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 How to Write a Great Query Letter

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Malcolm
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PostSubject: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:48 am

Agent Noah Lukeman's "How to Write a Great Query Letter" is available for free download as an Amazon Short.

He suggests that queries for fiction should be three paragraphs, no more, no less, and each of them has a very distinct purpose.

A careful read of his no-nonsense book shows that a lot of the stuff that writers put into their queries not only doesn't help, but sends up a giant red flag.

If you have read the book, what did you think of it? Have you tried Lukeman's technique with any success?

--Malcolm
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Jenny
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:19 am

Thanks for the heads up, Malcolm. I've read both his books and found them invaluable.
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Jenny
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:41 am

For those interested in Noah Lukeman's book - "How to write a great query letter", you can also download it from his website.

http://www.lukeman.com/greatquery/Great-Query-May-07.pdf
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Fri Feb 22, 2008 10:01 am

Thanks Jenny! That's something everyone should download!

_________________

Amazon Author Central: Shelagh Watkins
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Pam
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Fri Feb 22, 2008 4:42 pm

What a great resource - I skimmed it and saved it so that I can look at it more closely when I am ready to do them again. Thanks Jenny!
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Fri Feb 22, 2008 11:09 pm

I did what you did, Pam. I am so far behind right now, I may never catch up; but I definitely want to read the entire thing.
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Pam
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:32 am

If I printed off my entire reading pile and added it to the stack in my office, I know it would be taller than I am, but I do manage to knock things off it now and again, although I admit that I do a lot more skimming than actual reading these days.
I wonder how long everyone else's "to read" lists are these days?
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:41 am

Well, to add to the confusion:

I downloaded NL’s query advice and love it. However, I think the advice is as subjective as one agent passing on the manuscript and another accepting.

One agent, can’t remember the name, said a one paragraph description didn’t give her enough information about the plot, so she likes to see three well-written paragraphs condensing the entire story.

Another said she likes to see comparisons to other titles, yet another said it was presumptuous to compare.

Here’s another agent who states specifically what he wants:

http://www.zackcompany.com/
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:56 am

Wow. He seems to be interested in most everything within certain guidelines. At least it is very well defined in the "What We Want" section.
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:10 am

That's just recently, Zada. Before, he was very specific in what he was willing to read. Guess since he married, he's open to more genres. But his query letter advice has remained the same.

That's why the process can be so confusing.
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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:25 am

Brenda,
What you say makes much sense. Every Agent is different. Yes, there are some basics that apply to all of them, namely: being brief and packing the punch.

In the other forum (and you know the one I mean), my impression of some authors was based on their lengthy posts. I believe much of their problems involved too much detail. Having the reader wanting to know more is just good writing technique.
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:39 am

Hi Abe! Nice to see you.

I so agree with you and think being brief, yet writing with a little suspense, applies to queries and to our synopses.

If anyone would be interested, I'd be happy to post the query that snagged my agent.
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George Maciver
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:51 am

I'm very interested!!
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:03 am

Hi George!

This is one of several I developed, but they all have the intro, a tagline, and a blurb.

Some I sent with a three paragraph summation, but this one has only the one:


Dear Agent: (name withheld upon request)

As a free-lance fiction editor and instructor, I edited (author’s name withheld) first chapter and she suggested I contact you about my completed women's fiction novel.

Approximately 82,000 words, Beyond the Quiet is about a woman who, after her husband of twenty-five years dies, finally learns to live. (Tagline)

Lisa Montgomery never learned to show love. As a child, she was acceptable only if she were clean, composed and quiet. Now, after husband's death from cancer, she learns her tight control has led to betrayal. Her daughter, instead of offering comfort and support, is judgmental and emotionally distant. Lisa’s only salvation is learning to open her heart to those who love her. (Brief summation)

I’ve studied novel writing at the University of Iowa’s summer sessions, taken the Writer’s Digest course as well as Gotham online classes. My first novel, Ten Times Guilty, released by Publish America, garnered a four-star review in the Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine, January 2006 issue, Mystery section. One of my short stories was featured as a ‘Twelve-tissue Tearjerker” in True Story Magazine, and another was recently released in a midwest literary anthology. I teach novel and short story writing in Southern California. (Bio)

Would you be interested in seeing the first few chapters? (The pitch)

Thank you, and so on (Closing)

Hope this helps.
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pol mcshane
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PostSubject: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:06 am

Thanks for the information. I, too, saved this for a more detailed reading. I am currently searching for an agent (I guess like everyone else, huh?) and this will help tremendously.
Pol
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:07 am

Glad I could help.

Good luck on your search!
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Jenny
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:18 am

Thanks, Brenda. This is very helpful.
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:23 am

Sometimes it's hard to know, Jenny, which one to send. We almost have to be mindreaders, and even then it's a guess.
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Pam
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 4:20 pm

Brenda thank you so much for sharing your letter. That is very helpful, and very meaningful since we know that it worked!!
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Pam
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sat Feb 23, 2008 4:23 pm

I just had a thought---what do all of you think about the possibility of a reply if we were to, say, phone an agent or editor's assistant and ask them what kind of query letter the editor or agent might appreciate? Do you think they'd tell us, or have any of you tried that approach? scratch
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sun Feb 24, 2008 3:06 am

That is a great query letter, Brenda. Thank you for posting it for us.
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sun Feb 24, 2008 8:50 am

As I said before, to add to the confusion, here's another version of a query for the same manuscript that I sent to a small publisher with the three-paragraph blurb.

I started with the tagline. I have two different tags and still not sure which is the best, but the publisher asked for a full manuscript and it’s still under consideration.

In case you're totally confused, I had my agent for several months, and we've recently parted company. She kept wanting to slant my manuscript toward the romance market and I do not write romance.

It was a difficult decision as I was thrilled to get her and she did present my manuscript to a major publisher. There was some conversation back and forth between my agent and the acquiring editor, but they were closing their women's fiction line. They involved me and there was some suggestions to slant my work toward another of their lines, but I just couldn't commit to writing something I didn't feel passionately about. Can't tell you how difficult that was. It's still under consideration at another publisher, but in the meantime, I'm back at the drawing board.

Here's the other version:

Dear Publisher, (name omitted)

BEYOND THE QUIET is about a recently widowed foreclosure agent who discovers a new sense of herself when she has a passionate romance with a retired fire chief.

Lisa Montgomery never learned to show love. As a child, she was acceptable only if she were clean, composed, and quiet. For most of her forty-three years she survived by keeping her life and emotions tightly controlled. Then, after her husband succumbs to cancer, she discovers her control was only an illusion. His secret life has left her in debt and nearly penniless, and her daughter, instead of offering comfort and support, is judgmental and emotionally distant.

Disillusioned and bitter, Lisa return to works and meets Gene O’Neal, a retired fire chief who pursues her with a passion that melts her icy façade. She falls in love and learns how glorious true lovemaking can be. Only her troubled relationship with her daughter dulls her new happiness, so Lisa prepares to make one more effort to talk to her, to offer the love she’d always felt but never knew how to express.

When her life changes again, she realizes pain and loss has made her stronger. As a woman who has learned to cherish each moment, she leaves her old life behind to follow her dream, welcoming each tomorrow as a new opportunity for adventure.

Approximately 82,000 words, BEYOND is my second novel. Ten Times Guilty, the story of a struggling single mother learning her strength, garnered a four-star review from Romantic Times Review Magazine, Mystery & Suspense section, January, 2006.

I’ve studied novel writing by attending the University of Iowa's summer writing sessions, taken the the Writer’s Digest course as well as Gotham online classes. I’ve attended several writing conferences and have taken their classes as well. My short stories have been featured in True Story Magazine and The Talking Stick, a Midwest literary journal. Another short has been accepted into the Amazon Shorts program. I’m a freelance editor and teach novel writing in Southern California. My articles have been published in my local newspaper and I'm also the restaurant reviewer.

According to your instructions, I've attached a synopsis and the first three chapters.

(closing)
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sun Feb 24, 2008 8:56 am

I just realized I may have posted this on the wrong thread. If I did, Shelagh, please let me know. This is a thread about agents and perhaps I should've posted the last query under a 'Query Letter' thread.

What do you think?
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Jenny
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sun Feb 24, 2008 8:58 am

Thanks again, Brenda.

I read a magazine article recently that states if you have been self published, or published by a "vanity press" or POD publisher, you shouldn't mention this in your query. Is this your understanding, too?
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Brenda Hill
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PostSubject: Re: How to Write a Great Query Letter   Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:02 am

Yes, Jenny, that's so true. I posted a sentence or two about that, then deleted it because I didn't want to start a riot like some other MBs have gone through.

When I talked to my agent about my bio to send to publishers along with my manuscript, she actually laughed at the thought of writers 'published' with PA. But she said she'd mention mine only because it received a four-star review out of a possible four and a half stars with RT's reveiw magazine. She thought that might be a good way to overcome PA's reputation. In the same publication, Dean Koontz and James Patterson were listed in my section in RT's magazine. They each received four and a half stars and I received four. Needless to say I was thrilled. That all helped to overcome some of the stigma.
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