Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Query Letter that started me on my way to getting a truly wonderful literary agent.


I was looking at my stats last night (warning: stats reviewing can be hazardous to your health) and I realized that my most popular posts were the ones talking about how to snag a literary agent. As much as I loved My Father's Day tribute to my late father, it only netted 1/3 of the views that my top-viewed post about my thoughts on snagging an agent. So, in total capitulation to the masses, I am going back to my roots. (Sorry dad!)

Liz Kracht

Below I am posting the query letter that ultimately led to the offer of representation I received (and accepted) from Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. I have stripped it down a little, removing the part about why I chose to query Liz in particular--but you should always have such a part about every agent you choose to query. Usually this is something like... I query you because you represent Absolution, a thriller in a similar vein to {insert title of your book.} Ok, without further blatant word count inflation, here it is:



Father Marco Venetti is not a defrocked FBI agent with a score to settle, or an ex-Navy Seal battling an alcohol problem. He is a Jesuit priest from Monterosso al Mare, shepherding over a quiet parish overlooking the Ligurian Sea. His biggest concerns—until the evening Concetta shows up in his confessional—are the recent poor play of his beloved Red and Blacks and the way he ‘stared at her creamy olive skin, done to perfection by the Mediterranean sun.’ Concetta is a fisherman with empty nets and a conscience brimming over with guilt, who reveals she is involved in a plot to assassinate the pope and attack Vatican City. Marco urges her to go to the police, but her daughter is being held captive and she is unwilling; the seal of the confessional binds Marco and he is unable. Seeing no other way to stop the attack on Pope John Paul III, the first black pope in over two millennia, Marco steals aboard her fishing trawler toting his only weapon, a well-used spear gun. He kills the terrorists and rescues Concetta's daughter, but the violence—and Marco’s sins—is only beginning.
Marco is neither the maniacal albino priest in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, nor the Machiavellian Cardinal Valendrea in Steve Berry’s The Third Secret; he is a Jesuit priest, who would rather be ‘hearing confessions, celebrating mass and anointing the sick. These were the things a priest did.’ But Marco does share some of the traits of another clerical protagonist, the ‘whiskey priest’ in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory; he shares his moral consciousness—but not his gnawing despair—and he shares his courage. Like Greene’s iconic character, Marco yearns to escape his fate, but he doesn’t. His path leads elsewhere: to the blood-stained cobblestones of Piazza San Pedro—where he and Concetta gun down the pope’s would-be assassin—and to the craggy mountaintops of Salzburg, Austria, where an oil-soaked Saudi prince plots the annihilation of Vatican City.

The Jesuit is afflicted by multiple levels of conflict, from the ancient rivalry of Christians v. Muslims, to the internal strife—far bloodier—created by peacemaker turned assassin. Paired up with a beautiful Israeli agent to assist in the murder of the Saudi prince, Marco comes face to face with his worst enemy: himself, and the ‘longings that all men had, priests included.’

There are three principle settings in The Jesuit: the Italian Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Vatican; and Salzburg, Austria. The Jesuit relies on notes I made during the four years I lived in Salzburg and three subsequent trips to Austria and Italy. I traveled to Spain and Italy this summer to research the second book of the series, Doubt, which is already in production. I am a practicing physician living in Vermont with my wife and four children.


I hope this is of help to those of you who are writing a query letter. And remember my rule of querying: be professional, at all times. No gimmicks, jokes, predictions (such as { } is sure to be a bestseller), bad grammar or spelling errors of any kind. An agent is trying to find someone with whom she can work over a career. Be professional!

I hope you take a second to look over my new author website. Speaking of professionals, it was designed by the incomparable maddee james of xuni.com, who is, like my agent, top notch. If you are in search of an author website, visit xuni.com

Cheers.
:)

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.