Wednesday Writers Wisdom: The Art of the Query Letter by Nancy Miller

Wednesday Writers Wisdom: The Art of the Query Letter by Nancy Miller
November 18, 2015 3 Comments Writing Stephanie Ayers

What is Wednesday Writers Wisdom?

I’m glad you asked. I originally started this series to share writing advice with other writers, especially beginning writers. I know when I first started writing again in 2010, I needed a lot of help. So, thus WWW was born. You can expect to find writing advice shared by me, other #ourwriteside authors, and guest authors. Our emails are always available for question suggestions as well. I’d like to start the conversation and answer those questions you must have answers to. After all, this isn’t just OUR Write Side, but it’s Yours, too.

Our Wednesday Writers Wisdom comes to you today from the wonderful Authoress, Nancy Miller.

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Nancy Miller lives nears out in the Illinois countryside near St. Louis, Missouri.  She shares her home with her husband of 31 years and three exceptionally spoiled dogs.  After losing her house to fire in November 2013, not much was left but they did find a slightly melted USB drive with all her writing backups.  She took this a sign she should get back to work.  She is the author of Crystal Unicorns, a romantic suspense novel available in paperback and ebook on Amazon. Her current book, Shark Bait, is in final edits.

CONNECT: Facebook | Email | Website | Amazon

It’s been a long time since I wrote a query letter so I found I was a bit rusty.  There are hundreds of sites offering advice so I checked out a few then did my best to distill down the information.  Stephanie was kind enough to ask if I would share what I’ve learned. 

Query letter template

 Incorporate the book name three times in query.  Three is the magic number in advertising to sink the name into the viewer’s/reader’s mind.

 Always use business format, addressed to one particular agent in a company, and never let it be known if you are doing multiple submissions.  All agents know you will but they like to think they are getting an exclusive and not just a blanket submission.

 Do not send out a query for a fiction book if the manuscript is not complete and edited.  You don’t want to get a request to read the entire book and not have it to present. 

You absolutely must look up the agent you intend on sending it to and find out what they want, what they represent, and what extras (synopsis, full outline, first 10 pages) they want with the query.  Most queries are done online now via email and most do not want attachments. 

You want to personalize your query to the agent and make it less like a standardized form letter.

Date 

Agent’s name

Agency name

Address or email

 

Dear __________

 

First paragraph: Hook and book.  Grab their attention and give them an idea of length, style, genre, and other facts about book. 

            Word count

            Genre

            Viewpoint

            Special interest

 

Second paragraph: Synopsis.  The blurb on the back cover explaining how the story goes.

            Main characters

            Motivation

            Complications

            Hint at the ending (some agents require the ending)

 

Third paragraph:

            Biography

            Accomplishments?

            Working on anything else?

            Favorite authors and similar in style?

            What kind of writing do you do?

            Your platform: contacts, media, internet, website, blog.

 

Closing and Thank you…looking forward to hearing from you.

            Mention additional pages here. (Summary, Outline)

Before you read my query, I want to put in a disclaimer of sorts.  I am not an expert and others have had success with all kinds of queries.  It’s rare but it happens.  I picked the agent I want and I read everything I could about the style of query she prefers.  Do your research!  What is here is the best I’ve come up with from all the different sources about queries.

November 9, 2015

Agent (agent email)

Blank Blank Literary Agency 

Dear Ms. Agent,

            I took you up on the challenge to write a novel incorporating your beloved tiger sharks. I hope you approve of the results. 

            SHARK BAIT is a 73,000 word romantic suspense novel written in third person limited.  It is character driven and alternates successfully between the two main character’s viewpoints. The study of behavior and my work experience with the mentally ill combine a dash of humor with suspense and action in an intense roller coaster of a ride.

In SHARK BAIT, a human head washes up on the beach along with two dead tiger sharks. This draws mental health counselor Kate Ainsworth and Detective Ben Rayder into dangerous waters as they hurry to find out the how and why of her client’s death, preferably before she ends up the next victim.  Kate’s dealing with a pesky ex-husband, her new found romance, a home invasion, and trouble at work.  Are they all connected?  One therapist is already in the hospital and a counselor is dead. They all had connections with the original victim, Salvador Marcos. Ben works to keep Kate alive but finds she has a mind of her own when it comes to playing it safe.

The sharks are circling. Long held secrets and life-changing betrayals are uncovered as money, drugs, and murders all play parts of the jigsaw puzzle. The completed picture comes as a shock to everyone and will ripple through the beachside community of Belton Bay.

My home is in Illinois just north of St. Louis, Missouri. I share it with my husband (U.S.N. Ret.) of 31 years and three dogs.  I’ve utilized my degree in Psychology/Sociology as an educator of expelled and troubled teens, a Case Manager/Crisis Counselor, and public speaker/educator for the American Red Cross.  While I like to read novels by Tess Gerritsen and Patricia Cornwell, the author I most identify with, is Anna Salter. She utilizes her skills as a forensic psychologist to spin a believable tale of suspense and spirit with a dash of humor. My platform includes writing groups, a web page, Facebook author page, and I am a member of the Romance Writers of America.  My next work is also a romantic suspense with many more in the wings. I self-published my first book, CRYSTAL UNICORNS, on Amazon and I am extremely proud of the accomplishment.

Thank you for your time and interest in SHARK BAIT.  The short synopsis follows and I will forward any additional items or information you request.  I understand your prime time for response is in the early morning weekend hours.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Nancy Miller

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Stephanie Ayers A published author with a knack for twisted tales, Stephanie Ayers is the Executive Creative Director of OWS Ink, LLC, a community for writers and readers alike. She loves a good thriller, fairies, things that go bump in the night, and sappy stories. When she is not writing, she can be found in Creative Cloud designing book covers and promotional graphics for authors.
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  1. 3 Comments

    p.s.w. gear (@pswgear)

    Wonderfully detailed and on-point advice; thanks for sharing!

    However, I don’t think beginning your query email with: “Date/Agent’s name/Agency name/Address or email” is appropriate. It’s overly formal and unnecessarily dated, especially considering either it’s being directed to either the agency’s mailbox or their secretary/intern’s. Surely everyone knows who is being addressed.

    Reply
    1. 3 Comments
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      Stephanie Ayers

      That’s a good thought, thank you for sharing your advice also!

      Reply
  2. 3 Comments
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    A.L. Mabry

    You did a great job covering the bases and giving others an idea. Query letters can be so intimidating!

    Reply

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