#7 – Quest For Justice

Dear Dr. Query,

I am currently seeking representation for my completed 110,000 word historical fiction, QUEST FOR JUSTICE.

That’s long for today’s market.  Losing some words would up your chances of representation.

Peter Royer, a young attorney, stumbles onto a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln en-route to his inauguration in 1861. When Peter’s friend is arrested for being the ringleader of the plot, and is then murdered, the circumstances persuade him that his friend was framed.

En route has no hyphen.  No one’s going to dismiss your query for this, but you may as well get it right.  Check every word for correctness.  It shows that you can manage to get through a few paragraphs with perfect spelling and punctuation, and that bodes well for the 100,000 words to follow.

Encouraged by both his fiancé and a Kant-quoting German émigré, Peter embarks on a quest for justice that takes him from the docklands to the mansions of a pro-secessionist Baltimore during the final days of antebellum America.

I see you’re avoiding names here, perhaps for simplicity.  It works okay with Peter’s friend and his fiance, but “Kant-quoting German emigre,” while evocative, is quite a mouthful.  How about naming the fiance and emigre?  Something like: “Encouraged by both his fiance Buttercup and Johan, a German emigre he met at the pub, Peter embarks on a quest for justice that…”

But Peter is ill-prepared to face the would be assassin: Henry Gambler, a mysterious man who once escaped a near-hanging and has resurrected with one thing on his mind: revenge. As Peter and Henry duel each other in a race against time, he becomes infatuated with the glamorous daughter of the city’s most prominent judge, a man also seemingly implicit in the assassination plot.

I think the name Gambler is a little too coy.  Unless of course he’s a historical character, and that’s his real name, which would be pretty interesting.

If you escape it, it’s of course a near-hanging.  If it were a hanging, he’d be dead.  Lose the near.  You like hyphens, don’t you?

“Has resurrected?”  I don’t know what this means.  I think you mean has been resurrected (can one resurrect oneself?) but that sounds too much like Jesus, so you should just come up with a less dramatic word. Resurfaced?

“Duel each other in a race against time” — do you mean a literal duel?  Confusing.  How can he become infatuated in the middle of a duel?  Too many adjectives.  Strip this down.  You’re telling us more than we need to be intrigued.

It’s implicit in your sentence that you mean complicit here.  Look these two words up in the dictionary and learn the difference.  This is your assignment!

Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing America as the country speeds towards war, Peter learns the real meanings of justice, a just society and what it takes to be a just person. This crystalizes when Peter discovers that he alone has the means to save a great man, but that doing so would come at a terrible personal cost. Finally defeating Henry Gambler during a dramatic train ride and saving the president of the United States leaves Peter Royer a nearly shattered man, but with his last ounce of resolve he tries to salvage his engagement and prepare himself for the unknown future.

You can delete this whole paragraph.

While the death of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 is one of the great tragedies of American history, almost forgotten are the rumors of a plot to assassinate Lincoln in 1861. Historians have long been divided on whether this Baltimore plot really did exist, and drawing on real-life characters, the existence of an early machine gun, and surprising coincidences and relationships between real-life figures, I have written a historical fiction that presents a possible scenario for this earlier plot. This is my first novel.

“A historical fiction?”  Try a book, a story, or a novel.  Don’t tell us it’s your first.  If it weren’t, you’d be mentioning the others.  (And that doesn’t count the ones in the drawer.)

Included in this email are the first five pages of the novel. I’d be glad to send you my complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Fascinating historical incident.

Your query is way too long.  You use four paragraphs to tell me the plot; make it one or two.  I like the paragraph about the actual historical background.

Do you have any training in history?  If so, you can tell us that.

Can you distinguish it from similar books already out?  I trust you are aware of last year’s well received “The Baltimore Plot” by Michael Kline?

You don’t need to offer to send the ms.  We know that.

Title is a little bland.

Good luck!

That is all.

Doctor Query


#3 – Confused picaresque novel

Dear Doctor Query:

Titled From Agoraphobia to Zanzibar, my novel (250,000 words) deals with the conflict between agoraphobia and wanderlust.  The main character is Brent, a young man who lives in a small, insular suburb of Boston, but wants to travel.   But he’s afraid to.  His parents are Italian-Americans, second generation.  It is written with great tension, psychological insight, and passion.  It is also very funny.

I have had it critiqued by many friends.  To a person, they have said that it will be a best-seller.

I was a agoraphobic myself for 7 years.  I know a lot about this.  Now I travel, and I am looking to this novel for enough monetary success to make my traveling lifestyle possible.

Please contact me by email at: [redacted].

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Here’s what Doctor Query has to say:

Your novel is way too long.  Cut it in half, at least.

You haven’t told me what it’s about.  Telling me that it’s written with tension and passion doesn’t convince me that that’s true.  And your style of writing here seems to indicate that humor is not your strong point.

You need to tell me, in simple sentences, what happens in the book.  What are the actions, and where is the conflict?

Do not tell me your friends loved it.  Do not tell me it will be a best seller.

Do not ask me to email you.

I liked the title.

Doctor Query