QUERY AND SYNOPSIS
Writers frequently inquire about the best approach when trying to find an agent or publisher. The process involves writing the dreaded query letter and a synopsis. While not all agents ask for a synopsis, I didn’t run across any who said not to send one, so I included it with every mailing I sent out. Below are the query letter and the enclosures (except for the sample chapters) I sent out when I was trying to find an agent for my first published novel, Cold White Fury. I had a second version of the letter that did not reference enclosed chapters for those agents who specifically listed a query only. The package I sent out included a query letter on my letterhead, a synopsis of the book, and an author bio sheet. The query letter might have been better if I’d avoided words like “proclivity” and had listed my writing credits there rather than in the cutesy bio sheet. The synopsis violated a hard and fast rule in that it did not reveal the book’s conclusion. Despite all that, it worked. I queried a total of 30 agents and the one who took me on was #29 on my list. She sold the book to HarperCollins for a 10K advance five weeks later. I present all of it here exactly as it was written, warts and all.
Dear (Agent Name):
Scientists have recently released studies identifying a genetic mutation that can affect ones proclivity for violence by upsetting the balance of two behavior-modifying hormones found in the body. This imbalance can result in two types of violence, depending on the combinations that exist: one is an explosive, emotionally-charged, hot-blooded form of violence; the other, cold-blooded and predatory. If someone had the ability to manipulate genetic material so as to intentionally produce this mutation, they could create an army of extremely vicious killers. Such is the premise of Cold White Fury, a medical thriller that combines real and recent scientific discoveries with the less understood realm of paranormal abilities.
The story follows a week in the life of Jennifer Bolton and her eight-year-old son, Tanner, as they unravel a deadly plot created by a secret group intent on their own warped and perverse form of selective breeding. The scientific discovery enabling this group to carry out their plans was discovered by Jennifer’s husband eight years earlier, a discovery he paid for with his life. Now it is Jennifer and Tanner’s lives that are at risk as they become locked in a life-and-death struggle to find key bits of information that Jennifer’s husband had hidden. Through a freakish combination of coincidence and medical mismanagement, Tanner develops unusual paranormal abilities that both aid and impede their efforts.
Suspense thrillers containing realistic scientific evidence continue to be a great topic of interest to today’s readers. My book contains actual scientific knowledge, realistic medical scenarios, and a touch of the occult – to snag the New Age interest. I have a varied medical background to lend authenticity to the medical components and have carefully researched both the areas of current scientific study as well as the realm of paranormal science.
I have enclosed a brief overview of the book along with some sample chapters and an author bio. The entire manuscript is complete and available for review. I have also enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your convenience in responding to my query. The sample chapters are copies and need not be returned. If you decide you are not interested, please dispose of them. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you ahead of time for your consideration.
Beth A. Amos
Cold White Fury is a medical thriller which incorporates recent scientific discoveries regarding evidence of a genetic tie to human violence, with the science of paranormal abilities and unexplained phenomena. It centers around a devious plot developed by a secret group of Neo-Nazi types who wish to eliminate the “undesirables” from the world. The group hopes to accomplish this brand of “selective breeding” through the perverted use of a miraculous discovery made by Tim Bolton, a genetic scientist who works for a company named Biogen. Tim’s discovery provides a means to genetically alter certain genes, including the ones that control the delicate equilibrium of behavior-modifying hormones (serotonin and noradrenaline). The story opens with Tim Bolton, his wife, Jennifer, and their six-month-old son, Tanner, taking a much-needed vacation. The trip ends both prematurely and tragically when they are involved in an accident with a fuel tanker on the winding mountainous roads bordering Virginia and West Virginia, resulting in a fiery explosion. Tim Bolton, pinned inside the car, is killed. Jennifer manages to get herself and her son far enough away to survive, but is severely injured. Tanner’s only injury results from a white-hot sliver of metal that is propelled by the blast through the soft spot on the back of his head, settling in his brain near the pineal gland. Because the hot metal cauterizes the surrounding tissue during its entry, Tanner suffers no immediate ill effects and no one is aware of the presence of this metal sliver.
The story resumes eight years later, when Tanner Bolton suffers a fall from his bicycle that brings him to an emergency room for treatment. An MRI is performed, and the powerful magnet ionizes the metal sliver in Tanner’s brain, moving it just enough so that it is resting against the pineal gland. The result of this physical and magnetic stimulation to the cells of the gland creates some interesting and unusual abilities in Tanner. As the story develops, Tanner finds he has the ability to read people’s thoughts, and later, to move objects with his mind. He also starts hearing the voice of his long-dead father, who tells him that the accident in which he died was no accident—Biogen had him murdered. When Tanner starts demonstrating his new-found abilities in front of his mother, she becomes concerned that he is suffering from an acute psychological problem along with the frightening physical symptoms he has been displaying: fugue states and seizures. She solicits the help of a physician and a psychiatrist, not knowing that both of them are connected to the very people that had Tim killed.
As Jennifer struggles to help her son, we meet the other central characters in her life: her best friend and confidante, Carny Calahan, who is not what she seems; her current boyfriend, Evan Reeves, a successful and handsome criminal lawyer; Eric Singleton, an attractive young doctor who takes a more-than-professional interest in Jennifer and Tanner’s well-being; and Jennifer’s mother, Jane Harren, a woman Jennifer has been estranged from for nine years because of a dark and deadly secret.
We also meet some of the victims of the group’s deadly plan: Barry Hanover, who loses his temper in a final fit of intense fury and kills his entire family and then himself; Brian Wentworth, a seventeen-year-old, spoiled rich kid with a sociopathic personality; and Senator Edward Tranley, the new Presidential hopeful whose support of programs to aid various minority groups makes him a prime target for elimination by this racially intolerant group of fanatics.
As Tanner’s paranormal abilities grow, so does the danger. Jennifer soon realizes that she can trust no one as numerous attempts are made on her life, and those she thought she could trust, betray her. Her plight escalates into a life-and-death race with the group to find some incriminating evidence hidden by her dead husband eight years before. When she finally succeeds and finds the information, the enemy is there, too. It is only through the use of her own wits and her son’s bizarre talents that she manages to escape and expose the deadly plot that has earmarked hundreds of people, including a prominent political figure, for death.
Based on real scientific discoveries made during the past year, and utilizing the still unknown world of paranormal experiences, Cold White Fury is a suspenseful thriller designed to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. It incorporates the woman-in-peril theme familiar to readers of Mary Higgins Clark, the medical settings common to Robin Cook, and the flavor of suspense mixed with the supernatural that is indigenous to much of Dean Koontz’s work.
Beth Amos is a graduate of Mercer County Community College in New Jersey where she obtained her nursing degree, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, where she obtained a degree in Health Administration. While at VCU, she took a variety of writing courses and studied under published authors such as Sloan Wilson and Wesley Gibson. Amos has had several articles published in HOSPICE, a nationally published journal for professionals working with the terminally ill, and in Life Health, a Richmond area health care magazine. She also produces a monthly newsletter for the Virginia Association for Hospices. Beth currently lives in Richmond, Virginia with her family and a menagerie of pets.
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