The Query Letter

As promised, I read about query letters in several sources this week. Here’s what I learned. All in one place.

Note: you can send a query letter in an email -OR- standard letter. Put QUERY in the subject line, if using an email.

Use a professional font. Nothing quirky. No color. No cartoons or pictures. Your writing—and only your writing—should be used to make your query stand out amongst others. 

Include your personal contact information in a header (if using a standard letter) or at the end (if submitting by email).

Create a strong hook and place it in the first sentence of the first paragraph. Its purpose is to get the reader’s attention and inspire them to keep reading. 

This should be followed by a synopsis, or overview of the storyline or main points and key elements of your book. This may include setting, characters, style, and genre.

The synopsis should be followed by the addition of your credentials: List your published works, including publications, websites, short stories, and so on. If you have educational achievements, add those, also—especially if your book and your achievements are related. 

Close your letter with a statement of gratitude for the person taking the time to read your letter. 

A physical letter should have a place for your signature.

Suggestions: Address to a specific agent and use the agent’s name throughout (not: Dear Agent). Use block formatting. Double-space between paragraphs; single space within. Left-justify. 12 point.

Use your real name, even if you publish under a pen name.

Hope this is enough to get you started, but not so much as to be overwhelming! 

Join Me

I know very little about writing query letters.

Mostly because my books have all been self-published.

However, now that these are “under my belt” as my father would say, I am considering traditional publishing. 

So, for the next few weeks, I will be doing a bit of research—and sharing what I discover about query letters on this blog.

Starting with the basic definition, a query letter is a written or printed communication addressed to a person or organization, asking a question about their potential interest in your book or book idea. 

A successful query letter should intrigue literary agents who will then want to see more: book synopsis, book proposal, sample chapters, and/or your complete manuscript.

A query letter must contain certain information, and of a specific length, and so on.

So, I invite you to learn about query letters along with me. I’ll do the research and present it as simply as possible.

Until next week.

A Mistake I Almost Made

I had a problem. I needed to wrap up the Novella I was writing this week—and I had only five hundred more words at my disposal.

I knew I couldn’t include much dialog or description. I had to keep to the basics and weave everything into a satisfying ending for my readers. 

An hour later, I felt pretty smug at having pulled it off with a four hundred ninety-nine word count.

Until I read it back to myself.

And there it was. I noticed it right away.

The big “T.”

Telling.

Even though everything I wanted to say was included, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as it could have been. I felt like a newscaster, not an author.

Show—Don’t Tell is a beautiful thing. The reader can see, touch, hear, and see a story. 

As good as a movie. Often better.

A rewrite was in order and I found a creative way to use my five hundred words and “show” readers a great ending.

My “almost mistake” taught me a valuable lesson, so I’m simply passing it on to you.

Guiltless Writing

I remember when I started writing, I was surprised to learn there were so many rules I needed to learn—and follow. 

Show, don’t tell.

Do not use adverbs in your writing.

Don’t use cliches. 

Write a certain number of words per day to be successful.

And on and on.

But, I was also told something else: After you learn to follow the rules effectively and become successful, you may pretty much throw the rules away and write however you please. 

The truth is, I think when we find ourselves “eligible” to abandon the rules, we will want to keep them because they make our writing better.

But like I told my critique group yesterday, I will rejoice when the rule about using minimal adverbs in writing is no longer required. 

I can’t help it. I love those -ly words…

Lovely, slowly, carefully, brilliantly, passionately, and so on.

Oh, how I long to use them in my writing without feeling guilty!

Check These Out

The idea behind a writing community is writers writing together, helping each other, whether through courses, retreats, podcasts, social media, and so on.

Have you considered joining a writing community?

There are quite a few and I’d recommend you join one or two. They furnish lots of good information authors need to know, keep you up to date on new trends and “helps”, and get you in touch with others who write in your same genre.

Here are some to check out:

  1. A Writer’s Path
  2. Chronicles
  3. NaNoWriMo
  4. Alessandra Torre Ink
  5. Fiction Writing
  6. YeahWrite
  7. WritersCafe.org
  8. She Writes
  9. Insecure Writer’s Support Group
  10. Writing.com
  11. Association of Ghostwriters
  12. Faith Writers
  13. The Masters Review
  14. Storywrite

When A Book is Made Into A Movie

Have grand hopes that your book may someday be made into a movie? That millions of viewers will see your words come to life on the big screen?

It could happen, you know.

And it might be an exciting experience—or it may not.

I watched a movie a few weeks ago that held such promise. However, the author sold his/her rights to the motion picture studio and was not involved in the making of the movie.

I was shocked to see that—although the basic plot was intact—the details of the movie were very different than the book. So much so that it changed a rating from PG-13 to something I was embarrassed to watch.

My heart still aches for the author. So, beware and learn from his/her “mistake.” Get legal representation and have your attorney insert a clause or two delineating that you want to see the script and even be present at the shooting. 

After all, it is your copyrighted work. Refuse to let it be changed into something other than you intended.

Don’t sell out for fame. You just might end up embarrassed to see your name in lights.

Applause!

A review is to a writer as applause is to an actor.

And after you’ve spent a week or so of your free time reading a book, you deserve to have your say—in the form of a review.

If you’re reading on a Kindle or any other tablet, there’s an opportunity at the end for you to do just that. The review space is short and limited to a certain number of words.

I recommend using the standard critique method likened to a sandwich. You’ve heard it before: say something positive (akin to an applause), then use a sentence or two to explain any negatives, ending with another positive comment.

Now, reward the author with the appropriate number of gold stars and you’re done.

It’s easy—and super-convenient if you’re reading an ebook. But if you have just finished reading a physical copy, the simplest and quickest way to write a review is to go on Amazon or Goodreads, type in the author’s name, scroll through their listing of books, and click on the one you just finished reading. At the bottom of the screen for that book, there is a place to write a review and also read those others have already written.

Rankings on Amazon and the internet depend on reviews. They are coveted and appreciated by authors. If you have received a free e-book from Book Bub or one of the others, I like to think of a review as a thank you to the author for the free copy.

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Revise, Reprint, or Second Edition?

I am currently building a new website. Compared to my current ones, it will be organized differently, have updated pictures, and contain more up to date information.

As I worked on it this week, I asked myself if my first book might do with a little revamping, I sought the internet to give me the definitions of reprint, revise, and second edition. 

Here is what I found:

A reprint is a subsequent printing of a book already published that preserves the identical text of the previous printing. 

Concluding that was not what I intended, I read on about revision.

This is an edition of a book which incorporates major revisions by the author or an editor designed to bring it up to date. These are appropriate for non-fiction which can get out-dated and even obsolete.

Since I write fiction, I continued my search by looking for information about second editions.

If readers who already own the first edition would benefit in some way from owning a second edition. For example, textbooks (in which the information may change rapidly) should definitely be updated periodically.

However, in the case of fiction, where a reader is unlikely to reread a book just because the author has fixed a few typos, the answer is no.

So, based on my internet search, fiction books would rarely benefit from a revision, reprint, or being republished as a second edition.

Change the Recipe

I have a cobbler recipe that I like. It is delicious and super easy.

I have used the recipe quite a few times. However, I often alter something about it to make it “better.”

I have substituted different fruits. And I use less and less dry ingredients as I seek that perfectly moist concoction.

As I made my cobbler a few days ago, I thought of my day of editing the day before. Cutting out words, lines, paragraphs—even whole scenes. Inserting others so the story was more suspenseful.

I left my computer, pleased with the final product, and my kitchen with the delightful aroma of another tasty cobbler.

Olympians Do It, Too!

I hope you have been watching the Olympics. Besides seeing them compete, I enjoy hearing hundreds of stories about the awesome athletes and their families.

I especially liked a commentary about one of the snowboarders. The reporter said this young lady’s practice was to spend hours a day visualizing herself on the snow, as she executed whatever she would be performing the following day. A video accompanied the story in which I could see this girl, standing at the gate, eyes closed, going through the twists and turns of her upcoming runs in her mind.

Our writing needs to help our readers visualize our setting and our characters—what they look like, how they move, and so on.

And we can only achieve that if we visualize these for ourselves, as we write. A rich vocabulary (or a handy Thesaurus) is essential to make our writing come alive for our reading audience.

Additionally, we must be capable of visualizing our story as it unfolds. From beginning to end, we must continually step back and look at the big picture, asking ourselves if each scene leads us closer and closer to that satisfying end.

Finally, on days your writing is difficult and you wonder if you will ever finish your book, try visualizing it—amazing cover and all—in your hands or on a bookstore shelf. 

Closing my eyes, right now, I am visualizing a sea of writers standing shoulder to shoulder, newly published books held high and smiles on our faces.

Accomplishment feels good, doesn’t it? And, by the way, your covers look awesome!