Urgent submission advice needed! UPDATE

Ok… I’ve tried to put all your advice to good use. This is the first draft of the bio bit I’ll tack on at the end. Any thoughts?

[ bio]

I was born in Hungary but have lived in Australia since I was five. In my twenties I taught French and Japanese. Later, I used my teaching skills to write technical manuals for computer software. For the last ten years I have been learning the craft of writing fiction. ‘Vokhtah’  is the first science fiction novel I have written that combines my passion for biology, politics, language, science fiction and martial arts.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit ‘Vokhtah’ to Harper Voyager.

Andrea Flory

p.s. should I mention the title somewhere at the beginning as well? Sorry if that sounds stupid.

Hi guys, I need your help!

As some of you will know I have decided to be brave and submit my novel to the Harper Voyager Open Submission. Yesterday I finished the final edits suggested by my lovely editor Laurie Boris. The MS is now ready to go but life is never that simple or easy.

When I got up this morning I checked the submission guidelines and discovered that I need to submit both a ‘query’ letter and an excerpt along with the MS. Never having submitted anything anywhere before, I had to look up what the hell a query letter was. Correction: I tried to find out what a good query letter would be like. The word ‘hook’ came up many times. I think I’ve got it right… maybe, but I really need some feedback from people who’ve done this before. I also need some feedback on the short excerpt I’ve chosen. The guidelines stipulate it has to be from the first 1000 words of the MS. Ugh. There are far better bits later on but I can’t use them.

Anyway, here are my efforts. Please tell me what you think.

Query letter

Dear Editor,

The novel I am submitting to Harper Voyager is an 88,000 word science fiction story for adult readers. It contains graphic scenes of violent mating between its alien protagonists. The story takes place on a harsh planet in a binary solar system.

Vokhtah is an unforgiving world ravaged by two suns. The creatures who rule there are psychopathic hermaphrodites called Vokh. They live solitary lives, attended only by their smaller cousins, the iVokh.

The Blue is a powerful iVokh healer who must fight the prejudice of its fellow healers and the savagery of the wild to save the Guild of Healers from the Six of Needlepoint. The Six, a powerful, cunning Vokh, is on a collision course with the Guild because the healers believe it is an abomination, and they have sworn to kill all abominations.

Together with its unlikely companion, a young Trader Apprentice, the Blue must find a way to survive the wild and manipulate the other Vokh into keeping the Guild safe. On a world like Vokhtah, neither task will be easy. And time is running out.

[Enough? Too much? All wrong? Have I forgotten anything?]


The Blue’s face remained expressionless as it folded its fingers around the broken shard and began to squeeze. A droplet of blood oozed through its clenched fingers. That droplet was followed by another and another until a trickle of pale yellow flowed from its hand.

The sand at the Blue’s feet was stained a dark gold before the rigidity of its face finally melted into a grimace of pain. Opening its fingers one by one it let the bloody shard drop, its expression now thoughtful – apparently some things became more dangerous broken than they ever were whole. There was a lesson to be learned from that; the Yellow faction had broken its power in the Council, but in doing so they had unleashed something new that might yet be their undoing.

* * *

Thank you all. Your help is really, really appreciated.


About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

36 responses to “Urgent submission advice needed! UPDATE

  • pinkagendist

    I agree with lowerarchy, I’d also remove any language that’s a ‘judgement’. Let me, the reader, decide if they’re mating is violent or if they’re psychopathic. The beauty of science fiction is the departure from norms.
    Your writing opens the doors into another world, so that other world can’t be held to the standards of this world 😉 In my humble opinion.


    • acflory

      -grin- You’ve stated my reasons for writing the story in the first place Pinky! And I will have to think carefully about what to put as the blurb on the back of the book – enough to interest but not so much that everything is laid out on a plate.

      This query letter is only for the poor bastards having to wade through a million such query letters. For /them/ I want my hook to be as big and pointy as possible. 😀


  • lowerarchy

    Hi, sorry it’s taken so long, I’ve not been well the last couple of days.
    My advice is to tell the publisher about what kind of story you are offering – I know it’s science fiction, but is it also a thriller, a love story, an adventure, is it funny, poignant, sad, uplifting etc? How will it engage the reader?
    There are only a limited number of plot types so tell them about that. Is it like any other published stories? If so, tell them it’s like xxx mixed with xxxx etc.
    To me, the names Vokh and iVokh are too similar and need more differentiation.
    Finally, what is a young Trader Apprentice? This isn’t clear, so we don’t know why this partnership is unlikely.
    Hope this helps
    Regards, Dave


    • acflory

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your insights. There are some things I can’t change, such as the names of the Vokh and iVokh, because they are integral to the story. The ‘i’ prefix denotes small and identifies the iVokh as ‘small Vokh’ [also inferior Vokh].

      Biology aside, the plot becomes politically convoluted once you get beyond ‘X’ needs to do ‘Y’ to avoid ‘X’. But the story isn’t political in the way we understand politics because there are no humans involved. In fact, that lack of human perspective is what makes the story truly unique but that’s the one thing I can’t say, not in a query letter. Anyone who knows sci-fi will tell you a story about aliens without that human perspective is very hard to pull off. An editor would read ‘no humans’ and go ‘That’ll never work’ and move on without ever readying the manuscript itself.

      Your point about the Trader Apprentice however, is spot on and that I can and will fix!

      Thanks heaps. 🙂


  • jenowenby


    This is an article concerning query letters I thought you might be interested in.


    • acflory

      Oh that was interesting! I knew some of it already but the point that caught my eye was the answer on short stories. I didn’t realise that agents don’t like them because they don’t sell well.

      I may have to rethink my idea of publishing a collection of my shorts as a sort of marketing tool – read my shorts then read my novel type thing. -grin- back to the drawing board on that one.

      Thanks very much Jen.


  • Candy Korman

    I’d make one change and put the description of the world and its creatures before the warning about violence. It’s best to start with a positive statement something that makes the letter reader curious.

    I’ve had the weird experience of reading stacks of query letters. My agent, a few summers ago, hired me to go through her “slush pile.” It’s a not very nice way of describing the unsolicited query letters and manuscripts that agents get. (As your letter is part of a particular program, you will not wind up in a slush pile.)

    I felt dreadful as I read most of them. My agent, as all professionals, had particular kinds of books she wanted and others that she wanted to avoid. Having her criteria in mind, most of what came unsolicited was bound for rejection. I felt terribly sad, as if I were slighting the dreams of other writers, but many of the queries revealed all the wrong things about the writer — bad grammar, poor spelling, lack of understanding about genres or the idea that describing their writing as “like Dan Brown” would get the agent’s attention.

    Go for it! Get those crazy creatures published!


    • acflory

      Ouch. 😦 I know we writers used to complain about publishers not accepting unsolicited material, but when you look at it from the their side of the fence, sorting through such a slush pile would be awful.

      Thanks for your input Candy. You guys have taught me so much in just one day. -hugs-


  • lowerarchy

    I’ll read and reply later mate – have been out x


  • Patricia Awapara

    I have never done a query letter, or anything like this, but I thought it was perfect. You got good advice here. I wish you the best! Much success!


  • jenniferscoullar

    This is the formulae I use for pitches. This story is about ……. who wants more than anything to …….. but can’t because ………..
    Try it on the Wizard of Oz – This story is about a little girl named Dorothy who wants more than anything to go home, but can’t because she’s stuck in a strange land. Using Brumby’s Run it goes something like this. Sam is a spoilt city girl who wants more than anything to build a new life for herself in the high country, but can’t because it will mean stealing her sister’s life.
    In my opinion, you need to be able to fit your story into this template.


  • lorddavidprosser

    Now you have advice from those who’ve experienced submissions before. There’s no excuse not to forge ahead now.I wish you the very best of luck with it because I KNOW it deserves to succeed especially after having ha to make the changes you did before. GO FOR IT !


  • Courtenay Bluebird

    Hey Meeks!

    I love your query letter so far, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents. I usually follow the guidelines given by The Writer’s Market, simply because that’s the most useful yearly publication I know.

    (If you ever want to know what to send to whom, The Writer’s Market is the industry standard. They have. There are more than one annual Writer’s Market— they have specialty books for niche writing markets as well.)

    Having said all that— here’s The Writer’s Market’s PDF on query letters. The sample fiction book query letter is on page nine of the PDF. (It’s marked as page 24 in this sample from the book.)


    You’re going to do really well, M. It looks like you’ve gotten great advice from your friends. So excited for you!



  • Ilil Arbel

    This is perfect. I love the hook (the violent mating) and the “psychotic hermaphrodites” description. These two bits sure will get the editor’s attention. I saw that some people suggested you put on something about yourself. I disagree with that, I don’t think editors cares about it, unless you refer to pertinent experience. Writing, blogging, and gaming come to mind especially.


  • kmtreat

    Don’t forget to mention the title of the book in the query letter. I remember reading about that somewhere.


  • Jen Owenby

    I agree with sweetmother. It looks great! Good luck, and keep us posted.


  • Carrie Rubin

    I like your query letter. It uses strong, descriptive words and captures the reader’s attention right away with the “contains graphic scenes of violent mating.” I think you summarized the story well without overdoing the detail. Agents don’t read long queries, so it’s good to keep it on the short side. You might want to add a final brief paragraph about yourself. Usually a query has an opening paragraph with the genre and word count and attention-seeking hook, followed by a very brief synopsis, followed by a brief author blurb. Remember though–I am no expert–though I have written a query or two. 🙂

    I think the excerpt is good, too. Good luck!


    • acflory

      Wow… I can’t thank you enough Carrie. It didn’t even occur to me to mention who /I/ was. 😦 Talk about duh… Now to think of something that will make an old biddy like me seem interesting.

      Wait! Am I supposed to sound interesting or am I just supposed to sound as if I know which end of a sentence is which? i.e. 10 years as a technical writer for computer software or mad gamer and bushfire obsessive? Gah…


  • sweetmother

    i love, love the letter. i mean, you said, ‘contains violent mating of aliens’ — okay, i’m paraphrasing, but that initial sentence would get me to read it. i think you have something. SEND IT IN.


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