Query and Synopsis
So I thought it would be helpful to post the query letter I am finally satisfied with as well as the synopsis. As I wrote them, I found either too many examples (the query letter) or too few examples (the synopsis). Now, please note that I would not be anywhere near this stage without the tremendous amount of help I have recived from two of my friends, Tara Sim and Olivia Berrier. They read, critiqued, and tore apart so many failed attempts at getting it right. They have steered me out of confusion and into understanding more times than I can count. If I got noting else from my time at Hollins, having them would be worth the gross amount of student loans I have.
Dear [Agent’s name],
I am seeking representation for Traitor, the first book of my debut fantasy trilogy. [Here is where I put together a nice sentence or two as to why I chose them. This tells them you have thought this through, you have done your research, and that they aren’t just part of a mass e-mail submission. I’ve read quite a few agent interviews where they say this is part of the key. Why should they give you their time when you did not give them yours? Example I am using to submit to Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maass Literary Agency: I have long since followed your Query Wars and when I learned you represent Anne Bishop, one of the most influential writers of my education, I knew you were the kind of agent I would want to work with.]
A loyal man surrounded by idle lords, Lord Breck MacCuinn’s patience is wearing thin. The lords of Tírasan have turned away from their people in pursuit of lavish lifestyles and now even King Declan is acting strangely. Then word comes from the royal oracle: A child has been foreseen sitting on Tírasan’s throne. [Hook them in fast]
While the King’s Counsel is in a panic over rumors of a resistance, King Declan plummets further into the depths of his own paranoia and becomes convinced Lord Breck is heading the resistance against him. In an effort to teach Breck a lesson, King Declan has Breck’s family killed and plans to charge him as a traitor, but Breck is smuggled from the palace moments before his arrest. Stripped of all he loves, Breck falls into feverish delirium and is consumed by guilt. He struggles to come to terms with reality while he is kept alive by strangers and friends who need him more than ever. With Tírasan neglected by those who should protect it, they believe their hope lies in a good man who has nothing to lose. [Make them care.]
With the security of the throne in the balance, King Declan goes to dark lengths to track down a man he is certain betrayed him. Little does he know his attention should be elsewhere, for a child walks the roads of Tírasan, hidden among people who do not know he can challenge all Declan has. And Breck knows his name. [Make sure they know what is at stake.]
At 96,000 words [ALWAYS include word count. NOT page count.], Traitor has multiple points of view with a wide range of narrative voices encountering topics such as discrimination, homosexuality, and gender inequality.
I have also included the optional synopsis for the first book. [The synopsis was optional for JABerwocky. If it’s optional, send it. If they ask for other things, insert those things here. “I have included the one-page synopsis and the first 5 pages for sampling” if that is what they ask for. I’ve got one agency who wants a full author bio. I have another one who wants a Curriculum Vitae.]
Thank you for your time and consideration, [Be courteous and thank them. It might be their job to read submissions, but that does not mean you can assume they HAVE to.]
Jamie Lynn Saunders [Sadly, until I get an agent and get to discuss pen names, I don’t get to sign with J.G. Lynn.]
The most frustrating thing about writing a blurb for the query letter is that there are SO many ways to do it. You can focus on one character, but not another, you can completely leave character arcs out, as I had to do here with multiple characters. Sadly, there is no formula I have found that will write the perfect query. I got a lot of help just looking at successful queries. This search on WritersDigest.com was insanely helpful. He picks one successful query every month or so and points out why it is good. This, paired with the powerful forces of Tara and Olivia helped me shape my query letter into something useable.
Now, in the heartbreaking world of the one page synopsis, there are a lot of cuts to the story that need to be made. In making my synopsis, I had to cut Darren and the gypsies down to an honorable mention and there is no mention whatsoever of Devon, the Tanrí, or of Cora and Meara. It was tough to admit they are not completely necessary (YET!), but it got my synopsis down from four pages to the one page most agents ask for.
LORD BRECK MACCUINN [The first mention of a characters name is capitalized. Any mention after is typed normally] is a good man in a failing country. One of thirteen advisors to KING DECLAN, he believes he can convince his king and peers that change is needed to combat the increasing hardships their country faces. Though the other lords have turned away from their people to fulfill their own lavish lifestyles, Lord Breck has remained committed to his duty and his king. [If they are reading the synopsis, it is most likely because they read your letter, so I took a few lines to really set up the situation here. Let’s hope it wasn’t lines wasted.]
Then news comes that the royal oracle has foreseen an unknown child sitting on Tírasan’s throne. It is one of countless possible futures, but many are convinced that a resistance intent on overthrowing King Declan’s reign is already forming. When Lord Breck loses his patience with the other advisors and speaks out against the current injustices, the paranoid King Declan, with nerves already frayed from nightly terrors of a brown-haired boy on his throne, becomes convinced he is involved with the resistance. Before Lord Breck can be arrested for treason, he is smuggled from the palace. Returning home to find his wife and children slaughtered by King Declan’s men, he falls into feverish shock. Soldiers return for Lord Breck, but his people beg a stranger to safeguard him. The stranger takes Lord Breck and flees into the forest where he struggles to keep them both alive until help can come. [Like I said, I had to cut A LOT out. It’s painful, but we do it.]
Across Tírasan, an assassin named RAINELLE hunts a man in the name of King Declan. For three weeks she has tracked KRYTHIAN and despite being warned that he is a dangerous man—the kind not even she should trifle with—she has found nothing but praise and gratitude in his wake. She does not know why King Declan has marked him for death, but she knows she will regret having to kill him. Rainelle finally corners Krythian in an alleyway, but her efforts are interrupted by the appearance of a young brown-haired boy. The encounter surprises her and she is unable to stop Krythian from grabbing the boy and disappearing from the alleyway. [I didn’t name Torin (the brown-haired boy) in this because they recommend you name only three characters, four max. I went through a series of calling Rainelle “the assassin” or Declan “The King” before I decided Torin was the best candidate for going by a description.]
When she confronts them again, he begs her not to harm the boy, to which she agrees before reluctantly slitting his throat. She wakes later with a head wound to find she has been taken captive, though it quickly comes to light that Krythian has survived without even a scratch. In demanding to know how such a thing is possible, she is offered little explanation. Krythian wants to kill her, but the boy, who treats her as a guest, will not allow him to do so.
Watching the pair closely only raises questions. Rainelle wonders why Krythian rescued the boy from the slums, why such an arrogant man is willing to obey the demands of a child, and why Krythian is so concerned with the boy’s education even as they walk a dangerous road. Krythian and Rainelle continue to quarrel until she admits being hesitant in killing him, but fears her brother will be called up to replace her in King Declan’s service should she fail. The boy forms a plan in which Krythian will relocate her family to a country on the southern border in exchange for her allegiance. She agrees, knowing her desertion will make her a traitor to the crown. [This was a hard paragraph to figure out because when I originally wrote it, it had legit questions in it, but I soon learned that is a BIG no-no. Do not do: “Why was such an arrogant man willing to obey the demands of a child?” Apparently it’s a huge turn off for a lot of agents and I decided it was too much to risk.]
Meanwhile, Lord Breck and the stranger are rescued by a band of gypsies loyal to the MacCuinn family. When Lord Breck wakes, he confides in the stranger that he knows the boy the royal oracle has foreseen, but had hoped King Declan would attempt to fix Tirasan’s problems without the intervention of the ‘Childking’ he knows Krythian is protecting. The stranger, having spent days with the gypsies, tells Lord Breck there is no resistance. Angry and betrayed, Lord Breck and the stranger decide to begin the resistance King Declan fears, thus setting into motion the events of the following novels.
Now, my major issue with writing this synopsis is that it is not an episodic trilogy. Book two picks up immediately after book one ends, so there isn’t a sense of “Oh, everything gets wrapped up all nicely.” It will by the end of the third book, but certainly not by the first. I tried looking up sample queries of other books like this, but I only found a bunch of people asking the same question. If you know the proper way to go about this, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT! I would be very interested in knowing for sure.