Blurb, Query, & Rejection
Updated: Apr 28
Baby Doe is the “new” novel this site is about. I started writing it when the stuff the novel describes was happening back in the early 1980's. I'd wanted John Updike to write it because he was a just damn brilliant author who created stories that involved heartache, passion, sex, and characters that weren't so different from me. I imagined how pleased he'd be if I told him the idea. On reflection, I didn't think it prudent to ask him. So I had to do it myself. After I wrote a few chapters, I bumped into an editor at a leading Boston publishing house, and like a stupe asked him if he'd read what I'd written, He said sure. Later he had few words to say, (probably because his newborn baby was still in our NICU). but he did ask if I had ever heard of point of view. Well no, I hadn't, but I caught his meaning, and embarked on learning some craft. Baby Doe has been screaming and kicking around for over forty years with more off's than on's. It still isn't exactly right. Yet.
Tonight I heard a live an online Q & A by the personable Jessica Faust who heads Bookends literary agency. Their agency has one of the most author friendly and useful websites. She talked about agent queries and said blurbs are the key element in a query. What is a blurb you say? Read on.
Here's my query. (Turned down in less that 24 hours after submission by the frequently mistaken, afore mentioned Jessica Faust).
I’m submitting Baby Doe, an 80,000-word upmarket medical novel that takes the reader into the heart of a medical crisis, when Sophia Shulder, faces an impossible choice: is death or a blighted life the lesser of two bad outcomes for her severely disabled newborn.
The year is 1984, and President Reagan spreads outrage after reading headlines decrying, “Are Doctors Pulling the Plug on Babies With Birth Defects?” For 34-year-old Sophia, it all feels so far away. Sophia, a newly appointed professor of biochemistry, has plenty of time for starting a family until one act of forgetfulness leads to a surprise pregnancy. At first Sophia is concerned with the effect of pregnancy on her career--and is comforted by reassuring results that indicate her fetus is fine. But the amniocentesis results are wrong. On the day after she gives birth to an apparently normal baby, she and her husband, Martin, learn their newborn has Down Syndrome and two major life-threatening anomalies. The hospital staff insists on immediate, but risky, surgeries. Still in shock, Sophia and Martin balk at rushing their approval. The baby’s condition worsens. The surgical consent form remains unsigned. Reporters, medical trainees, an angry lab tech who made the error on Sophia’s amnio, attending physicians, nurses, clergy, hospital administrators, lawyers, and a district attorney all have an opinion on the matter. The hospital staff initiates legal proceedings that will force surgery. Finally, Sophia agrees to a compromise, but someone, intolerant of the dithering, has already decided on unilateral action.
Baby Doe is the first of a five book neonatal ICU series with two other novels completed, and the remaining two about 30% written.
I’m a semi-retired professor of pediatrics from the University of California—San Francisco now spending most of my time in Israel where I graduated with an MA from the excellent Shaindy Rudoff Creative Writing Program at Bar Ilan University, I’ve written five medical textbooks and hundreds of chapters and research papers. Over the past decade, ten of my short stories have been published, including one in Israel Short Stories and one in Gold Man Review. Others are included in a self-published book, Learning the Game. I am active on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as my own websites, <Newnovelstory.com> and Taeusch Amazon Author. By convention, queries have three paragraphs. Note that the word count and genre are included in the first paragraph; also the logline. or "elevator pitch," useful at cocktail parties (remember them?) to describe your latest book to someone before their eyes glaze over. I've added an additional line about the series. Often included also are titles by well known authors who have published similar books, but the only one that comes to my mind is Sophie's Choice, but that's not an apt road to go down, Let me know if you can think of others.
The customary second paragraph is the all-important blurb, which would be like the back cover description of what the book is about, why it's not like other books in the genre, and why one should be interested in (i.e.buy) this particular book. Feel free to send me a critique. My blurb seems a little flat at this point, I threw in a another paragraph following the blurb about the series.
Last, the third paragraph describes one's writing bio, experience, publications, and platform.
The query should be no more than one page and accompanied by however many pages of your novel that the agent's website requests.
The cover below> It's homemade obviously, and just an idea. All of us need a real pro for cover design, If that's you, send me a proposal.