Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nail that Query!

Oh my stars!!! The Yank's here this morning, ready to talk queries with my village people buds. Visitors are ALWAYS welcome, because this is too important not to nail it down. Master the approach. Secure the fort. Man the torpedoes. Or something like that.

Anybody got cookies???? I'm in cookie deprivation mode.... Possibly desperate, which equates DANGER around here. Have cookie, will travel.

A query letter (or cover letter, they can be interchangeable) is CLUTCH for selling yourself and your personality. Without further ado, I'm posting my letter that finaled in the Peninsula Pitch contest in '07 and got me noticed over at Supers... And then I entered the same manuscript in OKRWA's Finally a Bride (LOVE YOU OKRWA!!!!) and caught Melissa Endlich's attention and my first of TEN books in two years and four months.

Where would I be if I hadn't written a query letter that snagged the judge's attention in that contest? Maybe still decorating cakes at Tops Market... Not that there's anything wrong with that, but this... this writing gig... this is my dream. And I'm lovin' it!  Please note that all of my personal contact information would be located in a "HEADER" at the top of the page, allowing me more room to 'sell' my story.

That query letter (for the Peninsula Pitch contest) wound up as "Winter's End", Love Inspired, 3/10
Melissa Endlich, Senior Editor
Love Inspired Books, Harlequin Enterprises
233 Broadway, Suite 1001
New York, NY  10279

She’s savvy, stylish and saucy, trying to bury a past that haunts the present. He wants settled and sedate, no surprises, while he deals with a present dictated by the past. In the world of mathematics, two negatives can become a positive. Could that theory apply to real life?

Marc DeHollander knows what he wants in a woman. Still angry over his fashion-savvy mother’s desertion, the rugged cattle rancher faces his father’s terminal illness determined to avoid the older man’s mistakes. A high maintenance woman?  No thanks. Too much work. Marc’s short list of desirable qualities? Sound and sensible, all the way.


Toughened by childhood scars, hospice nurse Kayla Doherty exudes the burnished image of today’s woman, sacrificing time and comfort to achieve her goals. While she lives in a cheap, chilled third story walk-up, Kayla’s not afraid to invest in great clothes. Image conscious, she strives to erase traces of the orphaned, indigent hooker’s child she’d once been. Faithful and fiery, the take-charge nurse stands her ground when necessary. And with Marc DeHollander’s gruff attitude, it proves necessary on a regular basis, despite his good looks and heart-stopping smile. Luckily, Kayla has no plans to stay in the frozen tundra of northern New York any longer than her contract demands.

When Kayla steamrolls into their lives as a hospice coordinator for Marc’s dying father, Marc wages a battle against his growing feelings. The styling nurse has “Destination: Anywhere Else” imbedded on her pixie-pretty face, and her annoying faith pricks Marc like the sting of spring nettles. The last thing Marc needs is a woman who can’t handle the rigors of a North Country farm, and he sure isn’t looking for salvation at some cozy, country church. Been there, done that. Didn’t work.

And when Marc finally glimpses the guilt-ridden girl lurking beneath the well-appointed image, he realizes what Kayla knew all along: they carry too much baggage to be good for one another. Neither dares risk the pain of a broken home, a broken heart.

But life has a funny way of turning things around when you least expect it. Like Dorothy in Oz, Kayla comes to realize that Seeking the Garden in warmer climes doesn’t quite cut it when the man you love is five states north. Just maybe her happiness lies in her own back yard after all.

Complete at 61,000 words, I think Seeking the Garden would be a lovely fit for Love Inspired.


Ruth Logan Herne

Okay, that's the example. No, I didn't include a lot of stuff about me because you know what? Editors get inundated with people who flaunt their degrees, credentials, memberships, etc.  I used every bit of space to sell the book. And it worked. 

ALSO:  You can include a BIO with your proposal/query. If they love your query, they'll read the bio sheet. If not, then that's okay, the bio sheet will not sell a thing but it doesn't hurt anything either.

So if I'm sending in a proposal (3 chapters, synopsis, cover letter) I would feel fine about SELLING the book in the cover letter and selling ME in the bio.

First things first, right? If they don't care about your writing, they won't care a whole lot about what you've done, where you've gone, who you have coffee with. (Unless it's me, of cousrs. Most editors LOVE knowing you're having coffee with me, it's a curse, I know.... :)

Here's the letter I sent to our recent query letter finalists for our impromptu query contest in October, and huge congrats and thank yous to all who entered... it takes GUTS to enter a contest and we know you lose 100% of the contests you don't enter, but I was thrilled to have 25 entries in the fairly spontaneous query contest. And that's how you've got to be in this biz... Ready to take a chance, deliver the goods!

Here's the letter I promised before I started rambling (again!):

Finalists, congratulations from Seekerville!

First, let me say that we had a nice bunch of entries and your work stood out from the pack. But, (and yes this is because I’m bossy and I want the best possible chance for you to grab Love Inspired’s and Melissa’s attention)…

A little polish never hurts. 

1.     Make sure you have a faith thread evident because you’re targeting an inspirational line. It doesn’t have to be much, but an indication of faith growth is just plain smart

2.      Be concise. Be direct. Use words sparingly. But use all of your space.  You may use your name, address, e-mail, phone, etc. You are no longer anonymous. You are an author seeking publication. I use my “header” space for all of that so that I have more lines to sell my story.

3.       You can use the Harlequin business address, or not, your choice:  Harlequin Enterprises, 233 Broadway,  Suite 1001, New York, NY 10279 

4.       I love queries that start out with that “elevator pitch”, that one-or-two line description of your conflict, your story, i.e.:  A bad boy teen, Matt Cavanaugh’s grown-up goal was strength. Honor. Integrity. Faith. It would test all of the above to give up the woman of his dreams.

5.       Give your personal information in your final paragraph and feel free to be brief. Remember, an editor may not care that you finaled in 27 contests, but that you finaled in the Maggie or the Golden Heart. Allude to them, but don’t necessarily name them.

6.       Sell yourself with ease. This is your shot. Aim and shoot. (Can you tell it’s hunting season in WNY?)

The Seekers long for your success. We’d like nothing better than to have ALL OF YOU get requests from Melissa. That shows we’re doing something right, and your success is a huge part of that to all of us.

Now here's some Ruthy-type advice: Make your query match your style. If you write sass, add some sauce to the query. If you write humor, make 'em smile. If you're writing deadly serious stories, don't be afraid to use statistics to back up your reasons for attacking a social issue. If you're writing suspense, add a line of two of tight, terse suspense:

Three hours. Less, maybe. And all he had was an area, not an address, and a small child whose oxygen must be running dangerously low. He glanced back at the e-mail, wanting, needing a clue. Something more, some...

His heart stopped. His breath froze. He stared at the smart phone display and realized the e-mail had come in on West Coast time. He was in Boston, a full three hours ahead, and that meant one thing: Leah Crosby's time had already run out.

A query or cover letter should be one page long.  Don't be fooled that if you S-T-R-E-T-C-H things out, you can make it better. Make it the best it can be in one page.

If they're interested, they'll know it then. And if they're not, why waste time? Yours or theirs? It's kinda like dating in your late twenties/early thirties: If he/she isn't THE ONE, let it go.

Sharp, tight, don't waste a word. Invest that editor or agent in your story. That's the best way to invest them in YOU, the author.

I brought the Keurig along so we've got a full pallette of coffee goodness!  Quick breakfast today because I'm working on a fun "tween" story for some of my young fans and I promised I'd get it done soon!  :)   (Yes, Vince, I'm priming the fans of tomorrow, today!)

Leave a comment and we'll tuck your name into a drawing for any one of my books, including the sold-out "Winter's End" and the not yet available "Yuletide Hearts".

Ruth Logan Herne is considered by some to be certifiable, and those folks are most likely correct, but as long as she has cookies, chocolate and coffee, she doesn't care all that much. She's holed up somewhere in the hills of WNY with too many dogs,cats and kids and a very famous rooster. She loves writing and coffee and has been known to combine the two with little or no negative effects. Her seventh Love Inspired novel "Yuletide Hearts" is available at now and will be in stores on November 23rd. 

And she wants you to know that Matt Cavanaugh, the hero of Yuletide Hearts is LIKE THE MOST AWESOMELY RIGHTEOUS GOOD GUY HERO THERE IS... and that you will most likely love, love, love this book because it's just plain beautiful.

The end.


  1. RUTHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Here's some cookies, dear friend! Just for you!

    Love the advice. Need to work on a query letter because my cover letters for the proposals I sent out weren't quite the same. Still have several weeks before the 'if you haven't heard from us by...' dates so need to get a query together and sent out to others.

    And a proposal for a different MS to an indie co...

    I can do the fun/sass/comedy in the MS. But I'm so stiff and formal in the query letters. Can't make it translate because it's a formal letter you know? Just like I call DD10's Kindergarten teacher Mrs. LASTNAME still. At least until yesterday when she 'yelled' at me on Facebook to call her by her given name ;). The formality is just ingrained too deep...

    And yes, Julie, dear, I did sit around refreshing the page on this one. Just because I could ;).

    A book would be wonderful, Ruthy dear! I think Winter's End because I can get the other one in a couple weeks :D.

    Love ya lady!!!

    carolmoncado at gmail dot com

  2. Ruth,
    I'm going to have to buy one of your books. Any article about query letters that can make me laugh proves a writing expertise that I need to experience!

  3. Ruthie, you already took care of the coffee! So here's a pot of tea and a cooler of Cokes.

    I finished Mended Hearts last night. Thaks you so much for making me a NICE gal.

    Can't wait to get hold of Yuletide Hearts.

    Query letters require sweat aqnd blood, but not to the degree of a synopsis. Nothing hurts like a synopsis.
    Hate'em, hate'em, hate'em.


  4. Boy, did I chop up the typing in that post! So bad. So sorry.

  5. I love your query letter, Ruthy! I'd buy your book in a heartbeat!

    I have a question, though. When I send a query to an editor, I want to sell the book. But when I send a query to a potential agent, am I trying to sell the book or myself? How do I go about writing THAT query letter, oh master of words and coffee, dogs, kids and cats?

    It's bedtime here in the west - I just finished my cup of warm milk (with plenty of sugar and vanilla), so it's definitely bedtime. See you in the morning!

  6. Ruthy, you always make me smile!

  7. Ruthy~ I'm here to soak up some of the amazing positive energy you exude. I place my hands on the monitor and soak it in by osmosis.

    I'm nowhere near needing a query letter, but it's never to early to learn. This one's going in my permanent reference file.

    I am so not surprised that you would put the focus on your story rather than yourself. I will say that, you'd have been a shoe-in with me either way.

    I'm leaving Peanut Butter Oreos next to the coffee pot. Dip the Oreos in the coffee...better than milk (but only the PB kind, regular Oreos must have milk, and only milk. Period.)

    I'm in for a book. I recently won Winter's End and am patiently (or not) awaiting its arrival in my giant mailbox. But Waiting Out the Storm or Mended Hearts would make my day.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  8. Wow, this post looked familiar!

    You know what I noticed as I was tweaking my query for resubmission?

    I noticed that you give internal/ external conflicts in such a way that I didn't even catch it the first two times I read it. I just thought it sounded like a fun story. Now THAT'S talent. It's easy to write 'the problem is' and 'he thinks but she thinks' (talk about YAWN.)
    But your query gives us the whole story structure, the bones of the plot, in a way that makes the characters real.

    I think I won a query critique 'back in the day' with Tina. I sent her 5 paragraphs of random story tidbits, in the form of a query. (Understand, I had even followed query guides on the internet!) She sent me her query for a book... about 3 paras that made actual SENSE. I think it took me another four e-mails to get it to where she said 'now that's a query'!

    When I sent THAT version around, I got some actual responses. :D

  9. Ha, Andrea! I could just see you with your hands on the screen. :D

  10. I'm wracking my brain for a comment. Nope, sat here for three minutes and nothing came. I would love a chance at either book.

  11. Carol, good morning! Thank you for the cookies and loving the advice... And formal is okay, but formal with PIZZAZZ is better. Anything (as long as it's not stupid or stalker-like) that sets you apart from the pack in a positive way ROCKS.

    MARGI, better yet, buy ALL OF MY BOOKS and you'll be so happy and ready to conquer the stupid dragons of life that you'll send me cookies and I'll eat them. Win/win, totally! ;)

    HELEN, I love your role in Mended Hearts. You're such a hoot in print and in person! And your granddaughter Meredith gets a book of her own come July, so you get to be in a couple of more books! ;)

  12. Helen, it took me a long time to not hate synopses. Mostly when I could stop using an artificial limit of five pages, etc.

    Mine are long, but they're a good story explanation (once I get to 20K Vince!!!!)

    I start with character backstory and analysis. Why they are who they are. That might go on for two or three pages...

    Then I start at the book's beginning and just give a scene by scene breakdown. they usually end up between 14 and 18 pages long in Courier, longer in Times.

    But that way I don't feel like I'm missing an important element. And if the synopsis feels flat, I can beef it up.

    But the most important thing we've all learned at conferences, is to nail that books opening. The first chapter, the first scene, the first paragraph. Many agents and editors will tell you if they don't like the FIRST PARAGRAPH, it's a "No"....

    While that stings, it behooves us to listen to what they're saying and try to grab 'em in. Then hold 'em tight.

    Yeee haw, sounds like a rodeo here!

  13. Andrea, I am so far behind on my mailing!!!! I'm glad you brought that up because I'm going to get on that Sooon..... Reallll Sooooonnnn....

    I blame Beth for having that baby. But Xavier is such a cute kid, such an adorable little boy, and I just love him to pieces... so I should like, put him DOWN and mail stuff, right???? Dagnabbit!

    (It is always easier to blame the other guy, make note) AND.... moving my office up to the bigger room in the attic.... With a country valance. So cute, it tends my soul. How can a simple curtain do that????

    I found my box of prizes that went missing, many spiders, and a Genesis pin from back in the day.

    And I'm not going to mention the KNOWN DECEASED rodent behind a wall that I haven't crawled back in the DARK to excise.... If this were an episode of BONES, I'd have to say he/she died in 2010...

    But the room is almost done! And a mailing station/desk/cabinet set up!

    (that doesn't mean I'll get to things quicker, it just means I'll be more organized when I do it...)


  14. Jan, I'd do it the same way. You'd be including a bio sheet and you'll have all the factual info about you on that, right?

    Oh, I should have mentioned that....

    Going in to change this now and mention that for everyone who thinks "But how will they know who I am??? What I've done????" And you're absolutely right, that's important, but never, ever, ever as important as drawing them in with your good writing and personality.

    Both of which you have in droves, my friend!

    So add in a two paragraph bio on a separate sheet of paper, with or without a picture, doesn't matter. And once you're agented, your agent will be writing these letters so it's a TEMPORARY skill builder but so important.

    CHRISTINA...You just make me smile clean down to my toes, woman! ;)

  15. Okay, I mentioned the Bio sheet alternative in the post now, Jan, thank you for reminding me of that!

    Now, is this the way everyone does it?

    Don't know.

    Don't care.

    All I know is it WORKED... It snagged attention and drew them to my work. Now I'm not naysaying God in this because he plunked me right in the middle of the whole thing and said, "Go for it."

    I just love God. He's sooo... God.

  16. VIRGINIA, congrats on finaling! Yes, you've seen this before, and it's such an important (I know, I'm stressing that because it's true, true, true!) piece of the "Grab Me" puzzle.

    Thank you for your compliments on that letter. Like when TEEEEEENA dared me to write a killer five pages to enter Great Beginnings and possibly win conference money to RWA... (I finaled but didn't win and stayed home but I came close and that was sweet!)

    And I wrote five sweet pages about a love lost, then shredded them and wrote five KICK BUTT pages that finaled... And then had to write the rest of the book because they asked for a full and not the 3 chapters I had done. GULP... But that's how the letter should be, kick-butt use-every-word-emotion-visual you can for effect.

    I'm so glad you liked it! Thank you!!!!

  17. Mary Cline is about the cutest thing ever and honey, you can comment about nothing anytime. Or just hang out and drink coffee.

    Pumpkin spice latte, anyone????

  18. HI Ruthy :)

    Loved this posting...I always learn so much from you and your Seeker friends.

    Have a great day.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  19. I would so love to read your latest. I have all your other books although the previous two I still need to read.
    Now if a querry letter was like an application this would be the perfect post for me.
    It is interesting reading the queries.
    plumber update yet again they didn't come so still know shower. thank goodness for neighbours!

  20. Karen, good morning to you! We amim to please, Sugar-beans! ;)

    And Jenny, ugh. I hate plumbing and electrical problems. And car problems. And computer problems.

    I'm good with KID problems.

    Not so much with mechanics!!! Tell your neighbors all of Seekerville appreciates their thoughtfulness.

    (laughing in upstate!)

  21. Great advice from someone who's been in those trenches! I'm not a baker, but I brought a nice assortment of k-cups for the Keurig.

    The only catch is, you all have to SHARE ;)

  22. Mia, we'll share! And I'm grabbing a Gloria Jean's Butter Toffee with caramel creamer....

    Great second cup!

  23. As always great advice and wisdom, Ruthy!!

    You mentioned about attaching a bio sheet instead of including all your information in the body of the letter. However, would this sheet be accepted if their guidline specifies: letter, synopsis, # of chapters?

    Would love a copy of Matt's book! He's a Marine isn't he? Who wouldn't love that?!


  24. Great post, Ruthy! Query letter writing is indeed an art form!

    I agree nailing that 1-line "grabber" sentence at the beginning is so important. And to keep the mini-synopsis stream-lined and coherent. Only a short paragraph or three. You don't want to ramble and confuse the editor with characters and situations that aren't necessary.

    As you mentioned, it's important to at least hint at a faith thread when approaching inspirational editors--and to remember that fiction is characters in conflict. Make the book-length conflict concise and clear so editors don't have to guess what's keeping your hero and heroine apart.

    And you're so right--use the flavor and voice of the story in your query to give an editor a taste of what she'll later be reading in your proposal.

    Editors and agents read THOUSANDS of queries every year, so make yours stand out by its superior quality. Capture their attention in the first line and keep them hooked and wanting to see more.

  25. Thanks for posting this, Ruthy! I have a mental block and dire dread of query letters and have never been able to tackle one. Now that I've seen yours I have a better idea of what a query letter actually is. Had no idea you could include so much about the story in it! I'll be using this blog post as a model when I'm ready.

    Please don't enter me in the draw because I have all your books to date and Yuletide Hearts is winging its way to me as we blog. I can't wait to read it!!!!

  26. This advice is golden, Ruthy, and you are peachy-sweet to help out those in query mode!!! Great post, and one I will refer people to in the future, I have no doubt! Sending some Southern love to you, Yank!!!

  27. Great timing Ruthy! I'm writing a query letter today. I just finished my synopsis. Hate to write those things but reading it makes me excited about my book. It's a really, really good story. Now to convince the editor.

    Great idea about making more space with a header! By the time you put your address and the publishers the standard way you've used have the page,well maybe a third... too much anyhow.

  28. Fun post, Ruthy! I so appreciate your suggestions and including samples of letters that have gotten you noticed. As a relative newbie, I need all the help I can get. :)

    Since cookies are your best friend, Ruthy, I'm leaving chocolate, chocolate chunk cookies--20 oz of chocolate and 2/3 cups flour, if that give you an indication of the chocolate factor.

  29. Ruthy, wonderful, wonderful advice on writing an attention grabbing query letter! This is print worthy and everyone wanting to sell should follow your savvy advice!

    Let me interject my two cents. Use that query as a cover letter and send the proposal--three chapters and synopsis--with it. What editor could resist looking at the opening of your story, especially if the cover letter grabbed them? Query letters as good as Ruthy's would no doubt get a request but why take the chance? The only time I wouldn't send the entire proposal is if the guidelines spell out queries only. Love Inspired accepts unsolicited proposals. That doesn't mean your query/cover letter isn't important. It's what they'll read first. It's the first impression. Do what Ruthy says and make it strong.


  30. Carol, no cookies for the rest of us???


  31. WAHOO Ruthy!

    Mayyyyy I Snoopy dance? Doing a tween book? Priming new readers! Be still my beating heart! YEE HAH! Can't wait. (Would love to have heard the Ruthy/Vince conversation on that one!)

    Of all the Ruthy advice today - this is the bestest. It's kinda like dating in your late twenties/early thirties: If he/she isn't THE ONE, let it go.

    LOVE it! Should be true any time but it seems we have to get some experience before we click to the concept. WTG!

    Have a happy day (like I need to tell you this...)

  32. Ruthy always has great advice! Don't let your query letter stand in the way of your fabulous writing!!

  33. Super-super-SUPER query advice, Ruthy! Right on target!

    Some of the hardest work a writer will ever do is condensing the story into a one-page synopsis. Even harder is making it catchy and readable, so much more than a dry "she did this, he did that" summary. As you so beautifully pointed out, that's where the author's voice and style come into play.

    Thanks for sharing these spot-on tips with our Seekervillagers!

  34. Kirsten, there are rules????


    A short bio sheet is always acceptable. Especially if you DAZZLE THEM WITH YOUR WRITING....


    So dazzle, first, then go for the gold with the letter. But I don't know an editor or agent who would be affronted by a short bio sheet. Not one of those two page yawners....

    Like the writing award you won in third grade...


    And yes, Matt's a marine... A tough, no-nonsense, get 'er done guy with a sense of humor... :)

    I love a man that makes me smile! And did I mention he's Hispanic/Celtic mix, total hottie.

    Go here:


    Matt's the totally cute bad boy at the bottom of the page. Maybe I should have just put him in the post because Eddie Ramos is that hot... I'm so not kidding...


    You had me on the first line for SO many reasons -- 1.) Alliteration -- ALWAYS pulls me right in, 2.) The play on words (the word past, brilliantly done, by the way!), 3.)Rhythm and flow that lend to the story and the writer with short, no-nonsense sentences that give a glimpse of your humor and snark, 4.) In just a very few words, I suddenly KNOW both of these characters as if I had already read the book and I want to know MORE!! AND 5.) Your letter is unconventional and different from any query I've ever seen, which WORKS and shows the editor you are creative, clever and confident. :) Hard to convey that in one page and do everything else you have to do too, so MAJOR KUDOS on a truly exceptional query.


  36. CAROL SAID: "And yes, Julie, dear, I did sit around refreshing the page on this one. Just because I could ;)."

    I KNEW IT!!!! You can't put one past me, Moncado, even WITH a bribe of chocolate chip cookies!! Although they definitely don't hurt ... ;)


  37. YOWZA!!! Just visited the website and saw the pic of Matt!! Merry Christmas indeed. :o)

    Marines, God Bless 'em! And Happy Birthday to them today, as well, 236 years of The Few, The Proud!

    You're really cutting me off at the knees here, Ruthy, I already mentioned the winning Vacation Bible School essay I wrote. :o)


  38. Wow, Ruthy! You make a query letter almost as good as the book itself!

    That's a skill!

    Maybe it's my secretarial/office background, but mine keep coming out like a boring business letter. Way too formal.

    Although the last ones I sent out to agents were, I think, a bit more fun. We'll see soon enough, I suppose.

    Anyway, thanks for the advice! And the pumpkin latte sounds wonderful.

    P.S. LOVE the Yuletide cover! Would love to be in the drawing for it!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  39. Ooops, my bad, I said Eddie Ramos and it's actually Eddie Matos. My bad.

  40. Your book will be arriving at my house hopefully by the weekend and I am breaking my "save all Christmas LIs for after Thanksgiving" rule when the box comes. So there, you have turned me into a rule breaker. And, to be honest, I have a bit of the leaving Bali blues and need something to look forward to...

    So glad to see how this whole venture started letter wise. It is a skill all of us writers and readers can use in life.

    Peace and blessings, Julie

  41. Ruthy, your attic re-do sounds lovely!

    (Except your zombie-mouse, but we won't go there...)

    You didn't mention if the Keurig found a home in the new space, but I'm betting it did!

    Thanks for the words of query-wisdom! That will be the next writing project as soon as revisions are done :)

  42. Yum! Thanks for the coffee and cookies, but super dooper thanks for the query tips. Sad to admit, queries are big time challenging for me, so every little bit of good advice helps. Thank you!

  43. Love your query! I want to buy the book...wait, I have your book and loved reading every beautifully written word.

    Birthday lunch with a delightful 88 year old. I'll tell her the Seekers said hi!

    Back later...will bring birthday cake.

  44. Just finished Yuletide Hearts, Ruthy. I just loved it. Loved the HOME of it.


    Hero and Heroine building a home together, for others, (a housing development) but loving that home as if it were their own.

    Such a great Christmas story!!!

  45. Hi Ruth:

    You may be too modest.

    When I was flying we used to say that any landing you walk away from was a good one. So too any query letter that gets you a contract is also a good one.

    However, IMHO: You didn’t do “Winter’s End” justice!!!

    I would have liked to have seen more power in a query letter for a story as different and daring as “Winter’s End”. If not that story, what story?

    Here’s my opening passage:

    Will helping a man’s father die with dignity bridge the emotional wasteland between two conflicting world views? Can the power of love and the emergence of faith overcome decades of disappointment?

    Kayla’s and Mark’s love story stirs a whirlwind of the strongest human emotions. While a hospice nurse is not a typical heroine, this is not a typical romance.

    Kayla’s savvy, stylish and saucy,


    P.S. The cover art of “Yuletide Hearts” is even more impressive when you hold the book in your hands and it becomes real! Wow.

    I’m half done reading “Yuletide Hearts” and I must say that Matt is almost as wonderfully nice as Sterling is in “The Price of Victory” but Matt still has a way to go yet. (Actually 94 more pages.) ; )

  46. Since you mentioned cookies, I decided to bake some! :) Would love to win one of your books. Especially your new one!

  47. Thanks for the advice on the query letters, Ruthy. I'm not quite there yet, although I did put together a synopsis of my novel the other day and it was...uh, interesting.

    COOKIES! It's almost lunch time here in the Midwest so all this mention of cookies (Ruthy, Carol and Joy) and chocolate chunks (Jeanne T) are making me hungry!

    I'd love any of your books, although, like Andrea, I am waiting for one I won a while back (Mended Hearts). No pressure here, Ruthy. Although I do live in the same state as Connealy and we could gang up on you... :)

  48. It's a dirty job...but somebody had to do it. Thank you, Ruthy for this teaching tool that we all need.

  49. Ruth, thanks for the query advice! I appreciate your examples. :-)

    Printing this out now!
    Oh yes.

    Gotta funny story from this morning (because God new I really needed funny this morning - we moved my MIL to her new 'memory care' facility and it was emotionally tough)
    I have the back hatch up on my van to add more of my MIL's things and just leave it up so I won't have to fool with it with arms filled with the next load.
    Well, there are three elderly people watching every move I make from inside the facility - looking through the glass.
    When I walk back into the facility, one of the little old men says "You're rear ends sticking up"
    It took me five full seconds to figure out that he meant the back hatch of my van not...well the other type of rear end ;-)

    I'd worn my skinny jeans to keep that problem to a minimum.
    Thought you'd appreciate that story, Ruthy ;-)

    I love having a great example to go by for queries - and yours if FAB-U-Lous - not to mention the tips at the end.


  51. Gee whiz, Ruthy
    I probably need to print out your comments too!

  52. Now Kavvers, you know this might not be a typical letter, right, darling???

    (Is Grammar Queen around? 'Cause she might get her knickers in a twist, the way I shovel punctuation here and there.)

    But like so many of the gals have said, the predictable, boring, professional He said/She said, He wants/She wants are a dime a dozen.

    Dancing to a different drummer ROCKS! And thank you THIS MUCH for having all my books!!! Oh my stars that rocks totally and just makes me SMILE WITH MY BIG TEETH!!!!

    :) :) :) :)

    MELANIE...I'm peachy sweet??? Can you tell that to please? You know how critical she is!


    Jamie, congrats on being ready to send that baby in! Oh, honey, that rocks! And I love me some good stories.... Good for you!

    JEANNE T....Cookies? COOKIES???? GIMME!!!!! (picture blue, shaggy, hairy monster that does NOT PREFER veggies to cookies, no matter what current minds prevail!) THANK YOU!

    Lovin' the cookies and having you on board! And the ratio of chocolate to flour??? Is that for real? Because I'm all in.

  53. Janet, between Carol's cookies (yes, she likes me best, but hey??? What can I say?????)

    And.. Jeanne T.'s chocolate chunk cookies we'll have enough for an army. And I'm working on an army story now, and loving our blessed men and women in uniform.

    Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

    K.C., I'm glad you like that line! I used it in a version of Made to Order Family, and I love it. Great caution, great analogy!

  54. So Ruthy,
    I was in line at Walgreens this morning waiting to pay for important things like...Godiva dark chocolates and behind me was this CUTE police guy.

    I wanted to take his picture SOOOOO badly because he was definitely hero-material. Could he arrest me for just asking to take his picture? I wonder.... ;-)

  55. Jules, I would like to bottle your enthusiasm and just keep it for EVER... You make me smile with that unbridled attitude, that passion...

    You are a tempest of a friend but how fun it is to be counted as a friend!

    (When I'm not in the line of fire, of course.) :)

    KIRSTEN: go quickly and add in the cheerleading trophy you got in seventh grade, honey!!!!

    Oy. ;)

    Susan Anne, waving to you from across the pond!!! See me? On the yellow house???? Yes, yes!!! That one, that's me, girlfriend!!!

    I'm laughing because my first ones sounded formal too because I thought they had to be that way. Then someone (I think it was when I said I was entering the "Pitch" contest) said a letter should reflect your writing in some way.

    Duh. Duh. Duh.

    I think it was an ABA author who writes humor and snark and I realized that my letters were missing the depth of the story because they weren't evoking emotion. They were just tell, tell, tell...

    As soon as I incorporated emotion into them, wonderful things started happening.

    Of course the books weren't HORRIBLE by that time either, and that may have been a help. ;)

  56. Julie, thank you for ordering Matt and Callie's story.

    It's sweet. It's military. It's total hunka-guy wouldn't you just fall in love with him even way over Jason or Jon or Jacob or whoever the Twilight werewolfish type dude is.

    (Although I saw a commercial for that Twilight guy and he is mighty cute. And running without a shirt on??? So Romance Novel, right????)

    JAN... Keurig is still in kitchen. Down two floors. But that's okay because I probably won't WRITE in the office. I'll use it to organize me and pretend I have need for an office.

    Have I mentioned how much I love my Keurig today???? ;)

  57. Cindy, dear heart, you're welcome! ;)

    DEB, thank you! And enjoy your lunch, my friend. I am currently surrounded by babies but have two teens here helping me... conference day... no school for kids.... but teachers are working.

    Oy. Oy. Oy.



    Go see how fun this is!

  58. Aw, Mary, thank you! Should I go back and delete the comment where I made fun of you for making fun of me????

    OH WHY DIDN'T I WAIT??????? ;)

    Isn't it so stinkin' sweet????? I love it!

    VINCE... I'm so glad you love Winter's End, my friend. Me, too! And I like your approach real well. The query letter was originally for Superromance... so I kept it lighter, because Supers are traditionally a little lighter than Love Inspireds.

    BUT... I didn't win the contest (although it got me a request) so that's how I was able to enter Winter's End into the FAB where Melissa saw it.

    And I'm tickled pink with how it all worked out. Just delighted!

    And I'm so glad you like Yuletide Hearts... Matt Cavanaugh... be still my heart.

    'Sall I'm sayin'. ;)

  59. Joy, you're in my dear, and feel free to leave some cookies! I'll share!

  60. Stephanie.... Stephanie... Stephanie....

    Note to self: Mail books!


  61. Ruthy don't think of me as CRITICAL!!!
    Think of me as trying to save you from yourself.

    You're welcome.

  62. Back from school.

    More cookies for everyone.

    Should be writing. Head hurts instead. Too much /gasp/ school work while /shock/ at school.

    Gonna try though because tonight is shot and my uninterrupted 6 hours tomorrow has become an interrupted 5 hours and may have a 10yo at home too [poor thing - the excema we talked about a few weeks ago* and allergy/weather/something induced asthma type symptoms - had to take her nebulizer to school today and wanted to stay home but her musical deal is tonight and I had to work today anyway...]

    And I still need to write a query letter and get a proposal ready for an indie publisher [different MS than the one I've already done proposals for...]


    Off to work. I have triple chocolate cake left. And my adjunct office buddy brought me a pbj belated birthday muffin so I brought some to share as well.

    *Tina - tried the Jergens or whichever you recommended. It was... not pretty :(. Had to wipe it off as best I could and it will go nowhere near her again :(.

  63. Great post Ruthy!
    I love the cover on your book.

  64. Excellent query letter, Ruthy! No wonder it got noticed in the contest. And then landed you a sale!

    Great, fun post!! And you're right. Give that query letter some voice!

  65. Thanks for the advice, and congratulations!
    Love the cover, it's beautiful!

  66. I've not written a query letter yet, but boy, am I going to re-read this one before I do.

    Ruthy, that is so your voice, your novel voice, your blogging voice, your voice. It shines through. So that's lesson one.

    Then, I loved the way you sell your story, giving enough about the characters to interest the editor and make them care and enough about the story for them to want to read it. I wanted to.

    Definitely a letter to learn from. Thanks, Ruthy!

  67. I'm keeping a word doc open on my computer today - the original blog post is at the top, but comments that are especially helpful to me at this point in my writing are being pasted underneath - -

    Can hardly wait to print it out at the end of the day. I'll have to give it its own chapter in my notebook!

    by the way, I bought the ingredients for the Oreo Turkeys that you'll find at the Yankee Belle Cafe today - I just told the boys it was for a surprise for Thanksgiving. Now I have to hide them from myself...

  68. I bet that query letter knocked their socks off! They were probably ready to buy the book without even reading it. Thanks for showing us how it's done!

  69. Hey Ruthy, I just baked a whole batch of snickerdoodles (using my grandma's recipe and they are the BEST). I know others have brought you cookies also, but I also know you will never turn one down. LOL

    Thanks for the great tips on query.

    You so showed your writing style in the query.

    Did you all catch that, Seekerville? She did a great job of letting the editor see her writing style right off the bat. No wonder they asked for more. smile

  70. Ruthy!!! Great post! I'm going to have to go over my query letter again and make sure it's up to snuff.

    LOOOVVEE! It always thrills me when an author posts photos of their character inspiration and may I say you chose some very nice ones. ;) And the photo in the Allegany County slideshow with the dog riding in the old truck? Priceless.

    Okay, I'm heading over to the YankeeBelle now to look at the recipes I've missed since I was there. I'm craving something sweet, so I'm going to find that pie crust recipe you posted a while back.

  71. Pepper! I think I'm late in saying this, but the pirate hat = awesome!! :)

  72. Tina, well... I took one for the team, girlfriend.

    Hoisting a pumpkin spice in your honor! ;)

    Gwendolyn (great name... love it! And a girl named "Gwen" is my inspiration for Katie Bascomb, a key player in Yuletide Hearts and star of her own book in early 2013... Love my "Gwen", and you don't see too many of you guys around!) Thank you!

    PEPPER.... Oh, I can so see that. And the confusion. And your sweet Southern way of handling it all.

    How funny! And endearing. Memory Care facilities... I love that we're growing older, dying older, but I pray for a cure for that stupid, mind-robbing disease all the time. Go with God... Bless you all!

  73. Pepper.

    Have I taught you nothing????

    Act first.

    Beg forgiveness after.

    Really, must I do ALL the work????

  74. Carol, I've got two grandkids with eczema and our family joke is that if we bred the Golden Retrievers knowing they had a skin problem, we'd be BANNED by other breeders.

    I'm so glad Seth and Lacey aren't DOGS.

    Anyway, we've taken to non-action action. No creams, no anything, just letting them mostly tough it out. It was worse when they were young, and is milder now, but they still scratch themselves raw.

    But nothing worked. And who wants babies on tough meds like forever????

    Sorry, though, because it's not easy! And I've got a cure for a headache.

    Wait. I don't, I GIVE PEOPLE headaches. Remember that pic of me and the TEEENSTER in the Five-n-Diner in Tulsa????


    Have ibuprofen, will travel!

  75. RUTHY SAID: "You are a tempest of a friend."

    OH, WOW, I LOOOOVE THAT!! Can I steal it??? :)

    Right back at ya, girlfriend!!


  76. RUTHY SNARKED: "Pepper.Have I taught you nothing???? Act first. Beg forgiveness after. Really, must I do ALL the work????"

    ROTFLOL!!! Do you spare NO ONE??? I may be a "tempest," but you are a hoot! :)


  77. Janet Kerr, thank you!

    Missy, I'm so blessed to be working with all o' youse at Love Inspired. God knew what he was doing... Always does.



    Seriously, I was so thrilled when I saw it because it just looked like a shot of Angelica or Belmont or Wellsville, or Fillmore, so many of the sweet, small towns that dot Allegany County, NY. And it was no accident that brought me to those pretty mountain villages.... Gave me ideas for sweet stories.... Totally a Holy Spirit thing.

    And I never mess with the Holy Spirit, he's one tough dude. Total respect goin' on there!

  78. Patricia, your kind words touched my heart! Bless you for saying them.

    I mean, because otherwise you could say it like this, "Man! She always sounds the same, like a stinkin' broken record, over and over..."

    So I like your way much better!!!! :)

  79. Oh yeah,
    My dad says that, except his sounds like "Shoot first, ask forgiveness later"
    He would like Mary's books ;-)

    Did I mention he's a cop?

    I should have followed my instinct...though I DID get a really good picture in my head - and did the whole stalking until he drove off in his car thing ;-)

    Memory care is such a nice word for what comes next. We've been in the mild-mod phases of Alzheimers for the past 2-3 years - now it's getting into the mod-severe.
    I think (as tough as it's been) I'd prefer my grandparents way of meeting Jesus. Within the past year each one of them has taken 2-4 months from dx to Heaven.

    Professionally, the brain is fascinating
    Personally, the disease is excruciating.

    Thank the GOOD Lord, she's a sweet-natured lady, so she's sweetly forgetting us. There is a tender mercy in that.

  80. Natalie,
    Thanks. I procured it from Captain Jack.


  81. Oh Ruthy---your posts are ALWAYS so energizing (doesn't matter what you're posting about--it's still energizing because it's YOU!). Thank you so much for sharing a winning example of a query---WOW! ~ And I LOVE the cover of Yuletide Hearts--so beautiful. So glad your writing career is going great! ~ Here's some Pecan Praline cookies (yes, they're very sweet, but great for energy). ~ Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  82. Jules,
    I'm all for tough love.
    I can handle Ruthy ;-)

    If you ever meet my dad, you'll understand why I can handle Ruthy JUST fine ;-)

  83. Mmm... I have Winter's end, but you can throw me in the drawing for your Yuletide. :D

    Interesting concept on your cover letter. What if the agent/editor has specific things they want to see on the cover letter/query? What then?

  84. Jan! That is an excellent way of doing things. I've done that before because often the comments tweak a spark of something that just gets my brain working.

    VINCE is often guilty of that, LOL!

    Donna, thank you!!! Will you be my new BFF???? I seem to lose them from time to time. I'm sure it's THEM. ;)

  85. Sandra, you are too kind as always, my friend.

    But I think it was a good move, to let "me" show through, especially in a contest setting.

    But now I do the same thing because I think it sets the tone for a Ruthy-package.

    And seriously, what people get is me... there is only one, and I have no pretense. Do you know that SCARES some folks?

    Silly people. ;)

  86. HI Ruth,
    What a great and helpful post! Thanks for the tips and reminders. Your new book looks like a great read.


  87. Thank you for the query letter advice, Ruthie, and your example of the one that got you noticed. Like Susan's letter mine were too busines like. But practice has made them less dry and wooden. It really is an art form. In the past an agent wrote that she'd see a partial based on the strength of my query letter. Nothing came of it. As vital as strong writing is in the query if it's not exceptional in the novel, there will are no takers. I'm so happy for all your success, Ruthie. You're an inspiration.

  88. Oh my, I absolutely love the cover of Yuletide Hearts Ruthy! I love books about Christmas and since my birthday is two days before the release date I may be able to convince my dear husband to give me a 'belated gift'. :) Thank you for the chance to win a copy and for the great post. I always learn so very much from ya'll!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  89. Donna, thank you!!! Will you be my new BFF???? I seem to lose them from time to time. I'm sure it's THEM. ;)

    I thought we were already BFFs! (And it's definitely THEM.)

  90. I wish I had success writing query letters. I've written a few recently. No luck so far.

    I don't have cookies either, but I do have leftover Halloween candy.

    I also make a mean chocolate chess pie. :-)

  91. You know I think rejection from a querry letter is like a rejection from a job application. Both writers have something in common we dont give up.

    on the plumbing side I know have a useable shower and bath. (still have to have the taps fixed thats next week, electrician still has to come but for now an extention cord is working)

  92. Ruthy- awesome post as always. Seekerville always has the best advice, info, and writers.

    My critique partner made the comment that I must have a "knack" for writing query letters. I told her, "I don't think so." I just created a universal back cover blurb and I've used that thing to create queries, blurbs, one liners, etc.

    I've found that if you spend precious time creating a polished 200-300 word blurb, it will save you lots of time down the road. Not that it makes those queries any easier, but it does give a polished jumping off place to begin.

    I understand the cookie cravings. Got any peanut butter cookies? Soft ones, of course.

    And, I would love to read Yuletide Hearts. Your hero definitely sounds yummy.

  93. Natalie, I love Pepper's hat, too.

    And huge thank yous for loving

    Aren't the boys adorable???? ;)

    Jules, I love that I amuse you, but I still want ONE EVENING alone with Amy...

    Amy and I need to talk. Have an old-fashioned heart-to-heart. ;)

    And picking on Pepper is FUN. And the more I pick on her, the faster she writes and works to FINISH THE BOOKS....

    Write. Write. Write.

    Finish. Finish. Finish.

    I know. I'm boring myself. :)

  94. Ruthy, What if the agent/editor has specific things they want to see on the cover letter/query? What then?

  95. I would love to win Yuletide Hearts!!! Have read all your other books and loved them. I looked for YH when shopping today, but too said
    23rd!??? Please count me in! Thanks!!

  96. Pepper. Bless her. Bless you.

    I will still make fun of you.

    But I'll pray, too.

    And then I'll make fun of you some more. Publicly.

    Because that's how MUCH I CARE...


    Pecan pralines??? PECAN PRALINES????? Patti Jo, how did you know I LOVE these things and it's late and I'm tired and oh....

    Gimme. I'll be polite later. Or tomorrow. Soon. I promise!!!

    :) THANK YOU!!!!!

  97. Can one commandeer a hat?
    Just curious.
    It sounds so much better to say "I've commandeered a hat."

  98. Pepper's dad and I would get along just fine.

    Because we'd talk about Pepper. And shake our collective heads.

    Lyndee, thank you! I think it is a good read.... and I've been talking way too much about Matt, and we should be talking about Callie... our heroine.... so tough and hard-working and let me just say:


    Now that's a major league turn on for a construction guy. :)

  99. Linette, that's a great question.

    Most want you to touch the basics, but I always went to their website and then modeled after what they wanted but in my style (late in the game. Before that it was plain, ordinary, yawn-filled query/cover letters)

    So this was after YEARS of trying the norm. Then I went outside the norm, but just in style. If you look, all the info they ask for is there. The faith thread, the emotion, the length, the take-away. But I livened it up with sass, because it was really hard to sell a book centered around a death bed without the sass. It sounded too morose. Dark. Heavy. But just telling an editor or agent the story didn't let them feel it...

    This style of letter did.

  100. I love Donna.

    That's all I'm sayin'... ;)

    Cindy, hey! You're so stinkin' cute! I'm glad you like my cover. Me, too. I could just sit here and look at it and play Breath of Heaven or TSO or the Muppet Christmas Carol music....

    "It's in the singing of a street corner choir!

    It's going home and getting warm by the fire!"

    I love the little mice best: "No cheeses for us Meeces!"

    That's how happy I am about that cover. ;)

    Pat Jeanne, you made a great point. The query is a beginning, the top bread of the sandwich. But the meat has to be the best cold cuts of beef and ham possible, and that's our story, right?

    Like Julie I learned to hammer away at contests, proposals, switching genres. I knew that God and I were on the same track. I wasn't sure about anyone else, but it all worked out just fine.

    Stick with it. Really. Truly. That's the ticket.

  101. Jenny, yayayayay! Glad it's on the upswing, girlfriend!


    I bought your book today at Amazon!


    I'm so proud of you I could bust! (that would be messy)

    But, dude, good job on that! I'm delighted to have it in my database!

  102. Dianna, I couldn't agree more. And sometimes I create them as I'm writing the book, sometimes it just comes to me then.

    But yeah, having that blurb in mind makes referencing the book to others so much easier. I'm willing to do a lot of stuff to make my life easier.

    Easy-peasy is my new favorite phrase!

  103. PEP SAID: "I'm all for tough love.
    I can handle Ruthy ;-)

    Okay, kid, you're on your own then, but uh ... can you you help me "handle" her, please???

    RUTHY SAID: "Jules, I love that I amuse you, but I still want ONE EVENING alone with Amy... Amy and I need to talk. Have an old-fashioned heart-to-heart. ;)"

    Ain't NO WAY IN HECK I'm letting my daughter near you, girlfriend -- too much at stake! ;)


  104. Carol, I just read the eczema issue!! My second daught had terrible issues with that and we used Aquaphor with great results. It's clear, no dyes or perfumes, almost like vaseline but purer. She's also got a problem with polyester or fake fleece, which we didn't understand for a few years, so every winter the fake fleece would come out and she'd be in pain!!

  105. Oh, Pepper. I'm so sorry.

    I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer's and it was heartbreaking. Again, she was a sweet woman and she spent lots of time caressing a stuffed kitten toy. But she didn't know me at the end. I still talk to her... usually while I'm doing dishes or the hubby is aggravating me.

    She was a go-getter at a time women were NOT encouraged to be, a chemist who graduated the only girl, at the top of her class in 1935. She was my grandfather's chemistry professor when he went to veterinary school. *cough cough* So, also a bit of an age difference!

    I alsways wanted to name a baby for her but she HATED her name and said she'd never forgive me. :) So, I named my last HEROINE after her.

  106. Wait, what?? Walt's book is out??

    Now I have to go find it!

  107. Virginia,
    It sounds like your grandmother's story would be a fantastic one to tell some day.

    It also sounds like she truly was the heroine of her own life.

    I had a grandmother like that too :-)

  108. Ruthy, thank you!!! I hope you enjoy it!!! I'm still blown away by seeing my name on a book cover.

  109. Virginia, it's a novella and it's part of a Christmas anthology called "Hot Cocoa for the Heart." It was published by Highland Press. There are five authors. It's not yet available for Nook, but is avaialble for Kindle. It's also available in PB from both B&N and Amazon.

  110. Ruthy...THANK YOU!! I've been trying to figure out what a query letter was without feeling like a total idiot! lol Now I know what it is...and some great tips on how to write one! : ) I guess I could've left out the part that I didn't know what it was...but, hey, I'm honest like that. I'd love a chance to read one of your books! Blessings~Stacey

  111. Walt! I found you on Amazon! Congratulations!

  112. Though long winded and very witty, my friend, your advice is right on.

    Write tight. Very tight. Make every word count. Wisdom oozes out of your pores, Ruthy. Is it the WNY water? No, probably a very special blend of Keurig cup. LOL!

    I, for one, am revisiting my queries, cover letters and short synopsises.

    Cut. Cut. Cut.

    But leave the personality. Oy Vay! You just don't make life easy, huh?

    Great advice, sweet stuff. So glad you shared : )

  113. Alzheimers is so tough. So little dignity. Dave's dad (as a lot of you know) has it and you know the road we're traveling.

    We'll pray for all. Dagnabbit.

    Virginia, I love that Grandma story. What a great historical that would make as long as her university NEVER FINDS OUT that she was wooing a student.

    Shh. I won't tell! ;)

    Audra, you're so funny. And I suppose the straight to-the-point boring letters are OKAY, TOO....

    But I like mine better. At least my way they can never say, "We didn't know what we were doing when we bought her!!!!"

    God bless Melissa Endlich. She knew...

    And offered the contract anyway. ;)

    STACEY, that's not dumb at all. And you can google them and lots of people have examples on websites but isn't it more fun to eat cookies and talk about it here????

    I mean, pshaw!

  114. What a breath of fresh air!!

    I like the new, savvy, hard-driven approach you have suggested. It's a winner in my book!!!

  115. Mmm, I actually just ate some cookies. Lovely cover and GREAT advice. Mastering a query is hard work but worth it. Thanks, Ruthy!

  116. Cool! Okay. This is another post going in my writer's info file! I need to examine this closely and see how I can use this technique for mine. Thanks for sharing, Ruthy!

  117. Thank you for for posting your query letter. I'm really grateful. I don't have a good grasp on the query letter so I appreciate all the help i can get. I read this book and loved it but I could recognize it form the letter

    Glenda Parker