Writing: The Honest Query Letter

Dear Agent/Publisher,

Attached is the first part of my book, The Winter Warrior, which is 160,000 words of a larger, multi-book narrative that I really want to complete, but won’t be able to unless you say yes, the publisher says yes, and the books sells. No pressure, but you hold all my dreams in your hands. You represent/publish some amazing authors, and get thousands of queries a month, so you’ll be able to see right through it immediately, and I apologise for wasting your time.

As Iain of Cryteth, probably a blatant self-insert, returns to his vaguely-European homeland after years of exile, all he wants is to win back his ancestral home and make his enemies pay for their moustache-twirling treachery. The gods, as usual, have other plans. A corny prophecy, an annoying alliance with an unpopular prince, and over-simplified political maneuvering force him onto a different path. Torn away by narrative contrivance from all that he holds dear, Iain and his few trusted companions (a fellowship, you might say) march into an ominous land, unaware that their actions are part of a bigger plot that I haven’t quite figured out yet.

No doubt there’s a Dark Lord rising somewhere…

It’s a classic fantasy with some modern twists, which just means it has all the old tropes and some of the new ones. Perhaps if I’m lucky it’ll be seen as inverting the inverted rather than just not bothering in the first place. My setting is traditional, my characters are privileged, and the plot is no doubt derivative. I’ve rewritten it so many times I can’t keep track, to be honest.

I’d love to be able to tell you some popular authors, books, series or even genres that this is like in order to convince you it will sell, but I wrote this because nobody – maybe for good reason – seemed to be writing the story I wanted to tell. My favourite authors are long-dead or quite obscure, and there are plenty of better stories than mine out there that are criminally under-appreciated. I’ve got no chance.

As for me, I once self-published a military science fiction book once, and sold a handful of copies. I haven’t taken any writing classes, I don’t have any influential friends, I’m not particularly charismatic, and, as you can see, I’m terrible at self-promotion, too. I’m only doing this because I’ve written three books, I’ve got more to come, and I feel I owe it to them, and the characters in them, to put them out there for somebody, at least, to see.

Thanks for your time,

James

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