting (with his book loving 17 yo sister). He admitted (while we were buying his sister's 13th YA book on the trip--the girl own 200+ books) that he doesn't read YA. He reads only adult fantasy. But then his idea of being an avid reader is reading one book a month.

Great query, Ted. :D

And Mathew. Yes, I was expecting to see your post on your epic win. Congrats!!!!!!! (I'm away next week, so I won't be able to read your post). And thanks for commenting on my query during Write On Con. I finally had a chance to briefly skim over some of the comments last night. Yours rocks!!!

Vicki Rocho said...

Not much of a fantasy reader, but you must have done something right to intrigue me towards a genre that usually gets my cold shoulder! Good job!

Matt, the news of your win is everywhere! I lost track of how many places I've read it. Congrats!!!

Candyland said...

I also don't read much fantasy but this was a solid query.
I also think the personalization is great!
Matty congrats on the win!!!

Christina Lee said...

I totally think it will shine if Matt is saying the writing/story is so good. I liked querying agents who requested pages b/c then if they thought the query was too dry, they could see my voice in the pages. Good luck!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'll buy Ted's book when it comes out!
And I agree the summary is a little dry. Maybe breaking down the longer sentences in the second two paragraphs would help, too.

Renae said...

I read a little fantasy, but this one pulled me in. And the fact that you've recieved positive feedback shows it's solid. Great work.

Congrats Matt on your query win!

Angie said...

I'm no query expert, but I thought it was good. It sure kindled my interest in the story. I think there is definitely a strong market for adult fantasy. I know there is at my house anyway. Best of luck with it, Ted.

Ted Cross said...

Alex, that one sentence in the second paragraph is long. I can't think of a good way of turning it into two sentences. The couple of fixes I can think of are worse.

Julie Musil said...

I don't even read this kind of book, but I thought the query was very well written. The personal paragraph was great.

In my opinion, I think the amount of information you dole out is good. It hooked me, without giving too much away. I'm still clueless (in a good way) as to how the whole thing will play out. LOVED the conflict about the sons (I have 3).

My only negative comment would be that a couple of the sentences were very long. Other than that, I'd say "well done."


Kristine Asselin said...

Saw your query critiqued on the Coffey, Tea, and Lit web page, Matthew! Awesome props from Joanna! Congrats!

Arlee Bird said...

Ted, the query and analysis was interesting. I've never been able to get into the fantasy genre. Horror and SciFi are okay by me, but I prefer realistic from the present day or historical sense. I'm sure the fanbase is out there, but I don't have much of opinion. I do with you luck with your efforts and look forward to hearing what the outcome is.

Thanks for another interesting look at the query process.

Tossing It Out

Ted Cross said...

Matt, I thought it would be fun to point out your words here on The Hobbit movies. Plus, I was dead right about the Hobbit and Game of Thrones shows being so huge, and it's a shame my book wasn't cover-out on the bookshelves a month before Christmas as The Hobbit hit!