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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Query for Award-Winning Suspense Novel

I'm chagrined to say I can't locate my original query letter for my award-winning first suspense novel Deadly Choices. It has been six years since that manuscript was accepted for publication. That document must have inadvertently been deleted from an earlier computer's memory card.
So here's a reasonable facsimile of my query, to the best of my memory. Hope this helps!

Dear Ms. _____,
It was a delight meeting you at Love is Murder. At your request, I am submitting this query of my first suspense novel, Deadly Choices ((66,000 wds.), for your perusal and possible representation.

One foggy November morning on Chicago's West Side, paramedic trainee Beth Reilly kidnaps the baby she's just delivered and gives it to her best friend, a Born-Again Christian, to raise as her own. Friendship, trust, betrayal. (In retrospect, I would have inserted two or three sentences lifted from my two-page synopsis to flesh out the story plot, yet not include the evidence that would solve the mystery. That evidence, however, would be included in the synopsis should it later be requested.)

I was former president of Off-Campus Writer's Workshop in Winnetka, Illinois; a 250-member group that invites published authors in various genres, as well as literary agents, to conduct weekly workshops for writers of all ability levels. For thirteen years, I worked as a freelance journalist for local and national publications partially including The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago-Sun Times, Chicago Parent Magazine, and Consumer's Digest Magazine. I belong to Sisters in Crime.
Know that I am open to constructive criticism if it makes my manuscript more marketable. Sales and marketing comes naturally to me. I enjoy speaking in public and would be open to speaking at mystery conferences, bookstores, and libraries when my book gets published. (This was before on-line book tours, etc.)
If you would like to see the synopsis or the first three chapters of Deadly Choices (the agent would have listed in Writer's Market what to send first, second, etc.), feel free to contact me at _phone number_____. (If I had a website at that point, I would have included it.) Your feedback is appreciated.

Jennie Spallone

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Insert Your Platform into a Query Letter

A mystery novel query letter to a literary agent should include four single-spaced paragraphs in its 250-word entirety. But there's more that needs to be couched within those paragraphs than meets the eye -- the platform, to be exact!

Prior to Paragraph 1, insert a greeting line: Dear Ms. Greenbaum,

Paragraph 1: Two-sentence description of why you are querying that particular agent (met at writers' conference, researched that agent's genre interests on Internet, found in Writer's Market, referred by another author), along with the italicized title of your book and its word count,
Paragraph 2:  Forty to fifty word description of your novel, i.e. introduce your main character and immediately share her/his problem/choice, along with who wants to foil that character's plan and why.
At the end of that paragraph, include your PLATFORM: list three themes in your novel that will spark interest in your readers, i.e. gardening, dogs, foreclosures, child abuse, terrorist attacks. You can also compare two authors, i.e. Dean Koontz meets Sara Paretsky, or compare two authors' main characters -- can't help you on that one. I stink at recalling character names. Think of it like Wonder Woman meets Willy Wonka. Of course any comparison you use must flow with the tone of your book.

Paragraph 3: Tell the agent why you are qualified to write this book, i.e. speaking engagements, special interest, career, hobby, volunteer activity, education degree in that particular subject area.
Paragraph 4: Check submission guidelines before e-mailing or mailing your query. If agent only asks for this one document, ask if you may send the first-three chapters or a proposal of your manuscript. Sign off by saying: Looking forward to hearing from you....

Then sign off with:

telephone number
e-mail address
website address

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter!

This month I'm teaching an on-line course for MWA Mystery Writers of America entitled How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter! The resources we're using (See below) are thorough in the nuts & bolts of query letter construction, i.e. One single-spaced page of 250-300 words condensed into 3 to 4 paragraphs, a double space between paragraphs, each paragraph with a designated purpose, title and word count mentioned in first paragraph (80,000 to 100,000 wds. for adult, 40,000 to 60,000 for young adult), all typed in Times New Roman 12-pt. font size.

I used these same guidelines in my award-winning first novel Deadly Choices. Yet life is not just in the structure of a query letter, but in its overall "personality." The gusto that inspires a literary agent to ask for the first three chapters of your manuscript rather than toss your letter into the land-fill. Tune in for more on this subject....

Writing a Successful Query Letter, Joe Moore, KILL ZONE blog, 3/11/2009
How to Write a Query, AGENT QUERY

Query Shark Blog, Janet Reid

How to Write a Query Letter for a Mystery Novel, Nancy Curteman blog, 11/4/2010

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Novel's Going to be an E-Book!

With everybody snatching up Kindles and other E-book readers and IPADS, it's paramount for an author to flash their stuff across the continents! I'm excited to announce that my first suspense novel Deadly Choices will soon be coming out as an E-Book, and everything that's "E", through Untreed Press. I should wait until the contract is burning into my sweaty little hand, but I couldn't wait to share! Would you be more likely to read a book on Kindle, etc. rather than in a hard copy? Let me know!