My novella, Wickedly Ever After, will be released this Friday by Cobblestone Press and be available for purchase from them for the next six months. (Hurry and buy, lol!) After that, the rights will revert to me, and then I’ll turn them over to Kensington Books, which will publish this novella and two others in a single author anthology to be released in early summer 2009.
I’ve told my “call” story already, but one thing I didn’t talk much about is the query process. I’ve queried other projects in the past and never got past the polite, “Thanks but no thanks” form rejection. I know this is a huge frustration for a lot of writers. You have a book that you just know is worthy of publication, but you can’t get agents or editors to give you the time of day because your query is falling flat.
So, how do you get the people at the other end of your query letter to sit up and pay attention? Again, this is something a lot of agents and editors blog about (Kristen Nelson did just an extensive workshop series on her blog, in fact), so it’s hard for me to claim I have “the answer,” but I will share with you the three things that I think made my query for Wickedly successful where my past queries failed.
- The opening paragraph provided the agent/editor with the story’s genre (historical), heat level (erotic) and word count, and explained why I thought it would appeal to that agent/editor.
- My query blurb clearly identified the story’s plot catalyst (see Kristen’s blog for more on that), described the conflict between the characters (what’s going to keep them apart), and left the reader with a hook (something to hint at how the conflict will escalate).
- I sent my query to the right people and got lucky. You can control the first part of this one to some extent (make sure you’re not sending a genre romance to someone who only represents mysteries and thrillers, etc.), but the second half of it is just plain hitting the right person on the right day at the right time with a letter that has elements 1 and 2.
Okay, so what did my query letter actually look like? Well, I’ll show you the letter I sent to John Scognamiglio at Kensington Books. This query resulted in a request for the full within a few hours of sending it.
I am seeking publication for my erotic historical 27,500 word novella, WICKEDLY EVER AFTER, which I believe would be a perfect fit for Kensington’s Aphrodisia line. Set in the late Regency era, WICKEDLY EVER AFTER is the first in a planned three novella series tied together by characters who appear in this story and by an exclusive London bordello.
Eleanor Palmer is relieved when her fiancé cries off to marry another woman, but horrified when he suggests the dissolute Marquess of Grenville as his replacement. Eleanor may claim descent from the lusty King Charles II, but this proper English lady has no interest in pleasures of the flesh–she’d rather read the Classics.
Nathaniel St. Claire is infamous for his wicked ways–drinking, gambling, and fornicating-but he’s willing to give up all but one of his vices to initiate the lovely Miss Palmer into the joys of lust. Maybe a little dirty Latin poetry will aid his cause…
I am a member of RWA and my erotic short story, CARNALLY EVER AFTER, was released by Cobblestone Press in August of 2007 under the pseudonym Jackie Barbosa. In addition, several of my manuscripts have finaled in or won RWA Chapter contests.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
In my experience, the hardest thing about getting the query letter right is the blurb. Especially if you’re writing your blurb after you’ve finished writing the whole book, it can be tough to distill all the plot elements into 250 words or less that all connect to each other. I’ve read (and written!) a lot of blurbs that were a series of disjointed sentences hitting on multiple plot points but that failed to make it clear how those points related to each other, and worse, didn’t explain how those points would cause conflict between the hero and heroine.
One trick I’ve started to employ is to write my query blurb before I actually write the whole book. Sometimes, I don’t write it before I write ANYTHING of the book, but I rarely get as far as the first 50 pages before I write the blurb. And that works in part because the hook (as opposed to the synopsis) usually doesn’t need to reveal any plot elements or conflict that occurs in the story past about the first hundred pages. What you want to do is hook the reader of your query to want to find out the answer to the question, “What happens next.” And if you reveal too much of the story in your blurb, you reduce the reader’s interest in getting the answer to that question.
In honor of my successful query and release this week, I’m giving away query critiques to two lucky blog commenters. I’ll draw the winners at random from all interested commenters next Monday. And as a bonus, I’m throwing in a free, signed copy of Brenda Novak’s Dead Giveaway to one random commenter who posts but doesn’t want a critique.
Hop on board!