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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Query Letters


Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I had my writing class, and it looks like I have some work to do on a chapter in "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant". I need to change some details to make it more believable. So I started working on that a bit. No work was done on "Snowed in With a Millionaire" but that will happen today.

I'm reading a wonderful Harlequin Presents book by Katherine Lang called "The Millionaire's Misbehaving Mistress" and I am enjoying it so much! I'm starting to wonder if maybe my stories might be better suited for Harlequin Presents than for Silhouette Desire.

Today I would like to look at how to write the perfect query letter to a literary agent.

From AgentQuery.com, there is an article that goes into detail about writing a query. Here is a small piece of that article:

A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a resume. It’s not rambling saga of your life as an aspiring writer. It’s not a friendly, “Hey, what’s up, buddy. I’m the next John Grisham. Got the next best selling thriller for ya,” kind of letter. And for the love of god, it is NOT more than one-page. Trust us on this.

A query letter has three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Don’t stray from this format. You won’t catch an agent’s attention by inventing a creative new query format. You’ll just alienate your chances of being taken seriously as a professional writer. A query letter is meant to elicit an invitation to send sample chapters or even the whole manuscript to the agent. It’s not meant to show off how cute and snazzy you can be by breaking formatting rules and going against the grain. Keep it simple. Stick to three paragraphs. The goal is to get the agent to read your book, not to blow you off because you screwed up the introduction.

Here is an example of an actual query letter, from pubrants.blogspot.com. This blog is written by a successful literary agent. She posted a query that got her attention (and then they sold the book). Ms. Nelson's comments are in blue, and the rest is the actual query.


Dear Ms. Nelson,

I’m a faithful reader of your blog. I admire your enthusiasm, your humor, and your candor. She reads my blog! Okay, I really shouldn’t be swayed by such flattery but hey, I’m human. Since you represent all subgenres of romance, I’d like you to consider Schemes of Love, my historical romance set in late Victorian England. The manuscript is complete at 100,000 words. Nice orientation to her novel.

Gigi’s marriage is doomed from the moment she decides that she must have Camden, by fair means or foul. How can I resist? Right off we know the fall our main heroine is going to take. Talk about flawed and therefore, immediately interesting. Camden, who has come to adore Gigi, discovers her deceit on the eve of their wedding. Shattered, he responds in kind, gives her a tender, unforgettable wedding night, then coldly leaves her in the morning, devastating her. Ah yes, two souls who have now done two wrongs. It’s a romance; I must know how they will make this right. Seriously though, this is such an intriguing set up and combined with the paragraph below, it’s something I’ve never seen before and folks, I read a lot of romance queries and sample pages. It’s hard to find something wholly original and fresh.

As the story opens, it is ten years later. Gigi has petitioned for divorce in order to remarry. Camden returns to England and sets the condition for her freedom: an heir. I’m sold. Didn’t even need to read more. She wants a divorce. He wants a child. Hum… sounds like an intense conflict to me. Despite the years and the sea of bad blood, the physical attraction between them remains as ferocious as ever. Big hint this work is going to be sensual and boy, is it—in very different ways. There’s a sex scene in the novel (and I can’t give it away) unlike anything I’ve ever read anywhere. That’s saying something. Though they each vow to make the act of procreation a cold, clinical one, the overwhelming pleasure of their marriage bed soon makes it apparent that the enterprise is fraught with emotional peril, for both of them. Oops. Two characters who think they don’t like each other but have great sex. What more could I want? Seriously, notice the wonderful cadence of Sherry’s language here: “Though they each vow to make the act of procreation a cold, clinical one, the overwhelming pleasure of their marriage bed soon makes it apparent that the enterprise is fraught with emotional peril, for both of them.” That’s some gorgeous writing and it’s only her query letter I’m reading. If you notice, the whole query is like that, and the novel doesn’t disappoint either.

In an atmosphere thick with mistrust, desire, and incipient hope, they are torn between the need to safeguard their hearts and the yearning to reach out across the chasm of ancient mistakes. May favorite kind of construct. As they rediscover the easy rapport they’d once shared, they must decide whether to let the bygones rule the future, or to love despite their painful past and forge a new life together. I don’t know about you but I’m totally rooting for them to let bygones be bygones.

Schemes of Love recently placed first in its category at the Merritt Contest, organized by San Antonio Romance Authors. Excellent. It has received recognition. Chris Keeslar at Dorchester has requested the full. And editor interest! This actually isn’t a big deal for me because it seems like editors request everything but hey, it doesn’t hurt. Another one of my manuscripts has won the Romantic Elements category of the 2005 On the Far Side contest, hosted by the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of the RWA. Some other credentials and shows a little diversity from just the Historical stuff.

Thank you for your time. I hope very much to work with you and look forward to hearing from you. And she did, quite quickly. Big smile here.

Sherry Thomas
Well, there ya go. I worry about the fact that I have no writing credits - well, I do write this blog everyday - but that's about it. So that concerns me. I'll just have to hope that my stories speak for themselves.

Today I'm going to work on some revisions for "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant" and get some plotting done for "Snowed In With a Millionaire."

Wish me luck and good luck to you too!

Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

2 comments:

  1. So glad you're enjoying Will and Gwen's story. I had a lot of fun writing it. (And you might be happy to hear that Evie will be getting her own story in 2010!)

    Good luck with NaNoWriMo and your submissions to Harlequin.

    Kimberly Lang
    www.booksbykimberly.com

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  2. Wow! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment!

    I just finished your novel and it's wonderful - I can't wait to read Evie's story in 2010!

    -Shana

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