Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Research about novels in queries

Is there ever an instance where the writer should mention their research in a query?

I know that in general we should leave it out and agents will assume we've done our research (unless proven otherwise). But I'm wondering if there are any exceptions to the rule?

Background: My book is Historical Fiction based on the life of a real badass lady on a quest for revenge. New scholarship about my time period is pretty directly contrary to what we've been led to believe in History class about women's roles, cultural diversity, etc. I've been lucky enough to consult with a doctor whose PhD is on women warriors of the period and a professor whose expertise is race in the period.

I'm getting questions from early readers about whether there were really women warriors (yes!) and whether there were POC in that place at that time (yes!) and because these are such common questions, I'm wondering if I should mention my consults/research so that agents don't dismiss the story as anachronistic without digging deeper.

Maybe I'm just overthinking this, but I'd love to know if you think in this case mentioning the research might help me over a possible objection hurdle.

One of the things I mention very early in a non-fiction pitch is what fresh insights and new information will be in the book.  Essentially you're going to do the same thing for your novel.

You'd put that kind of information in the housekeeping section (paragraph three) of a query.

Paragraphs one and two are the story (Miss Badass Takes on The World, but really wants the moon cause it's made of green cheese, only to find out she's lactose intolerant).

Paragraph three would be almost exactly what you wrote above:
New scholarship about my time period is pretty directly contrary to what we've been led to believe in History class about women's roles, cultural diversity, etc. I've been lucky enough to consult with a doctor whose PhD is on women warriors of the period and a professor whose expertise is race in the period.

I'm getting questions from early readers about whether there were really women warriors (yes!) and whether there were POC in that place at that time (yes!)

And if I may, please do NOT use the phrase "lucky enough" when describing consulting with an authority, unless you won the consultation in some sort of lottery.

You're making light of your effort and diligence by attributing it to luck. My guess is that luck, if it played a part at all, came AFTER you spent some time tracking down experts and asking questions. You say "I've consulted with" etc etc.

I think it's important to include this kind of information in a query because I think I know it all, and if you're telling me what I know is wrong, well, that's interesting and enticing.

22 comments:

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I already want to read this book. Keep us posted on your progress, OP.

Welcome back, your majesty. I hope you had a deeply satisfying hiatus

Gigi said...

Thanks E.M. and thank you so much, Janet! This is really helpful.

Theresa said...

Of course we are all waiting to read this book, OP.

Janet, thanks for the pet pictures. I hope you had a restful end of August.

Amy Johnson said...

I'm thinking the same thing as Elise--I want to read this book! I hope all goes well with it, Opie.

Jeannette Leopold said...

I'd pick this book up if I saw it at the store.

Sherry Howard said...

Back from hiatus with a bang. Just when I thought I you’d covered everything about queries . . .

Good luck, Gigi, this sounds amazing!

Julie Weathers said...

That sounds like a fascinating story. I'm reminded of Ching Shih, the Chinese female pirate who had, some people estimate up to 80,000 men under her command and thoroughly dominated the China Seas.

It sounds like you have a winning combination with this. I'd certainly include this information to let prospective agents know you aren't writing a fantasy. Not that there's anything wrong with fantasies, but they have their own place.

I'm having the same problem with Rain Crow. "A lady wouldn't have done this or that."

It's precisely what they did. The best known spy in the war was a Washington socialite who collected secrets like most women did recipes. She's one of the reasons Lincoln's spymaster Pinkerton said, "The south's greatest weapon is the southern woman."

OP if you have a blog, you might start blogging about things people find hard to believe and cite your resources. It helps establish some sort of platform and also helps shut down the naysayers. Plus, it will be something interesting for agents to look at.

I'm redoing my website now, but that's what I'm attempting to do.


QOTKU, welcome back. I hope you had a chance to get some foot rubs in while you were off.

John Davis Frain said...

The harder you work, the luckier you get, right?

And the moment you find Madame Badass who never got ink in the history books, more start popping out. Discovery is fun--for the writer and the reader.

I wasn't sure what this answer would be, and I'm happy how it turned out. Welcome back, QOTKU, you already made it through Monday.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Gigi... Holy WOW! I just went to your website. Outstanding. It's smart, interesting, so well done. And your life. Again, holy wow! I'm such a homebody, but it's beyond fascinating to read about everything you've taken on - and/or discarded - for your nomadic life. I'm in awe.

Regarding the book, I hope, you're on the verge of querying: it appears you already have a queue ready to buy. Including me.

Gigi said...

Thanks Melanie! Currently waiting on beta readers (they're supposed to get back to me this week), so hopefully it'll be in querying shape soon!

BrendaLynn said...

I’m looking forward to reading it Gigi. Keep us posted.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

I will read this book when it comes out. I also want to tag along Gigi as she goes to all sorts of wonderful places on the planet. For now, I can just look at the beautiful photos on her website.

McMarshall said...

I'm curious enough to want to read it without knowing anymore.

Steve Stubbs said...

OP: "New scholarship about my time period is pretty directly contrary to what we've been led to believe in History class"

I am a history buff and "what we've been led to believe in History class" is mostly bad fiction. If you read original sources, as I do, and then read what "historians" do with it, you will be amazed that anyone coudld lie so blatantly hoping not to get caught.

If you get into the reader's belief system she will not forgive you even if some professor somewhere says you are right. People believe whatever they want, and they get their backs up if you tell them they are wrong.

As for "research," if that means you copied a bunch of stuff from old history books, you may be making a mistake. Take all the stuff you copied from old history books out of your novel and see what is left. If the answer is not much, you are not bringing enough to the party. Blowing a horn and bringing that to the agent's attention will not help your cause.

Lennon Faris said...

Cool premise, Gigi! I'm with the others here... looking forward to it coming out.

Claire Bobrow said...

I'm piling on with everyone else, Gigi. This book sounds great! I'd definitely read it. Good luck, and keep us posted!

Welcome back, Janet! Did the Alot get into any mischief while you were away?

Colin Smith said...

Ummm... yeah... what they said. And especially what Julie W. said. Always. Well, most of the time. ;D

Craig F said...

I hate dealing with 'experts'. They usually just touch up the fifty coats of paint that mask true history and they can never see anything past their blinders. Get boots on the ground and go and dig stuff up.

Find old maps and artifacts that can prove your point, then build a good, coherent story around that.

Gigi" from what I have seen of your work, you can do this. Query proudly.

MA Hudson said...

Julie - I was thinking of your travails as I was reading this post! Blog posts with citations sounds like a great solution - something to point the doubters towards.

Gigi - great premise for a book! And I love how Janet’s advice is to pretty much use the last two paragraphs of your blog question. That saves any anxiety about how to word it properly.

Panda in Chief said...

Gigi, is your blog on the list of blog readers and commenters? I couldn't find it there and now I want to read your blog, not to mention your book when it's published.

Thanks!

Welcome back from summer hiatus, Janet.

Gigi said...

Panda in Chief: I think you should be able to get to it by clicking on my name and then clicking My Website on the profile page. Or you can search for me: Gigi Griffis. (I would drop a link, but not sure of the rules here.)

Panda in Chief said...

Got it! Thanks, Gigi.