Query Entry #13

Dear Ms. Resciniti,

Ana Ruiz gave herself a new name in an effort to create a new identity, to forget who she once was. She sculpted a safe version of her life. This safety involves throwing herself into her work as a high school principal and moving from place to place before her closely guarded secrets can hurt her more than they already have.

Revealing these secrets — her past of childhood sexual abuse and teen prostitution –proved dangerous with those she tried to trust. When she secures an “Actor in the Schools” grant for her school, she does not expect that of all people, visiting high profile television actor Rick Calloran might prove himself the safest and most trustworthy of all.

Rick’s unique blend of charm and sincerity successfully draws her in. But when Ana’s past resurfaces in full force, the line blurs so that Ana is no longer sure who she is protecting, Rick or herself. In spite of Rick’s efforts to win her trust, it will take more than that, more than him, for her to realize that who you are can never escape who you have been.

 Readers who enjoy the relationships crafted by Nicholas Sparks and the emotional themes in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees will resonate with Ana’s journey in Throwaway Lines, a work of commercial women’s fiction complete at 150,000 words.

 Thank you for your time and consideration,

 Janet Rundquist

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11 comments on “Query Entry #13

  1. I liked the comparisons you made between your book and others. The only thing that made me pause was the wordcount. It seems high to me for a first-time work. Other than that, I like the premise. Good luck!

  2. Yes, I agree with Kimberly’s comment. A 100% safe range for literary, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller & horror is between 80,000-90,000 words. While it is permissable to go over 100,000 words if your book really warrants the length, don’t cross the six-figure mark by much. Agent Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency points out that more than 110,000 is defined as “epic or saga”–and chances are that your commercial women’s fiction is not. Gardner also mentions that passing 100,000 in words count means you’ve written a book that’ll be more costly to produce, making it more difficult to sell.

  3. This paragraph is pretty thought provoking:

    “Rick’s unique blend of charm and sincerity successfully draws her in. But when Ana’s past resurfaces in full force, the line blurs so that Ana is no longer sure who she is protecting, Rick or herself. In spite of Rick’s efforts to win her trust, it will take more than that, more than him, for her to realize that who you are can never escape who you have been.”

    The content’s a little heavy for me but definitely sounds like a good read!

  4. Ah yes… the word count has been my continual nemesis. And you are both right, Kimberly and Jamie, about it being a clear obstacle for me. I’ve read about that everywhere. 😀 And for each beta reader (and I’ve had many – very wide variety, too) I have asked for specific feedback on what can be lost. And even though length for them has not been an issue, I do know that I may have a hard time selling it at this length.

    But I really feel like I have to try.

  5. There are some redundancies in the letter that could be cleaned up, and some sentences that could be combined to make it read just a bit easier. However, I was taken at the word count. Is there any way to break it up into two books and sell it as a pair if nothing can be trimmed? From everything I’ve heard from many different sources, 150K is a deal breaker. Can you get it to 100 or 110?

    (One note – is it possible to have the credentials necessary to be a HS principal and change identities? The background checking is pretty thorough around here, and so is the education requirement. I’m sure it can be done, but I was just wonderin’. :-))

    Nicely done – I would probably read this!

    • Ana’s changed identity is clean… in that it was a simple name change and her record is technically clean, clearing FBI background checks. Quite a valid question. 😉

  6. Sweet title. This story sounds like it would have amazing characterizations. I think this would be the type of story where I’d laugh and cry. Two things raised flags, however. The word count. At 150k, this would be a very expensive book to print, making it more difficult to sell. Also, at 150k words, the pacing may lag. Can this be trimmed a bit? The second issue was the principal moving around from place to place. You might want to take this out of the query (I’m sure it is believable in the story), to avoid confusion.

  7. I’d read this in a heartbeat! Just my kind of book.

    But although I love a nice long story, 150K is a tad too long. It would be hard as an unpubbed author to get a publisher to invest that kind of money into someone untried as of yet. So do pare it down to 100K or less.

    I’m wondering if you’re using your word processor’s word count feature. If so, DON’T, because that count is often way higher than the formula publishers use. Just multiply 250 words (per page) by the total number of pages you have in your manuscript. (250 words x 360 pages = 90,000 words total.) I’ll bet that number is WAY lower.

    Along the same lines, you have a lot of unnecessary words in the sentences in your query. I imagine this is the case in your book, as well.

    • Whoa to that word count thing – I had never even thought of that because I *have* been using the Word word count feature – which, of course, is quite precise.

      But using that formula I am down from 150k to 128k.

      Could it really be that easy?

      If so, you just made my day, Nancy.

      • Replying to myself and others who are curious … it is not that easy. All that I see indicates this standard is outdated (which makes sense)… basically, the word count is most important when considering how much whitespace everything is taking. And depending on font, the old formula can vary wildly – both positively and negatively in my case.

        In spite of my brief euphoria (haha!), the word processing word count tool does indeed seem to still be the best route. It is as accurate as anything else, I’d say.

  8. 150K is actually a drop in the bucket for me, as all my non-YA historicals are well, well above that, but from the query, it didn’t seem to suggest a sweeping, saga-length scope and a very wide plot trajectory. I was given the advice by Diane Holmes of Pitch University to emphasize high stakes when querying a deliberately supersized book, instead of putting more focus on things that seem minor in comparison and thus making it seem like it’s long for no reason. She also gave me the advice to leave word count out when querying a deliberate saga, so any potential rejections are based on an agent’s opinion of the writing and not an arbitrary amount of words.

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