Example of a Literary Agent Query Letter – The Real Barbados Story
I am excited to talk to you as I believe my book ROGUES IN PARADISE, the real story of Barbados, is an excellent companion to YOUR BOOK & WHY!
Think Lauren Elkins’ Flaneuse meets Washington Black. Like Flaneuse, Rogues weaves together people, place, and history. While Washinton Black is the genius young Barbadian freed from slavery, Rogues’ delves into that experience with real stories of people, place and history.
Set in current day Barbados, It explores the psyche of exceptional people who survived three hundred years of slavery and systemic discrimination to become a thriving, independent, democratic republic.
The books’ rogues and heroes range from street vendors to knights of the realm: They are fun-loving, quirky, witty, and wise. Readers will meet characters like Ace, a Jack of all trades, who uses agile wit to skirt the law; and Woolly, an artist who transforms Simon Cowell’s visit into a springboard for his success.
The stories flow with a Caribbean rhythm, like Ace thinking: “Plenty time and money here. Movie cameras, laptops, fancy cars, and stereos, fetch some dollars on the street. Ain’t gonna steal, just gonna take, a little for the magistrate.”
The mystery is, how are ordinary Bajans so joyful and self-assured given their troubled past. Chance meeting with irascible and colourful Bajans, interpreting history, and gaining insight reveals a unique Barbados heritage and character.
I have over 35 years of experience building environmental and tourism technology while writing about technology, people, and travel. In 1965 I founded the Barbados Tourism Encyclopedia, an extensive platform with a focused social media network. In 2013 The New York Times featured it in ‘How Hotels Use Social Media’.
I graduated with honours in marketing and systems. I am an active blogger/videographer and a recovering CEO software developer. I have self-published three books on online marketing. My first tourism book, Website, was an Amazon bestseller.
The manuscript is professionally edited and sensitivity validated.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Anatomy of the Query Letter –
- Here is a constructive Review from a leading Litereary Agent. It is a a stinging review but very helpful in getting it right.
Thank you for selecting me to read and critique your query letter, introducing Rogues in Paradise.
When sharing first impressions, I think about the author’s intentions, and I evaluate how the execution syncs up with those intentions. These are not necessarily based on the ‘facts’ of the matter, just the impressions that lingered. Takeaways. Takeaways are what one takes away, what I could tell you hours or days later about the premise I think I’ve read.
It is never for me to tell a writer what to think – or what to write. Or to steer a story. It is only for me to react. And to share those first responses. My thoughts divide into author’s intentions — and ways to enhance the reader experience.
I provide notes on submission materials with a specific focus on market readiness and publishing potential. As for the presentation, these are notes on the project – as a project, not as a creative endeavor, essay or labor of love.
My key point: your debut memoir is being introduced to professionals in the publishing industry. Editorial readers are trained to focus on audience and readership. This is a far cry from how a content creator approaches their voice, shared insight and creativity.
Writers request agent feedback, in general, to learn if they are ready for the submission process or if there are ways to enhance their chances for successful selection.
I offer these specific notes to give you a sense of how an agent – any agent/editor – would review your memoir as a candidate for potential publication. The submission – its themes and content – is considered exclusively for a reader’s eye.
On the positive side. . .
You are tapping into a love of history and travel and a no-doubt fascinating place, a winning and original concept.
The central driving reason for the book to be on a reader’s shelf needs to be more fully defined.
Insights into this little-known African-colonial history and its nuanced portrait of a popular travel destination may fit well in your library. will appeal to travelers looking for deeper meaning!
*** Agents do not refer to projects they might undertake in terms of what fits in their l library. Interest in your premise would be evaluated for an editor’s quest for profitable books to publish for the readership that can be demonstrated.
- The anecdotal stories pulse with the rhythm of the Caribbean and the indomitable spirit of a remarkable people. My observations and admiration led me to examine Barbados’ colonial past and its role as the First Slave Society to its peaceful transition to the world’s newest democratic republic. Today, it is a regional financial center and a vibrant tourism destination with a rich culture and iden
** It took a minute to understand the premise of the book. Creative nonfiction is being retired as a publishing term. It is still used academically but many found that it was tricky to categorize a work of creative nonfiction, in terms of the book business. It tended to be a category of exclusion, as in not a memoir, not a narrative work etc.
In other words, you need drivers in a query that set the reader up to enjoy the book. Here, we are told there are street characters such as Ace and Woolly after two references to Black Spartacus. I do not see the charm and extraordinary history of Barbados – or the special reasons to want to travel there.
For example, I did not comprehend what First Slave Society would mean in for this presentation of Barbados. There have always been slave societies throughout history. And the slave trade has its terrible roots in Africa (I would assume).
You want to create more of a case for your meticulous research and how the reader – who is a potential book buyer as well as a potential traveler – or armchair traveler – showing more of the colorful and dramatic storytelling your research has unearthed.
Let me point out that the query does not fulfill its aim of creating a sense of the portraiture of the ‘remarkable Caribbean people.” For example, the title refers to rogues, Ace, who skirts the law followed by fun-loving ensemble-cast. This works against the gravitas of the history – certainly the role in the slave trade – and the rich culture and identity of Barbados. The query seems to be steering me to meet roguish yet shady characters, whose stories are going to charm me into appreciation of what is no doubt a remarkable place.
Another point: the query does not make much use of your tourism background.
If you can offer readers in-depth insight and storytelling from your encyclopaedic knowledge of the region – and its people – with tales of local characters and legends – that sounds like a terrific book!
On the page, your own journey as the writer and that of the reader – the reader who is joining you – are two different perspectives. Remember, agents read (on behalf of editors reading) on behalf of readers.
This means deconstructing element by element, not the same as reading for sheer enjoyment. My thoughts divide into author intentions — and ways to enhance the chances for reader enjoyment of the story. I see what pops out and diagnose where something could be clearer, or – to my view – perhaps, worth re-visiting or strengthening.
Writers are often surprised by the scrutiny and decision-making in the pro leagues. It is not about talent or promise. Traditional publishing requires the selection processes. A manuscript is submitted, and then it goes through editorial scrutiny. Selection is based on many component parts: the prose style, originality of plot, character arcs, dialogue, author outreach, among other considerations.
It is the difference between being the best skater in town – and competing in the Olympics. A book deal is Olympic gold. It does not mean that a gold medal is the only reason to skate, it just means that an agent/editor offers comments in a particular context.
Components of Literary Agent Query Letter
The letter opens with the bonding. This requires some research to find what kind of books the agent represents and what they are currently looking for. This changes from time to time so the study must be on current trends and needs. It’s no secret that Washington Black is on my list and if I am making a proposal to that agent I need to mention the book and show how my book is a good companion. Washington Blacks agent may not be the best fit for a number of reasons: Perhaps the agent only represented award-winning and recognised authors. They may not want debut authors. If so more research is needed.
Sometimes you cannot add all into 300 words, and I have not expanded the why in the bond. I believe that rogues is a good companion to your book and will appeal to its readers.
Competitive and comparable books are noted in the QL – In this case, I choose Flaneuse and Washington Black. And explain why. Bill Bryson’s book are also a good comp but they are not current and hugely successful. Agents will find that unrealistic. The comps are added as a mashup in the text above.
the book has to be different. Explaining this difference is understanding its hook. In the QL above its a few things like: “The mystery is, why”. this shows that it has a purpose beyond the story-. Also, it is “First-hand accounts” – this indicates it has a different view and voice.
Build your voice in the query. In this case, I quote one of the main characters. It gives a clear indication of the rhythm and voice of the character and the real story of Barbados.
- Rogues Adventures – Rex Wotton
- African Slavery & Afro-Bajan Heritage
- Discovering Bajan Roots with DNA
- Tracking African Roots of Barbados People
- History of Barbados People & The Black Experience in Canada
- The People of Barbados – Bajan Barbadian Demographics
- An Island Stands Apart in People & Geology
- Writing the Real Story of Barbados
- What Does Rogue Mean: A Historical Respective
- Barbados Caribbean Travel Literature