The Art of Query: Figuring this Out

 

After finishing and editing a book, the next step is publication. I’ve had a backup plan in case traditional publications doesn’t work out, self-publishing. There’re a lot of reasons to try traditional publishing. The reach of the work and the focus on writing versus marketing, among others.

 

Most publishers don’t consider work that isn’t agented. You can find a few smaller publishing houses that consider work directly from writers. So I needed an agent. The whole publishing business is completely foreign to me. Jane Friedman’s site helped a ton. Everything in this post is from there in some form. A great resource for anyone trying to get into the novel writing business.

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Getting an agent requires a finished manuscript. Then you write a query letter to agents. A query is a cover letter brought to its pinnacle. Basically, this query asks if an agent wants to receive your full manuscript. The easiest way through this process is with someone vouching for you. Very similar to job hunting. If someone can speak for you within the company, getting the job becomes much easier. Writing conferences are the best place as I’ve read. Still, need a query but much easier.

 

I don’t have any contacts in the publishing business. I need something that works as a great query. Getting traditionally published is very difficult.

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This article I found on Jane Friedmann’s website explains how to write one. First, find an agent that’ll like your book based on what they’ve represented before. Then research the agent and personalize the first paragraph as to how you book is a good fit for them. “I’m querying you because you represented X. I think [My book] would interest you.” Something like that.

 

Then you list the title and word count. The following paragraph is a short paragraph that sounds like the book. It should extol what the book’s about, it’s virtues, and hook the reader. This is basically like a summary with a hook.

 

The final paragraph is about your writing related biographical information. Finally, end with asking them to request the full manuscript. And “Thank you for the consideration” or something like that.

 

Include everything else as directed by the Agent’s submission guidelines. Take this very seriously and double check everything. Agent’s name included.

 

This is the first query I sent out to agents the first time around. As you can see I didn’t exactly follow those guidelines.

 

I’m writing you because you helped [X] by [Y] get published.

Please follow Connor Abby in Remember, a science fiction novel with more than a hint of science that runs in a space of 120.000+ words.

Connor Abby — a normal, everyday research scientist — ends up in the middle of an age-old conflict between altruistic science and a science-obsessed government, culminating in the murder of Irena Mekova. Connor undoubtedly gets embroiled in the situation partly due to factors beyond his control. Join him on a journey through a world of tech, dreams, and shifting alliances. Discover what he’s really capable of. Is Connor ultimately responsible? Is he guilty of murder? You decide!

Please request the full manuscript.

Thank you for the consideration,

 

I didn’t get positive replies. I thought the query didn’t really match the writing style of Remember. I tried a different query. This one below. I should’ve cut the biographical information. Nothing related to writing.

 

I am writing to you because, you helped [X] by [Y] get published. Please consider Remember, a science fiction novel that runs in the space of 107,077 words.

Conor passes through life streamlined against major shifts in the wind, until an engineered car accident sends his world off-kilter and onto a tangential trajectory. Conor Abby, scientist (neuroscience research), doctor, thinker, realist, friend, employee, lover, recovering from memory loss, everything feels new, but still familiar, living life, moving on, surviving with who he is, a person under pressure, someone’s thumb, forced into things beyond his control, espionage, murder, arson, thievery, subterfuge, almost anything, without losing the person he is, which is what exactly at this point? Who in the year 2417 takes interest in such a fellow? Whom? Well… everyone… from the government, terrorist groups, and possibly others but why? His ability to lie beyond methods of detection? Maybe his recollection of dreams, vivid and dense with detail, or maybe the actions he wills into being. There is just something about him that reconciles these roles, attributes even. Who is Conor Abby? Find out in Remember.

I have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative disorder. This gives me a vast amount of medical experience that I’m more than willing to talk about. My life story begins with emigration from India under the auspices of the H1-B visa at age five. Most people think of me as smart, remembering information well, motivated, happy, and without any college degrees. What just a few people know is I have been meditating for various amounts of time, starting around ten years ago.

Please request the full manuscript of Remember.

Thank you for the consideration,

 

That didn’t change the results.

 

I had a lot to think about. Either my query, my writing, or something I sent wasn’t working. I did an internet search for first book length. It turned out, getting something over 50,000 words published as a new writer is very hard. That agreed with everything I’d seen. I knew getting Remember down to 50,000 words would be really hard.

 

I decided to self-publish Remember as an e-book and physical form. A post about that is coming up shortly. I delved into another writing project to reach a few goals. Under 50,000 words, the law of averages when it came to characters, four perspectives, relatable characters, real locations, New York, and 6 months for the first draft. It basically takes me 6 months to simply type 50,000 words. That’ll come soon. During this whole query process, I was writing the sequel to Remember. That’s on hold. Wrote up an entire plan. And wrote about 1/16 of the first draft in 2 months. That’s going up soon.

 

GK

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The Most Basic Cover You Can Make

 

Remember is in need of a new cover. I made one that doesn’t look right. That was before researching anything and based on the covers of other Science Fiction books I’ve read. It was totally free and I made it myself. I used free graphic design software available easily on the web. I used Inkscape, something very similar to Adobe Illustrator.

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I went through the built-in tutorials that guide you through the tools available in the app. That was more than what I needed for a simple cover. I knew the results wouldn’t look professional, but it would be close enough. I would first need to find a stock photo. With Inkscape, I would add the title, author, and back description. I already wrote all of that. The best source for free stock images that can be left almost unchanged is Unsplash.com. They have lots of free images that can be used anywhere including print, physical output, or digital. I looked through hundreds searching for anything that could work. Going the free route without editing the pictures, it was really tough to find exactly what I was looking for. I also downloaded anything that I liked for future use.

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Remember is about a guy that loses his identity. He tries to regain the person he was. I think this picture shows that. A person looking up at the stars. Stars are up in the abyss of outer space and could be thought to symbolize neurons. Star gazing could be thought of as a form of discovery.

 

I used the text tool to add the other components. The letter spacing sometimes required adjustment to make everything even.

I discovered a big problem. My protagonist is male and the silhouette is clearly female. I needed to cut out some areas of black and replace it with some part of the background. It’s much easier to do that in Photoshop. I used Inkscape. I drew shapes where the black needed to be removed. I copied the image and everything I drew. I deselected everything. I moved the drawn shapes over a place that matched the area I wanted to replace. Then I selected the image followed by the drawn shape. I went to: Object > Clip > Set. That cut the shape outlines from the background image. I repositioned the cutouts where the black had to be removed.

That got me this. Second attempt but good I think. I didn’t look like a book cover from a publishing house still.

I also made this alternate cover with a picture I found. I counter shaded the text.

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Later Blog Readers.

 

GK

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The Things Separating Man and Beast

 

A fictional construct of the mind.

 


 

I hang, suspended by this ball of cast iron bars, high up in some leafy mammoth. A firm, swift tug on the rope holding the cage — through some form of pulley — sends me down from whatever method of comfort I have necessarily employed. I land with the grace of land-bound seal or walrus upon the welt-inducing corrugation of metal bars and air. The descent into the light penetrating fog — beautifully hiding the goings-on at the surface — perpetrates an animalistic, lizard-brain originating rage through me.

 

The moment of release lies near as through thickening fog a group emerges. The usual screams and yells of fear, anger, and hatred fill the air accompanied by a single wail of deep longing and hurt. From within the heart of the assembly, two people, my parents come forth, tear soaked and still streaming. I extend one arm by the cage, out to them, which they hang to with desperate and strong hands. At this, my ascent to prison and isolation begin as every other day, my endless cycles of suffering continual. Grabbing the bars (seen as fitting) is the recourse of choice. I shake my cage wildly, issuing a guttural sound from deep down. An abrupt drop of this cell knocks me out.

 

GK

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The Confluence of Light and Dark/Water and Sand/Life and Death

 

A dream, this time with two possible interpretations or even more. Smooth, rolls of the tongue, and a little new.

 

Enjoy.

 

I am at the beach — everything dark, except for the moon. Its light suffuses like a bright candle, in a completely dark landscape, highlighting water and earth. The bright, pure light emanating from its heart cascades, segmented over the dark water, as it sets. My feet hide buried in the sand just in the wet area. The warm waters break over the sand and my ankles. The moon starts transforming, becoming more elongated and oval. It turns into a complex shape, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The moon comes closer and gets brighter, while the light grows warmer and gentler. I grab its out stretched hand and pull myself up. The hold, leads me into the water. We get in deep enough that I can barely reach the bottom and shut my eyes. The moonlight culminates in brightness and almost fades away through covered eyes. I open my visuals to the almost set moon.

 

The beach beckons before the evanescent, ethereal light. I am held fast to the seafloor by the hard cold of steel against my ankles. All my strength writhes in a desperate attempt to swim away, with no fighting it. I stay here, as all other options betray me. The water starts moving in waves, gradually rising. I can’t move higher in the water — my bondage has seen to that. The water’s at my chin and elevating. I take one big breath and dive, to investigate my feet bound with an inescapable ring of iron. Lunging to the surface proves too far. My arms barely reach, let alone my head. I struggle to get my breath, to no avail. Involuntarily, I breathe out.

 

GK

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Inspiration for a Novel: Frustration with Science Fiction

Remember started as a novel written just for me, addressing my issues with most fiction published today. Every science fiction novel or tv show I’ve seen except with the notable exceptions, has elements that are easily disproved. For example, electricity can’t reanimate that dead but does kill the living. Reanimation requires a few things. The reverse of everything that happens after death. First stop decay by somehow sterilizing the body (probably take a few pages to describe everything rationally needed). Remember features details not easily dismissed without field specific education or research.

The shallowness of most fiction. I find it extremely difficult to reread or rewatch almost any content. My memory precludes anything except fictional worlds that appeal to my sense of aesthetic. The repeat experience usually lends no new insights except in rare cases such as The Life of Pi, The Matrix films, Mission Impossible (the first movie), and maybe Inception. Remember is a novel that shows something new with almost every read. My writing opens itself to multiple interpretations based on the reader’s perception and point of view, but still with a clear ending.

The experience of the protagonist doesn’t match well with the reader’s experience. If the protagonist is confused, shouldn’t the reader be just as confused The protagonist forgets the past, but the reader knows what happened. The numb feeling after killing someone. The listing of emotions without the effect apparent. Remember shows everything, usually before saying anything explicit about the situation.

Throughout the revision several changes took place, namely the transition from passive to active verbs. A good portion of the writing was removed to focus the novel further in the best direction. Trimming unnecessary sentences and redundancies helped along the way. A two month break highlighted issues with flow and rhythm. Everything led to the finished Remember, or so I thought. A beta reader found a lot of small errors. I’m writing another book before digging out those errors.

Remember needs work. That’ll probably happen over the next six months.

This is the back description as it stands now.

Conor Abby’s life as a research scientist disintegrates with the murder of Irena Mekova, the second closet person to him in this world of 2417. His life was complicated enough after a brain damaging vehicle accident. Working for a clandestine organization doesn’t help matters. A relapse of retrograde amnesia leaves the truth of what really happened locked away somewhere in his mind, if only he can Remember. Are their suspicions true? Did Conor murder Irena? Why can’t he remember?

Stay tuned.

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Inception of Remember, a First Novel

 

Remember basically reduces to an internal struggle against slow and complete corruption, until escaping the hands of these corrupters. This central conflict works best considering the other options. A protagonist versus antagonist battle doesn’t reflect much of daily experience away for the criminal justice system, military service, politics, and criminal element. The ability to justly exert force over the antagonist feeds too much into existing works. The rivalry between two people competing isn’t something I’ve read but enjoy on the silver screen.

 

The struggle of protagonist against the environment reminds me of long-haul fishermen, Ernest Shackleton, and movies (not many books yet). Not something I want more of from writing. The stories that really interest me end up protagonist versus self, psychological thrillers. Remember has always been a book focused first on something I want to read then adapted to the masses. My existence omits most kinds of physicality, let alone physical or environmental conflict. The psychological conflict is more familiar to the majority of possible readers from experiences with body image and lifestyle. The need to change something but not always the ability or motivation to do so. Examples include prevention of type II diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. That is what I settled on.

 

The title of Remember means two possible things in my mind. The protagonist, Conor goes through a verification procedure for his murder conviction, involuted by a memory erasure and recovery process. This works on the principle of removing a majority of the ego, stripping away the entirety of the super-ego, and leaving just the id or complete innocence. In this state, anything remembered comes through as honestly as possible. As remembered memories return, I posit they feel less immediate (something remembered from a movie or book, not something from firsthand experience). Toss this to the fact that memories incorporated after the fact lack the full emotional and adrenal force accompanying events happening right now. This effect dissipates over time. People going through this procedure recount events freely and openly.

 

Remember also means remember what love is if a parallel storyline enters consideration, the one between Conor and Claire. In popular culture, the idea of love just means a few complications. One partner says it and the other partner wrestles their emotions until the decision falls out. Relationships are constructed into fragile, mercurial, ghostlike objects for the most tension, impact, and uncertainty. Love isn’t sex. Love isn’t physical. Love isn’t desire. Love isn’t vengeance. Love isn’t selfish. Love is connection. Love is psychological. Love is need. Love is forgiveness. Love is wanting the best for someone else without regard for self. Remember that.

 

Remember experiments with the idea of duplicity, showing one side to everyone and hiding your true self away (everybody does it to some degree). Agent 7429 must be someone close Conor, but we aren’t sure who. The clues dribble out, while Claire (Agent 7429) lies at every turn, masking her true self. Dr. Mekova plays the role of pitiable victim until the clandestine meeting where she makes a compelling oratory about Conor’s situation and alludes to possible reason, from her point of view as a member of a “terrorist group”. These double identities present a criticism of the axiom “perception is reality”, which means how others view a person determines what that person is to them. This makes sense and works to some extent, but is it the best way? Those of us plagued by shyness at some point or cynical of the way things are view this as rewarding the sycophants and refusing the hard workers. In truth, external validation means nothing beyond material gains so valued by society. Personal equity comes from internal validation. Countless studies agree that monetary gains don’t equate to happiness. In Remember, this duplicity puts the duplicitous in a position whereby they need the forgiveness or trust of others, now hard to come by.

 

The idea that dreams have importance permeates the text of Remember.  The memory therapy works by recovering lost information through dreams. This is an extension of the way dreams incorporate memories and events from everyday life; we just can’t control them well enough, yet. In other places, dreams affect daily life by influencing decision making. Take the choice to accept the “offer” from the Division (his employers). A dream just a few days before mused the opportunities and risks of this choice. The possible control of dreams shows ambivalence towards who is really in control. Each dream throughout features meaning.

 

Each part, chapter, and segment focuses on a central theme. The chapter titled Romanticism places importance on what the author feels than anything else. It contains the conversation about the end of Claire’s relationship and the dream about blowing up the Institute with Irena. Things that I feel should happen without much reason, especially that dream. The part called Blank Slate repeatedly returns to that idea. Remember is a novel that allows in-depth analysis.

 

Still working away at Remember. Some time away and little soul searching told me I wasn’t finished. Back to the editing table for now.

 

GK

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Getting Something Good Down on Paper

 

How did I come up with the novel? What inspiration triggered everything? Like most stories, it started small then took a life of its own. The beginning sparkle forms at the heels of problems people face every day. In a futuristic sci-fi novel, the prose should solve a verity of these problems. Throwing in the issues confronting society as a whole doesn’t hurt.

 

Keep in mind, my views border on extreme optimism. No post-apocalypse here. How to solve traffic, losing a phone, and lackluster entertainment? The disconnect between living in the suburbs and working in a city – true for most of us – can easily be dismissed by both occupying the same building. Would losing a phone really matter if an infinitely powerful computer lived symbiotically within each of our bodies? Simulations could use these systems to deliver an entertainment system into the brain itself. The possibility grows with each passing decade or even century.

 

The voice/style of my writing brings these ideas forth unto the page. The dissatisfaction I have with reading stems from the authors need to convey their intention. Are my imaginings of a toaster from fifty years ago less than the writer’s? I think not. This idea prioritizes content over description. My first draft read more like a play than a novel. Through extensive critiquing, I turned this into a proper novel with minimal description.

 

The contrast to this enters the surreal dreams. My ideas that psychoanalysis will return like a conquering hero, entails the interpretation of dreams as messages from the unconscious or subconscious mind. These passages approach literary vignettes disguising messages. Better authors seamlessly combine these two styles, a perfect example in Robert Ludlum.

 

These ideas are currently being ironed out for a novel worthy of agent perusal. Stay tuned for more.

 

GK


 

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