Query Letter Dos & Don'ts:
From TIPS FROM THE SLUSH PILE by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency: " When composing a query letter, remember that it should be professional. Think of your letter as your introduction to the agent and not unlike a written job interview. "
Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary Management, provides a list of don'ts including: "The old standby "fiction novel." This is INSTANT rejection and I don't care what else is on the page. If you don't know why this is just wrong (ie not a mistake, not a typo) you need to quit querying and enroll in Grammar 101."
"Do include the fact that you are working on another book in your query letter. This will indicate that you are committed to writing and that you have many stories to tell. However, you may not want to say that you are working on too many manuscripts at once—this may signal to the editor that you can't finish a project and do not give each one enough attention. " From the eHarlequin . com -Top 10 Submitting Dos and Don'ts.
Paige Wheeler, of Folio Literary Agency: "Have you finished your manuscript? Most agents/editors only want to see material if it has been completed. There are some instances in which this is not the case, but it's generally accepted that you should only query if your material is complete."
"Certain kinds of email address names are really not appropriate for professional correspondence. (But sometimes they make me laugh. Or cry. And, no, they don't determine whether I ask for pages. I just notice some of the really outlandish ones when I'm drafting replies.)" Jennifer Jackson, Agent, Letters from the Query Wars.
Nathan Bransford, How to Find a Literary Agent: Step 6: "Query widely. Don't blanket the town with your query unless you want to end up on Gawker, but agents assume you are going out there trying to find an agent. Also, you should limit your query to one agent per agency. After you've heard back, it's usually ok to re-query another agent at the agency if their submission guidelines don't suggest otherwise, but wait a couple of months."
And lastly, a few fiery words on query letters from non other than my hero--Miss Snark
“Pictographs on your query letter- aka inkwells, pens, tablets, open books, or dog forbid, the authoress herself looking pensive --this is a 100% reliable indicator of bad writing. Why? Cause the writer is so busy announcing "I'm a writer" they forget the words are what count.”
“Here are the things that should follow "my novel is"1. word count 2. genre 3. finished.”
“A query letter is like a job interview: put your best foot forward.”
“I get at least one query a week from someone who has missed the "industry standards" part of the tutorial at Query School.”
Resources for More Information on Query Letters:
- Are you ready to swim in the shark infested waters? Check out Query Shark, one of several blogs by Janet Reid (rumored to be Miss Snark in her last life), of FinePrint Literary Management. Janet will give you a brutally honest query critique on her blog...if you are ready for the truth.
- Agent Query, How to Write A Query, provides more examples.
- If you need help with your hook, or presentation of your facts try out Cathy Carmichael's Story Pitch Generator.
- You pitch the agent, then the agent pitches your book. Check out this informative post by Jessica Faust, of BookEnds LLC , on pitching from the other side of the table.
- Guide to Literary Agents-Editor's Blog: Check the left hand column, Queries and Synopses and Proposals for recent information.
- Gabrielle Luthy: Editors and Agents, Oh My!
And now for those much anticipated Seeker Query Letters:Example 1:
REF: GOLDEN HEART FINALIST: Submission Request for A Chasing after the Wind
Nine out of ten women nationwide (90%) consider themselves to be Christian.* Yet, it is rare to find a novel that merges romantic passion and spirituality with an intensity that will appeal to the ever-broadening ranks of the Christian community. Newsweek magazine stated in its
A Chasing after the Wind is a completed, 110,000-word, character-driven inspirational romance, the first in a series about an Irish family in
I am a commercial writer for Maritz Travel Company, a published poet, and a member of Romance Writers of America, in which I have PRO status. I am a member of Faith, Hope and Love and American Christian Fiction Writers, and am heavily involved in several critique groups. I have attended the last two ACFW conferences and have taken several fiction-writing classes and seminars. A Chasing after the Wind is a 2005 Golden Heart Finalist in the Inspirational Category and a finalist in seven 2004 contests, including the Maggie, Stepping Stone, Jasmine and Connections contests. It also has been accepted by The Writer’s Edge.
Thank you for your time in considering A Chasing after the Wind for publication. Per your guidelines, I am advising that this is a multiple submission. I look forward to receiving your response. I have enclosed a synopsis, the first five pages of my manuscript, and an SASE.
*American Religious Identification Survey conducted by the Barna Group, http://www.barna.org/.
Dear Agent X,
I am very happy to announce that two of my manuscripts, Marrying Mariah, an inspirational historical romance, and The Missionary and the Mercenary, an inspirational romantic suspense, are finalists in the inspirational category of the 2004 Golden Heart contest.
The Missionary and the Mercenary is completed and is 65,000 words. After their crippled plane crashes in the South American jungle, a jaded mercenary with secrets and an adventurous nurse/missionary must survive while battling the jungle and the gunrunners on their trail. As Cash Murphy and Lauren Cabaret learn to depend on each other and ultimately fall in love, Cash has to come to terms with his past and his anger at God, while Lauren comes to realize that she is useful to God and that her trip to Colombia is in His will.
I am searching for an agent to help focus my writing. My goals are to make sure that my manuscripts are the best they can possibly be and to present my work in a professional manner to CBA publishers of inspirational romantic suspense and historical romance, including Steeple Hill, the ABA division of Harlequin/Silhouette.
I am a member of RWA's Pro program, FHL, and American Christian Romance Writers. I have numerous contest wins to my credit, including being a three-time Golden Heart finalist, a Maggie finalist, and winner of ACRW's Noble Theme and FHL's Touched by Love contests.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you. A SASE is included for your convenience.
XX encouraged me to email you and submit my proposal.
I have completed an 85,000 word contemporary Asian Chick-Lit romance
set in the San Francisco Bay Area, entitled THE CORINTHIAN RULES.
Lonely, single career woman Trish reads 1st and 2nd Corinthians and
devises three rules that she thinks will make her whole-heartedly
devotion to God, and stop desiring a boyfriend: 1) Stop looking at
guys, 2) Only date Christian guys, and 3) Persevere in hardship by
relying on God. But she's suddenly surrounded by hunky temptations
and harrowing hardships, plus her cynical, non-Christian coworker
Spenser is determined to make her fail.
With the Asian humor of Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club" and Ang Lee's
"Eat Drink Man Woman," but circling around the theme of Christian
singleness as in Kristin Billerbeck's "What a Girl Wants," THE
CORINTHIAN RULES blends Asian culture with Chick-Lit sassiness for a
contemporary Christian female audience.
This novel explores the the fast pace and urban lifestyle of the
Silicon Valley professional, as well as the northern California Asian
culture I have been immersed in for the past fourteen years. I belong
to several writers' groups and critique groups including American
Christian Romance Writers and Christian Writers' Group. My short
stories have won various Writing.com contests, and I am also an editor
for RubyZine, a Christian ezine for teenaged girls. I have been
published in Write To Inspire newsletter, WordPraize multicultural
e-zine, and Universal Personality e-zine. I have a feature article
that will appear in the fall edition of Nikkei Heritage journal,
published by the National Japanese American Historical Society, and a
short story appearing next year in Arabella Magazine.
I have ties to the local Asian community to promote this novel, and
there are several libraries and bookstores in San Jose that are
supportive of local authors. I intend to do booksignings wherever
possible. I also have ties to romance readers websites and online
discussion groups, and I hope to sponsor contests on my own author
Bethany House Publishers, WestBow Press and RiverOak Publishing
reviewed this manuscript at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer's
Conference this past April. RiverOak requested the full manuscript,
and Bethany House requested the proposal once it is further revised.
I have enclosed a synopsis, comparative title analysis, and the first
three chapters of this story in the body of this email. I can also
email a Microsoft Word document or Rich Text Format document if you
prefer. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
I am writing to inquire about Dorchester Publishing’s soon to be announced Inspirational Line. I have been writing contemporary inspirational romances for several years and would appreciate any information on guidelines.
Currently I have a completed 70 thousand word contemporary inspirational romance called A Place Called Home, which I hope you will be interested in. Nurse Annie Harris has returned to Tulsa to recover from a mission trip gone wrong—home to Sullivan Ranch, Will Sullivan and housekeeper Maggie O’Shea, the only family Annie has ever known. Rancher Will Sullivan is dealing with the fifty-fifty odds he may have Huntington’s disease. Annie and Will begin a journey of learning to face the future and trusting God s unconditional love .
As a former RN, I lived seventeen years in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have been writing for several years and have sold dozens of short romantic stories to Dorchester’s True Story, and True Love magazines. I am a member of RWA and several local chapters. This year I am a 2005 Golden Heart Finalist in the Inspirational Category. In 2004 A Place Called Home won first place in the 2004 Heart of the Rockies Contest and the Smoky Mountain Laurie. A Place Called Home is one of several completed inspirational manuscripts. I am currently working on the follow-up to this manuscript, called Promises to Keep, which is secondary character, veterinarian Ryan Jones’ story.
I am happy to send you a partial or the complete of A Place Called Home. Enclosed is a SASE for your convenience. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.