Query Conundrum

Fellow authors–I need advice.

If you have a nontraditional story format, how do you handle page requests?

Both of the novels I’m currently querying for are–unusual, to say the least. I actually think that’s a strength of them, but I’m worried now that it is handicapping my querying. One, Undead Rising, is a gamebook, in the style of Choose Your Own Adventure books.

The other, Alt.World, is told through the eyes of two main characters–but “news” articles illuminating the pre-dystopian past, as well as cryptic messages, are folded in. All these pieces make complete sense by the end of the book, but at the beginning, it’s pretty open-ended and…well, a bit weird, if you’re expecting the normal “Chapters 1-3.” (It’s not unlike Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin or The Handmaid’s Tale or maybe even Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. The pros do it! But then again, they’re pros, they can do whatever…)

I recently had a page request for Alt.World, and while there was praise in the response I got back (“Solid writing!” *swoon*), she was (understandably, perhaps) confused by the interspersed news articles and the preliminary far-too-cryptic-to-be-yet-understood messages. And she passed on it.

So I’m wondering what I should do: send in 50 pages, excluding the news articles/messages, etc. to make an easier read for agents by putting it in a format they expect? Or continue sending it as it is, as the story truly is, and hope to eventually find an agent who “gets” it–and possibly creating a harder path for myself in the meantime?

Anyone have any experience in this situation?


Filed under Publishing, writing

2 responses to “Query Conundrum

  1. I’d send it in exactly as is. Your first twenty pages (or whatever they ask for) should be your strongest writing. If they get past that sample and ask for more, they’ve gotten a taste of what you can do. You should make it clear in your query letter what ‘shape’ the book takes so they know what to expect, and give them comps like you already have in this post. If an agent/editor is clear about what they are to expect from you, then they decide whether or not to move further. ‘Hiding’ your style or the shape of the book from them will only work against you. I’ve had experience with two of my books having an unusual story format, but what I did was to just describe it up front. New is not necessarily the kiss of death, though it might be something an agent doesn’t think s/he can sell. That’s the most important part.

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