I apologize in advance to anyone tired of me (or this novel of mine)by now. Crafting a query letter is a skill that continues to challenge me. My goal here, since the first agent I'm considering desires a synopsis and the first pages of the novel as well, is not to be repetitive--not to stuff the query with details in the synopsis or the opening hook, but provide the gist of the story, with a pinch of Yiddishkeit flavor.
I do appreciate any who'd care to share their thoughts regarding this revised email query letter:
A close friend of Rabbi Cane has lost his head. Literally.
Jacob Cane, unordained rabbi, paranormal detective, and mage investigates a series of occult murders, the victims harvested for seemingly random body parts. Some schmuck has called up a demon. Cane then discovers the demon has its own agenda: to fully Manifest on Earth and raise Hell. To stop it, Cane will need to save the life of Thomas Assini, Boston’s crimelord. But Assini is trying to kill him. Some days it doesn't pay be a tzaddik.
The Kabbalist: The Foundation of the Kingdom (108,000 words) is an urban fantasy novel set in the narrow streets, alley bars, mansions, and subway tunnels of Boston, and incorporates the mystical traditions and folklore of Judaism and other world faiths. Its intended audience is the general market, particularly readers who enjoy urban fantasy in the tradition of Jim Butcher's wizard and private investigator Harry Dresden, and those who have enjoyed Harry Kellerman's happenstance detective and mensch Rabbi Small.
Jewish mysticism has long been an interest of mine, and I feel it provides an original and intriguing pseudo-fantasy element that may appeal to many. You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy bagels and cream cheese, nor a good kosher brisket. However, those of a religious inclination will find the Jewish elements in the tale, including mystical ones--such as a visit to the supernal worlds of the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) and their angelic denizens, and their antipodal demons of the sitra ahra (other side), of interest. All are based on true Kabbalistic teachings, suppositions, and texts. Those who like crime and murder mysteries will find this present as well. Those who enjoy unrequited romance and, where appropriate, a little shtupping (sex), and character relationships should not be disappointed. Then there is the fantasy adventure and action, spell-magic, gunfire and swords, subterranean caverns, and gay bar. I think there is a kitchen sink in there, somewhere, as well.
Per your submission guidelines, here are the novel synopsis followed by the first five pages of the manuscript. I thank you for your consideration.
[This message has been edited by History (edited April 26, 2011).]
I think you entirely can chop the long paragraph, "Jewish mysticism has long been an interest of mine" etc. It's not really about the book but rather about what generated the book, and it dilutes the main message with "why you should love me" marketing.
However, the rest of the query is great.
And I'm sorry I never got around to offering to beta the book, cuz I've always liked the sound of it.
I have to disagree about the "Jewish mysticism has long been..." paragraph. I think it establishes your "qualifications" to write a novel such as this. From what I have read, and IMO, it is important to establish why you can put together a novel about a subject. Especially something as complicated and intricate as Jewish mysticism.
Also, I like the voice of the query letter. I don't know you from anything more then what you post here, but it sounds like you to me.
I think it has everything you need, with out undo repetition.
Thank you for the feedback. I'll guess it is time to stop kvelling and putchkying with the manuscript. Time to see if it has any wings. (Or as cartoonist Johnny Hart of B.C. wrote, "Feed it to the dinosaur and see if it 'groks.'" ) Then move on to other things. Wish me luck.
Respectfully, Dr. Bob
[This message has been edited by History (edited April 27, 2011).]
I, too, as ever, love your voice. And I do still intend to read the rest of your story one day soon . . .
The only thing I'd tweak is your parallel structure here and there, to maximize clarity and minimize draggy-ness. :P
quote:Jacob Cane: (colon or em-dash, to separate it from the rest of the commas upcoming)unordained rabbi, paranormal detective, and [adjective] (to keep parallel structure) mage (and an em-dash here if you use one up there) investigates a series of occult murders; (again, too many commas. Gotta switch it up when leaving the parallel bit.) the victims of which have been/are being harvested for seemingly random body parts.
And, since that looks completely confusing even to myself, the results would look like this:
quote:Jacob Cane--unordained rabbi, paranormal detective, and [inveterate] mage--investigates a series of occult murders, the victims of which are being harvested for seemingly random body parts.
Eh, I changed my mind about that last semi-colon.
And then for the rest of it I'd consider cutting one element from each subsequent parallel structure. You've got quite a few of 'em, which is what makes it seem long, IMO.
quote:narrow streets, alley bars, mansions, and subway tunnels of Boston,
--IMO, "alley bars," "narrow streets," and "subway tunnels" all have the same feel, where "mansions" is obviously on the other end of the spectrum--so if you're trying to show the whole spread, nix the bars or the subway, I should think. Maybe throw in a park instead. And keep it to just 3 items.
quote:You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy bagels and cream cheese, nor a good kosher brisket. However, those of a religious inclination will find the Jewish elements in the tale, including mystical ones--such as a visit to the supernal worlds of the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) and their angelic denizens, and their antipodal demons of the sitra ahra (other side), of interest.
This is a bit wordy for the point you're trying to make. I don't know where the line should be drawn between concise and elaborative in these query dealies, but IMO you could cut the whole "such as . . ." bit, or at least don't get quite so professorial with it.
quote: Then there is the fantasy adventure and action, spell-magic, gunfire and swords, subterranean caverns, and gay bar.
And another parallel structure that could be more cohesive. Shimiqua pointed out the problem with "and gay bar" already, which I would like to second. Then I would like to group the list items into mini-lists of like items, like (perhaps) so:
quote: Then there is the fantasy, adventure, and action; spell-magic, gunfire, and swords; subterranean caverns, and even a gay bar.
And then of course, with it all demarcated like that, it becomes apparent that you've got two groups of three and one of two . . . the "and even" helps that flow, though.
Or you could mess around with that last sentence so it's *not* trying to be quite such a long parallel . . .
quote: Then of course there is everything from swords and sorcery to gun fights, ranging from subterranean caverns to the local gay bar.
Love the kitchen sink gibe, of course.
And those are my ridiculously particular nits. Hope you like 'em.
[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited May 03, 2011).]
How can I follow up all this great advice? I'll just say, I think it pretty darn near groks, and I won't be surprised to see it on shelves pretty soon.
My two cents regarding the long paragraph: I think you start out well; though it doesn't follow the traditional query format, it keeps the same great voice of the preceding paragraph, and that is really what they are looking for, isn't it? What I would suggest is some credentials--for example, why are you so qualified to write about all this Jewish stuff? How can we Gentiles be sure those Hebrew words mean what you say they mean? In other words, how can we trust you? Tell us why. Where did you learn it all? Since you emphasize the Jewish-ness of your book so much, I think it would behoove you to show you are qualified to do so.
I suspect that most New York editors (at least) have no problem with the kinds of words History is using in his query. There is a huge Jewish/Yiddish/Hebrew culture in New York City and most editors there are very acquainted with it, if not part of it.
At least, that's my experience, with the New York editors, and writers, for that matter, that I have met and talked to.
J.N. and Kathleen, Thank you both for your posts.
JN, What is "unique" (per the pitch) about THE KABBALIST, compared to other urban fantasy novels, is its incorporation of Jewish mysticism (cosmology, angel-demonology, eschatology, philosophy)derived from "real" Kabbalistic sources. I find nearly every modern novel, TV show, or movie that includes angels and demons are mere fictions of their authors' devising, merely borrowing an angelic or demon name. THE KABBALIST is more source guided, even if it is merely collated and centuries-preserved conjecture and folklore.
My qualifications are merely that I have researched, collected, and studied the diverse kabbalistic texts for thirty years; admittedly as an armchair scholar. Having been raised as a Jew and then chancing upon this unknown esoteric knowledge as an undergraduate was eye-opening, and it has fascinated me ever since.
In the query, where brevity is required, I decided to keep it simple and show (not tell) per my choice of: "Jewish mysticism has long been an interest of mine, and I feel it provides an original and intriguing pseudo-fantasy element that may appeal to many....those of a religious inclination will find the Jewish elements in the tale, including mystical ones--such as a visit to the supernal worlds of the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) and their angelic denizens, and their antipodal demons of the sitra ahra (other side), of interest. All are based on true Kabbalistic teachings, suppositions, and texts."
As much as I note the uniqueness and source-based "realism" of the Jewish "fantasy" elements of the novel, it is not a "Jewish" book. It is an urban fantasy story--fun escapest fair, with (hopefuly) interesting characters and an intriguing plot that leads to a satisfying resolution. The "Jewish" elements are secondary, even tertiary--merely spice. But based on the research--i.e.no artificial spice.
As for the Hebrew and Yiddish (and other) words and terms, nearly all should be understandable within the context of the story. Where appropriate, translation is provided--and there is a Glossary as well.
Kathleen, I hope what you state is true also for agents. My first agent query was unsuccessful, the agent was "not enthusiastic about the concept", and her client base includes well-known urban fantasy writers. I'll relook at the submission materials now that I have so many fine critiques before I try again. Hmm. Do you know if it is kosher to query a different agent in the same literary agency? Or is it if one agent rejects in an agency, they all do?
[This message has been edited by History (edited May 11, 2011).]
I think you could probably query a different agent in the same agency. They each have their own clients whom they represent, so even though they're in the same agency, that shouldn't be a problem.
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