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Roberts gave up the glitz of Hollywood and put down roots in rustbelt Cleveland, in the process writing 15 private eye novels featuring real places and people from all over Northeast Ohio. In this memoir, novelist Les Roberts tells how he discovered the heart and soul of a city while fictionalizing it for a series of mysteries.

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It took only a few weeks in Cleveland to convince Roberts that the city was a ripe setting for his next private-eye novel. This is one of the ways you limit the number of variables in the equation. Only query agents who represent work like yours. My own agent, for example, specializes in crime fiction, thrillers, and some nonfiction. Sending him fantasy would be a waste of time. How to do that? Go to your local bookstore or library, and bring a notebook.

Find the section that matches your genre, and start pulling books down. After three or four deeply boring hours, you should have a sizable list. To find their addresses, turn to the Internet. You can Google search, using quotes around their full name. You can also look at sites like EveryoneWhosAnyone. Again, not fun, but necessary.

You are here

You slaved over every one of pages. You know its intricacies, its subtleties, its moments of grace and its smelly underarms. Now you have to forget all that. I want to repeat that: You are not selling the book. In fact, you could write a highly successful query for a book that does not exist. You want to get them interested enough that they ask to see your manuscript. If you can write a charming e-mail, you might get a date; if you get a date, who knows where it could lead. That you are interesting, sincere, and respectful.

Your language is compelling and your presentation is perfect. Finally, you are a storyteller. The Guts of the Query?? After a professional greeting Mr. This shows that you have done your homework. It also begins to frame their expectations.


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By implication they know the genre and style of your work. Next, in lines, sum up your story. In essence, what you want to do is leave out the tangents, complications, minor characters, and themes. Remember, this is seduction. Focus on drama and stakes. For Danny Carter, retired thief turned respectable businessman, a normal life sharing a Lincoln Park condo with his loving girlfriend seems like the ultimate score—until his former partner comes looking for him. Doing the job could cost Danny his career, his relationship, and his freedom.

Refusing could cost him his life. Did I leave out a lot? About 86, words. And man oh man did it hurt at first.

Spring 2015 Announcements: Memoir & Biographies: So This Is What Happened

But look at what it accomplished. By keeping the pitch brief, using only one name, and including significant stakes, I demonstrated that I know how to tell a story. Think about it. Agents get hundreds of these a week.

Do you really think they remember them? Hell, I bet they forget the beginning of most by the time they reach the middle. You try and read queries, see how fast your eyes glaze over. So instead of trying to convey the beautiful bleeding soul that is your novel, just show an agent you know how to tell a story. Okay, next paragraph. This is the place for awards, previous publications, and nepotistic hookups. Will Stephen King blurb you? Is Oprah your aunt? Do you run a wildly successful blog? Put it in there.

David Mitchell Interview: Stories Have a Number of Beginnings

Also, if you have some experience that informed the book, consider including it. If your character likes to cook and so do you, leave it out. Never write just to fill space.

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‘Houselust’ in Cleveland, Broken Promises in Asbury Park | Observer

There are a couple of reasons. First, e-queries are cheaper and faster and better for the environment. Second, you can include a little taste of your novel. Do it like this:. May I send you the finished manuscript? These sentences that he so painstakingly crafted are some the most arresting ever printed in the English language. We do not deserve Heavy.

We do not deserve Kiese. That he is generous enough to share is testament to his commitment to helping us all heal. They force us to confront all that we would be rather not see, and ask us to reckon with why we have failed to see it for so long. Kiese Laymon is one such rare writer. If for some reason you were not already convinced, there should no longer be any doubt that Kiese Laymon is one of the important writers of our time.

Heavy is an intimate excavation, a diagnosis, and a prescription for a cure for the terrifying dishonesty of the American body politic. I did not want to remember what I have found necessary to forget. Ready or not, Heavy remembers for me, and for us all, with the exquisite black southern precision of a post-soul blues. Its brilliance is in its intimate and firm reminder that we are more than what has been done to us by others and by this nation, and that we can and must unburden ourselves as we move towards freedom.

With Heavy , Laymon, the chief blues scribe of our time, writes and plays us a path through the weight of things. He fearlessly takes the reader into the dark corners of his interior life.


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Wound, grief, and enduring pain reside there. But this book is a love letter. And, as we all know, love is a beautiful and funky experience. Thank you, Kiese, for this gift. And then some. Heavy is a gift to us, if we can pick it up—a moral exercise and an intimate history that is at the same time a story about America.