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When attempting to sell a novel, everything should relate to “the novel” you’re selling.

  • The Plot: Use clear language that introduces your characters and explains who did what to whom. You’re selling the book to a publisher, not writing the back cover copy. Give away the ending. Don’t hold anything back.
  • Genre and Word Count: Publishing companies maintain detailed demographic information about their books and readers that result in having “slots” to fill. Include the genre and word count so it’s easy for your reviewer to determine if your 65,000 word Space-Cowboy Romance fills an open slot in their Spring lineup.
  • Writing Awards: Only include awards won by the novel you’re selling.
  • Past Publications: Novels must stand on their own merits, not the authors. Only include past publications if you are submitting something like a freelance article to a magazine.
  • Critique Groups: Never include them. They aren’t recognized as valid by the professional community.

Remember, you’re selling a novel, not yourself, your past successes or your commitment. All of those things distract from the purpose of the query – to sell your novel.

For some tongue-in-cheek advice from an industry professional, I recommend the hilarious Annotated Query Letter from Hell by Cheryl Klein. She is the Executive Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books (an imprint of Scholastic) and has worked on, among other things, the american editions of the Harry Potter series.

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