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Archive for June, 2014

June 23, 2014

The Editor’s Viewpoint
That Important Query Letter

As a published author for the last 20 years and as an acquisitions editor for the last year, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of writing a good query letter to catch the eye of that key person at the publishing company.
I’ve known more than a handful of newbie writers who didn’t do their homework, some not even knowing what a query letter is, and contacted editors in a very unprofessional manner. A few writers (right off the bat) sent their entire manuscripts to publishing companies in hard copy (even in this electronic age), and when they heard nothing from the editors, they were perplexed, some insulted to the core that they had been ignored.
Well, folks, that’s not how it’s done! (Their manuscripts probably landed in File 13!)
Editors are extremely busy, and it only takes one of them with years of experience to read a paragraph of anything a writer submits to decide whether to read on. A writer who sends more than a query letter at first decreases his/her chance of even being considered, let alone being read. A well-written query letter will get the attention of that editor, nothing else. So let’s take a look at the components of a good query letter, which should be no longer than one page long:
1. Introduction of your work. (Include any awards or credits the work has earned if submitted to any contests and placed)
2. Short synopsis of the work, including the main character, the plot, the time frame, the genre, and word count.
3. Explanation of why your target audience would like the work.
4. A list of your related credits (If you have a long list of publications in genres not related to this project’s genre, delete them.)
5. Thanks to the editor for considering your work.
6. Closing and signature
Now, let’s look at an excellent sample query letter (compliments of
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter)
*****************************************************************************
Dear (Editor’s name, if at all possible):
According to your agency’s website you’re actively seeking middle-grade fiction, so I’m pleased to introduce my novel, A Smidgen of Sky. This novel won me a scholarship to attend the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. It was also awarded honorable mention in the Smart Writers W.I.N. Competition. A Smidgen of Sky is the story of ten-year-old Piper Lee DeLuna, a spunky, impulsive dreamer, whose fierce devotion to her missing father is threatened by her mother’s upcoming remarriage.
Everyone else has long accepted her father’s death, but the fact that his body was never recovered from his wrecked plane leads to Piper’s dream that he might one day reappear and free her from the secret guilt she harbors over his accident. Her stubborn focus leaves no room in her affections for her mother’s fiancé, Ben, or his princess-like daughter, Ginger. Determined to stop the wedding, Piper Lee schemes up “Operation Finding Tina”—a sure plan to locate Ben’s ex-wife and get the two of them back together. But just as Piper succeeds with step one of her plan, a riot breaks out at the prison where Ben works, and suddenly nothing seems sure.
Since middle-graders care deeply about things and people and love to daydream about their future, I think readers will identify with Piper Lee and find her an appealing heroine as she learns that you can both cherish the past and embrace the future. This story, set in the coastal region of Georgia, runs about 33,000 words and is somewhat similar in tone to Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie.
I’m a 1990 graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, and my work has been published in U*S* Kids, Child Life, Columbia Kids, True Love, Guide and StoryPlus.
Thanks very much for your time. I have included the first ten pages and look forward to hearing from you.
Yours truly,
(Signature)
******************************************************************************
I have two closing thoughts. If you’ve submitted queries to other companies, list those companies and the dates you sent the queries. Also, although this query letter sample suggests sending ten pages of the manuscript with the letter, I beg to differ. I believe that’s a little too presumptuous on the part of the author. I’d submit the query letter only and wait for feedback from the editor. If he/she wants to consider your work, he/she will ask for a proposal or the entire manuscript.
So, write a good query then be prepared to wait. Sometimes it takes three to six months to hear from a publishing company. Unfortunately, some companies have the policy that if you don’t hear from them at all, they’re not interested. And that’s a hard pill to swallow, but that’s the way the publishing business is.

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Meet the Author Tanya Stowe

Stowe.Tanya.Picture

Novelist Tanya Stowe has had an Eclectic Career:
Working as a freelance writer, Tanya’s profiles have featured celebrities such as Fabio and New York Times Bestselling authors LaVyrle Spencer, Shirlee Busbee, and Heather Graham. Excerpts from Tanya’s reviews have appeared on the book covers and the promotional material of publishers, and her articles have appeared in diverse national publications. Tanya wrote grants, participated in a collection of women’s survival stories and collaborated on a full-length Christmas musical that sold out its performances. She also worked as a marketing assistant and as an event coordinator doing a stint with the American Cancer Society.

How About Tanya’s “Other” Life?

Tanya has been married to her high school sweetheart for thirty-nine years. They have four children and nineteen…soon to be twenty…grandchildren. Recently her husband retired from government work after living in the Middle East for two years.

More Details about her Writing:
Tanya writes inspirational romances with an unexpected edge. She fills her stories with the unusual…gifts of the spirit in Tender Touch and spiritual warfare in Haunted Hearts. In Never Ending Night she explores the horrors of a Civil War battle and unravels a mystery. Tender Trust treks to the Old West. Leap of Faith brushes wings with an angel, and White Christmas wraps romance in the traditions of a small town holiday. No matter where Tanya goes…on a journey through the past or contemporary adventures in new lands…be prepared for the extraordinary.

Something Not Many People Know…
Tanya says, “I wanted to be an Egyptologist when I was in high school. When I realized I could just write about ancient Egypt and not dig in the dirt, I changed directions.
Thanks, Tanya, for allowing us to take a peek at your interesting life and career today.

*****
Please check out one of Tanya’s excellent books:

WOUNDED GRACE

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June 9, 2014

From an Editor’s Viewpoint

(Working with an Editor)

For about the last year, I’ve been working as an acquisitions editor for Helping Hands Press, Levittown, PA. We’ve done a nice series of holiday stories entitled MARSHA HUBLER’S HEART-WARMING CHRISTMAS STORIES and a compilation for equine lovers, MARSHA HUBLER’S HEART-WARMING HORSE STORIES. We’ve also published a few excellent tween/YA/adult novels and a few supplementary educational materials for kids on the elementary level. Right now I’m on the lookout for Easter stories, novels, and more excellent educational stuff. But that’s not the reason I wrote this blog post.

For awhile we’re going to discuss the basics of working with an editor. For almost twenty years, I’ve been on the other side of the editor’s desk as an author working with editors. Although I’m still published regularly, the editor’s table is turned, and I’m also on the receiving end of the editor/author relationship. I now see how important it is for an author to be diligent in their efforts to work with an editor on a professional level. After all, that editor is an author’s lifeline to the published market. So, let’s look at some important points for authors to embrace as they seek publication at a royalty publishing company.

Contacting an Editor:

I’m amazed at some of the emails I’ve received from writers who want me to look at their work. (That’s called a “query letter.”) Either the folks are so green, they have no clue how to approach an editor, or they are not determined in their hearts to make a good first impression on that editor, who could possibly give them one or more contracts or delete the email without a second thought. By the way, hardly any submissions are done via hard copy anymore. Everything is done electronically, and I mean everything.

Let’s examine an example of a “query letter,” (content and name modified to protect the guilty) I received about six months ago:

Cutiepieauthor@downer.com

Hi,

Thanks for taking a look at the pages of my novel. They are attached. It was nice meeting you at the conference.    Sarah

_____________________________________________________________________________

Okay, so I had to take a deep breath and decide if I wanted to even look at this writer’s sample pages. So what’s wrong with this submission?

  1. How about a nice greeting like “Dear Mrs. Hubler:” The writer was “applying” for a job, not writing to her best friend.
  2. What novel? What’s its title? What genre is it? Where’s the synopsis?
  3. What’s attached? The entire novel? Three chapters?
  4. What conference? When? Many editors are on faculty at least two or three times a year at different writers’ conferences.
  5. Did I meet one-on-one with this writer in a private conference? Or did we discuss her project at lunch? How about a few more details to refresh my memory.
  6. Sarah? Sarah who? I know about six Sarahs, and I usually meet another one at any writers’ conference I attend. Full name missing? How about a phone number? Email address? Home address? Website? If I delete this email by mistake, I have no idea how to get in touch with “Sarah.” The contact is lost and, possibly, a book contract.
  7. And last but not least, did you notice the email address? It tells me nothing concerning who this Sarah is. So how important is it to include all contact information with that first very, very important letter to the editor?

Next time, we’ll review the basics of writing an excellent query letter.

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