Ok, this one is pretty awesome. If you're sitting at home (or at work) and dreaming of a book contract, the incredible Sara Lindsey, author of Promise Me Tonight (a must read for anyone who loves romances starring old friends) and the upcoming Tempting the Marquess (which I cannot wait for!), is about to give you an amazing look at the query that secured her an agent!
Nine Rules of Which to be Wary When Crafting a Query: (Extra points for the rhyme!)
By and large, this is the query letter I sent out for PROMISE ME TONIGHT, and as I had a great deal of success with this formula, I am passing it on in the hopes that someone will find something useful to take from it. (For the sake of convenience, I am going to assume this query letter is intended for an agent named Ivana Sellyerbook.)
Dear Ms. Sellyerbook (1),
I can tell from the names Bessie T. Seller and Anita Contract that you represent authors with unique voices and wonderful stories. (2) I believe I have both in PROMISE ME TONIGHT, a completed 95,000 word Regency-set historical romance with engaging wit, youthful energy, steamy sexual tension and, most importantly, a poignant love story. (3)
James Sheffield, Viscount Addison, has suffered more heartbreak and devastating loss than most people face in a lifetime. Consequently, he is determined never to love… and thus never to lose.
Isabella Weston has been in love with James, her brother's best friend, for as long as she can remember. A passionate interlude at her first ball fills her with hope that he returns her feelings, but when an unconventional will necessitates their marriage to save James’s inheritance, Isabella learns that James would rather enlist in the army than wed her. Izzie is crushed, but she does what any girl in love would do. She cries... and then plots to save him.
Compromise might be a stronger foundation for marriage than being compromised, but Isabella's options are limited and time is running out. She sneaks into James's bedchamber and seduces him, but in her quest to save him, has she forever destroyed her own chance at happiness? (4)
I began writing two years ago, during my senior year of college, and have been a member of the Romance Writers of America from the start. I am proud to note that I was the only five-time finalist in Avon FanLit, a writing event sponsored by HarperCollins publishers, as well as the sixth and final round winner. From my success in the contest, I feel confident that my voice resonates with readers, and I truly believe my story contains that perfect blend of sexiness, humor, and deep emotion that romance lovers crave. (5)
As requested, I have enclosed the first five pages. (6) I hope you enjoy reading about James and Isabella and that their love story touches your heart as it did mine.
Thank you for your time and consideration. (7)
Sara Lindsey (8)
1234 Address St.
My City, State 67890
Now, the rules!
1. Spell the agent or editor’s name correctly and address him or her by the correct social title. Be very careful with the cut and paste feature – Ivana will not be amused to be addressed as Mr. Sellyerbook, but she will smile as she deletes your query and gets her inbox that much closer to empty.
2. Show you’ve done your homework by mentioning what you like about a particular author or project of Ivana’s. A personal touch and a bit of flattery never hurt.
3. State your novel’s genre, title and word count. This is the easy stuff, so don’t blow it here.
4. State the premise of your story in a couple of paragraphs. Think about what’s written on the back of a book – those paragraphs that tantalize you with hints of the story inside and make you want to know more. That’s your goal here – to intrigue, to hook Ivana’s interest. Your goal is NOT to tell Ivana everything that happens over the course of your book – you can save that for when she requests the synopsis.
5. Tell Ivana a bit about yourself. Give your credentials. Do you belong to any writing organizations? Have you won any writing awards or contests? Do you blog? Do you have some expertise that is going to add credibility to your characters? (Are you a doctor writing medical romance?) If you’re not interesting, try to make yourself sound interesting. I’m not suggesting you lie and claim you’re a secret agent when you’re not, but avoid being that kid who gets picked last for sports. Pity is unlikely to land you a request from Ivana.
It should be readily apparent from my brief bio that I am not a wildly interesting person (I’d be writing an autobiography if I were), nor do I have any sort of expertise or qualifications for writing historical romance, but I have clearly made an effort to get involved in the romance community and to get some feedback on my writing.
6. Follow the rules. If the submission guidelines ask for five pages, send five pages. If the submission guidelines say to put those five pages in the body of the email, put them in the body of the email; don’t attach them. Do not take it upon yourself to decide the agent or editor really wants the first five chapters. That being said, if you have a great hook on the sixth page, you can send six pages. On the other hand, if you don’t have a hook until page ten, find a decent breaking point on page five and leave it at that.
7. Thank the agent or editor for their time and consideration. Politeness goes a long way.
8. Make sure you have included some way (many ways are preferable) for the agent or editor to get in touch with you. Address, phone number and email are pretty standard. On the subject of email, if your email address is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, now is probably a good time to sign up for a professional email account. Gmail offers free accounts and it takes about a minute to sign up.
9. Proofread. Read your query aloud. Send it to a friend and let a fresh pair of eyes look over it.
There you are – nine rules of which to be wary when crafting a query. Wherever you are in your writing journey, best of luck and, as always, happy reading!
Thanks for coming over and hanging out to celebrate Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Sara!
Now! Contest! I've got a copy of Promise Me Tonight for one lucky commenter! Comment below (with your email address!) and tell us the one thing that makes you most nervous about query letters...Sara and I will do our best to respond to your concerns...and I'll choose a random commenter to win on Monday!
And stay tuned for the rest of the month--and a dozen more Authors Rule(s) posts from an awesome range of authors! To read more of Authors Rule(s), please click here!