Wednesday, January 23, 2008

C'est l'amour.

Romance is difficult to query because, let's face it, we all know how it's going to end. The hero gets the heroine. It's called the HEA (Happily Ever After.) Just like you know there's going to be some form of magic something-or-other in fantasy, chic-lit will feature a female protagonist, mystery will involve a crime that has to be solved, and romance ends with Happily Ever After. Which is fine! But it means that you are at a bit of a disadvantage on the plot-front. So pulling together a flat, plot-based query pitch is going to turn out something like this. (And please excuse the lack of French symbols, I haven't figured out how they work on Blogger yet.:))

Adele is in love with Philippe, but when her father loses his fortune, the only way to save her family is to be married to one of the richest men in Europe, Jean-Michel St. Jacques. After a few months of marriage Adele is happy, and maybe even falling in love with her new husband. But when his affection suddenly disappears, and Philippe sends her a desperate letter, she wonders if she's made a huge mistake.

Can anyone name all the cliche's in that paragraph? Why? Because every romance story has been told in one way or another. With Romance, as well as several other specific genres, it's about putting a new twist on things. So maybe you try something like this.

When her father loses his fortune, Adele is forced to leave her secret lover, Philippe, and marry the unsuspecting but very wealthy rogue, Jean-Michel St. Jacques. But despite her heartache, she finds herself falling in love with the charming, if rakish, Basqueman who sweeps her away to a country she's scarcely even read about. Tentative affection begins to blossom between Adele and the man who never wanted to marry for love and when Adele discovers she's pregnant she has every expectation of happiness. But when Jean-Michel's affection suddenly vanish and Philippe reaches out to her, offering his still-loyal heart, Adele must decide which life she truly wants.

Better, I think. But like in my last post, we need to add some voice. Voice means so much in Romance. This particular novel is a little bit literary with a lush setting and a healthy chunk of history and culture in it. So I'm going to highlight that, flesh out the plot a little, and add a one-sentence hook at the beginning.

Married and very pregnant, Adele St. Jacques must choose between her roguish husband, who has taught her of the fires of love and the bitterness of betrayal, and her forbidden paramour, who extends his long-faithful love in her time of need.

On the eve of her eighteenth birthday Adele is wed to the rich but wild Basqueman, Jean-Michel, to pay off her father's business debts. Her hearts rips in two as she is torn from her love, Philippe, just weeks before their planned elopement. But Adele's body and soul take a wild ride as the young bride and groom find the last thing either expected—love. Though Adele's heart still pines for Philippe, she is satisfied with her new home. When she discovers she is carrying Jean-Michel's child, Adele is sure she has been blessed with a good life.

But as the child within Adele grows, Jean-Michel's love seems to wither till his blatant betrayal provokes Adele to seek comfort from her childhood sweetheart. Philippe offers Adele his heart—which he has kept only for her—if she will run away and start a new life with him and her child. But a local fortune teller's warning that Adele has let an evil man into her heart may not refer to Jean-Michel after all. Who is the lover and who the monster?


Do you get a sense of the voice? Now we're going to look at the specific marketability of this particular book and tack a sales pitch onto the end to complete our query.

Dear Agent,

Married and very pregnant, Adele St. Jacques must choose between her roguish husband, who has taught her of the fires of love and the bitterness of betrayal, and her forbidden paramour, who extends his long-faithful love in her time of need.

On the eve of her eighteenth birthday Adele is wed to the rich but wild Basqueman, Jean-Michel, to pay off her father's business debts. Her hearts rips in two as she is torn from her love, Philippe, just weeks before their planned elopement. But Adele's body and soul take a wild ride as the young bride and groom find the last thing either expected—love. Though Adele's heart still pines for Philippe, she is satisfied with her new home. When she discovers she is carrying Jean-Michel's child, Adele is sure she has been blessed with a good life.

But as the child within Adele grows, Jean-Michel's love seems to wither till his blatant betrayal provokes Adele to seek comfort from her childhood sweetheart. Philippe offers Adele his heart—which he has kept only for her—if she will run away and start a new life with him and her child. But a local fortune teller's warning that Adele has let an evil man into her heart may not refer to Jean-Michel after all. Who is the lover and who the monster?

Set in seventeenth century Basque, this 100,000 word romance is a delightful peek into French and Basque culture through historical and cultural exploration intertwined with a love story featuring loyalty and disguise. This stand-alone novel can begin a generational series that follows the French/Basque history. The completed manuscript is available for your review. Thanks etc.

Aprilynne



Now, when I was marketing this book to agents, it was NOT ready. I jumped too soon and sent out a book that needed at least two revisions. So needless to say, the book itself didn't net me an agent, but the query letter netted me a 75% request rate. Not too shabby. It's a book I still would like to dust off, rewrite, and submit one day.

But not today.:)

Ciao!

Oh, and David and Pat, a doula is a professional childbirth coach.:) It's one of my passions in life. I adore doing it!

10 comments:

Renee Collins said...

I can see why you got a high request rate with that query. The story sounds excellent. I'm a real sucker for romance.

Ana Julia said...

Nice hook. I love to read romance. I just can't stand writing it.

Demon Hunter said...

I'm not a traditional romance reader (if I do, it's paranormal), but I would read yours because you have provided the need-to-know info. Great post! :*)

angelle said...

i love this post. it's so helpful :)

booklady said...

That was great! Thanks.

Sarah Rees Brennan said...

Oooh, I didn't know you'd ever written romance! I just started reading romance again after a Very Traumatic Romance Experience as a child (the pain is still so fresh!) and - yes, sign me up for that book when and if!

Amanda said...

You've been Tagged
A. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning.
B. Each player answers the questions for themselves.
C. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Mary said...

"(And please excuse the lack of French symbols, I haven't figured out how they work on Blogger yet.:))"

I get French accents etc. onto my posts by pasting them in from Word. :)

Chumplet said...

I think the Basque connection is very romantic. I did some research and found The Basque History of the World, a book by Mark Kurlansky. It was very in-depth.

Through the book I recently discovered that my great-grandmother was a Bastarache, descended from one of the first Basques who arrived in Acadia in the 1600's.

My current WIP is a contemporary romantic suspense with a Basque hero. Good luck with your submission!

Jamie Ford said...

I actually knew what a doula was! But I had a little help. My better half is an L&D nurse--or as I call her "The Baby Whisperer."