Posted in agents, query letter

Here I go again…

DeathtoStock_Desk5So, about 7 years ago, I started looking for an agent or publisher. I had two finished manuscripts I was ready to send out. I also had a toddler and a kindergartener and a very supportive husband. What else did I have going for me that would entice and agent or publisher to pick me up?

Nada.

Had no clue about social media (wasn’t even on Facebook), no website, no publishing cred, no writing degree, nothing.

Guess how it went?

Nobody was interested. I had a tiny handful of agents or publishers requests a few chapters, then nothing. Admittedly, the publishing climate at that time wasn’t terribly open and no one wanted to take on a newbie. So, I decided to self-publish. I started figuring out the whole social media and marketing thing. I kept writing. I got picked up by several publishers along the way, having good and bad experiences, and now have 20+ books published either traditionally or indie, and even made the USA Today Bestsellers list as part of an awesome box set.

Now what?

I’ve got it into my head that I want to try the agent route again. I don’t know how it will go, but I’m going to do it anyway. That’s a big cliff to jump off of because it involves a lot of research, waiting, heartache, and more waiting.

To anyone else who is thinking about joining the agent hunt, I thought I’d share a few resources that can make it a little easier.

TIPS FOR THE AGENT HUNT

Death_to_stock_communicate_hands_1https://querytracker.net/ — Great for finding agents accepting submissions and what genres they want, and keeping track of your queries and responses.

Twitter and Facebook — great for seeing what the agents you’re interested in are doing and looking for “right now” and also for getting to know their personality and if it’s someone you’d be comfortable working with.

http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ — Great for seeing what agents have been up to lately, when they’re last sale was and what publishing house the sale was with.

http://www.agentquery.com/ — database of literary agents, who’s taking what, and how to submit.

Comparable titles — know what your book is up against and be ready to tell and agent why yours will fit right in with other popular books readers are currently gobbling up.

QUERY HELP

If you need help writing a strong query letter, I recently did a podcast on the topic. Just click the Write. Publish. Repeat. logo below.

WPR Header Image

Posted in query letter

Writing a Query Letter: Part 4

To find the first part of this series, Click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE. Part 3, click HERE. To listen to the full discussion on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast, click HERE.

Query Writing Tips

Now that you have the basics down, how do you actually write a GOOD query letter?

The blurb/summary is going to be a HUGE part of your pitch and often requires the most attention and revisions.

The next section will go over tips and tricks for writing a query letter that will grab an agent’s or publisher’s attention.

Open Blue BookWhen to write the Blurb?

Before or After?
Depends on the author

Before
Why would you do this?
Not as emotionally invested yet.
Not EVERYTHING feels important.
Focus your thoughts on the story highlights.
Which can help with writing.
Saves you from having to do it later.
Allows you to promote early.

After
Have the full concept in place.

Avoid having to rewrite due to plot changes.

Better idea of future plans.

Anatomy of a Blurb

Situation/Character intro

Problem/Conflict

Hope of Resolution

Tone/Mood

Invisible CastSituation/Character Intro

Jump in right away.
Situation and Character intro right away.
No wasting time with description/thought.
Intro the setting as well.

Who is this story about?
What situation makes their story interesting?

First sentence should introduce both.

Make them interesting!
YOU know them well, so present them in the best, most interesting light

Example:

“In 1938, a small crooked-legged racehorse received more press coverage than Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt or any other news figure.”(Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand)

Don’t mislead!
If they start reading and it doesn’t hold up…they’ll put it down

Depressed young homeless womanProblem or Conflict

A hint of the plot…
What challenge is your MC up against?
Simplify as much as possible.There may be multiple conflicts that all seem important.
Focus on the MAIN conflict.

How is this conflict going to hurt/hinder your character?
Again…simplify to the main points. Pick the biggest, most detrimental effect to focus on in the blurb

The blurb is a teaser. Hook the agent/pub…leave them wanting more. This is usually better accomplished in a short blurb.

Some like to end on a question (but not a rule)
“As mouths water in anticipation, can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate éclair?”(Chocolat, Joanne Harris)

“Lisbeth Salander—outcast…enigma…avenger…”(The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson)

End on a cliffhanger!

HopeHope of Resolution

Don’t be too depressing!

How will your character potentially thwart all the trouble the conflict is brewing?

Don’t reveal the end of the story, but DO suggest a possible escape.

Make readers want to solve the problem.

Tone and Mood

The tone or mood of your query should match the book.

Fun, dark, moody, silly, inspirational, etc.

Let readers know what is in store for them so they know what they’re getting into.

Join me next week for the final part of the Query Writing Workshop. Tips & Tricks, tracking queries, and query pacing.

Listen to the full discussion now on my new podcast!

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

WPR Header Image

Posted in query letter, writing tips

Writing a Query Letter: Part 3

To find the first part of this series, Click HERE. For Part 2, click HERE. To listen to the full discussion on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast, click HERE.

Paragraph Two of the Query Letter

9e9dd-largestackofbooksMini-Synopsis
Similar to the back cover summary
100-250 words

Expand on your hook
Explain more about your Main characters…
Problems/conflicts…
How adversity changes them…

Read back covers of other books for examples!

Paragraph Three: Bio

Brand new Author?
(You may want to skip this)

  • What to include?
    Is it meaningful to the query?
    Does it show personality?
  • Keep it short
  • Keep it writing related
  • Education
  • Work
  • Personal experience
  • Research

Publishing Credits/Awards

  • Awards
    • If you’ve won them…INCLUDE THEM
      Don’t be modest, but don’t go overboard

Publishing credits (BE SPECIFIC)
Journals
Online/trade magazines

Unpublished?
You don’t need to say

Academic or Nonfiction?
Shows you know the process

DON’T INCLUDE:
Church news letter, credits unrelated to professional writing

Self-Published: Include or Not Include?

  • Timing
    • It will be discussed eventually
  • Doesn’t hurt your chances
  • Be confident
  • Be ready discuss success/failure
  • Do you consider it a Mistake/Irrelevant
    • Leave it out
  • Does it make you a more desirable client?
    • Depends on success – mention sales numbers, length of time on sale
      • Success to some agents/pub = 5000 sales (per month…)

Open Blue BookWhat NOT to Mention

  • Social media presence/platform
    • UNLESS you have A LOT of followers
    • Agents will Google you anyway
  • Marketing Plan
  • Years of effort and dedication
  • Family/friends opinions
  • Past rejections/near misses
  • Apologize
  • Compliment your work
  • Discuss $$ your book will make

Thank You/Closing

  • Thank the agent/pub
  • Time & consideration
  • Alert agent/pub full manuscript is available upon request
  • Mention if your book is being considered by another agency
  • Series potential/written
  • Include contact information basics
  • Only offer exclusives for a short time period
  • Only compare your book to another in terms of style, voice, theme (Not $$)

Join me next week for a discussion on writing a great blurb for your query.


Listen to the full discussion now on my new podcast!

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

WPR Header Image

Posted in query letter

Writing a Query Letter: Part 2

To find the first part of this series, Click HERE. To listen to the full discussion on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast, click HERE.

123Parts of a Query Letter:

Paragraph One – The Hook
Personalization/Introduction
Book details
Hook

Paragraph Two
Mini-Synopsis
Think: back cover

Paragraph Three
Bio
Publishing credits/awards
Thank you/closing

Where do you start? Personalization

WhyPARAGRAPH ONE – INTRODUCTION
Why are you querying this agent?
Did you meet them somewhere?
Invitation/Request?
Researched their agency/house?
Referred?

Personalize
Make sure the agent or publisher knows why you chose their agency
NEVER open with DEAR AGENT/PUB
Find a connection – Research
Be professional

Paragraph One: Book Details

What are you selling?
Keep it simple
Title
Word count
Genre
Age group

This should all be in one sentence

Paragraph One: The Hook

The 3 elements
Character + conflict
Choices/stakes
Sizzle
Possible 4th element: setting/time period

Hook vs. Heart

Hook: What makes your book unique and interesting?

Heart: Why you’re story will affect readers.

Hook should be ONE SENTENCE.

What is sizzle?
Why your story is different from a million others
DON’T TELL THE ENDING

Hook Examples

5d093-alphabetvectorBridges of Madison County
When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and turns into Francesca Johnson’s farm lane looking for directions, the world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience that will haunt them forever.
The Kite Runner
An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.
Wicked Hunger
Will the Roth siblings insatiable hunger for pain and suffering turn them into villains, or can they somehow find a way to become the heroes of their own dark story?

Join me next week for a discussion on Paragraph Two of the query.


Listen to the full discussion now on my new podcast!

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy


Posted in publishing, query letter

Writing a Query Letter: Part 1

The query writing process incorporates some of the most frustrating aspects of publishing.

But…it’s necessary no matter what publishing option you choose

Typewriter illustrationWhat is a query letter?

According to Jane Friedman, the CEO and co-founder of Open Road Integrated Media, this is the definition:

To seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.

In other words, it’s your pitch to agents, publishers, and readers.

Query Letter Basics

◦ONE PAGE

◦Pitch to “sell” your book

◦Professional letter

◦First impression

◦Book MUST be finished!

But First…

How to sift through the billion search results to find an agent to query?

Blond Business WomanQuery Tracker

Agent Query

Publisher’s Marketplace

Preditors and Editors

Dark Markets (Short Stories/Mags)

◦Agent Interviews

◦Be as SPECIFIC as possible

◦Social Media Stalking 😉

Nest week I’ll be discussing the parts of a query letter in detail, or if you want the full lecture now, check it out out on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast now.

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy