Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Shot in the Dark

Last week I said there were only four publishers who took unagented work. I had the math wrong. There are eleven New York publishers on the RWA list who will take an unagented query letter or proposal. Curiously one said to send in a full proposal (Which consists of the first fifty pages and a synopsis) but then added that they do not work with unagented writers. I sent them a full proposal anyway. You just never know. There are only two publishers, Grand Central Publishing, and Ballantine, who aren't taking unagented work in romance.

This week I sent out three query letters and three proposals. In a few months when I start getting requests for more, or rejections, I'll know what to tweak for the final five.

Sending out query letters is a bit like cold call telemarketing. You just never know how the other party will react. There are secrets to being successful in cold calling and queries.

The first is to do your homework. Target your query to the editor who is looking for what it is you write. In this case, I wrote a contemporary single title with hot but not erotic sex and paranormal elements in the form of a fairy godfather not werewolf or shapeshifter. The sell for this manuscript begins in the title of the book- If The Shoe Fits, sometimes the last thing you need is a fairy godfather.

Once I have my targeted audience- and yes, this does narrow down your field of publishers even further-you begin your letter with a bit of your background-I have published seven novels, four of which received Starred reviews from Booklist- you add a complement- I have always wanted to write for X. Or I love your author Y. Or I have heard great things about you and publisher X.

Then you use your sell sheet-I blogged about sell sheets earlier- to give them a short paragraph or two about your story.

Here's mine:

AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN… Joella St. John vows to be successful to prove to herself and her family that she can do things on her own. The last thing she wants is a fairy godfather telling her he can magically make everything all right.
A MAN ON A MISSION…R.J. Sinclair has only one job and that is to protect the Bennet family at all costs. When Wade Bennet decides he wants to marry Joella, R.J. does everything in his power to convince her the match is right-even though his heart is demanding that he keep this one for himself.
A FAIRYTALE GONE AWRY…There’s a fairy godfather, a handsome prince, a ball and a crystal shoe. But what happens when it’s not the prince who captures your heart?

If The Shoe Fits
is a completed 95,000 word contemporary romance. Convention services manager, Joella St. John has something to prove but two things stand between her and goal, her employer's bulldog lawyer...and a fairy godfather. R.J. Sinclair has been promised a two million dollar bonus to ensure his employer's needs are met, but the sexy Ms. St. John isn't falling for his intimidation act. Aidan McKenna is a fairy godfather on a mission, but for the first time his client isn't cooperating. Battling two towering male egos isn't easy, will falling in love lead to Joella's downfall?

Finally you tell them what you enclosed, for example-the first fifty pages, a synopsis, my bio and the all important SASE. Thank them for their time and sign.

This kind of query works well with agents, too.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, what about e-mail queries? I see a lot of places going to e-mail queries. You can use the same approach in e-mail as you do in snail mail, except you cannot include enclosures-unless they request them. Most do not want attachments.

With e-mail queries that do not include attachments, it becomes all about how well you write your short synopsis. Remember, editors and agents are bombarded with queries- think of a presidential press conferences-where there are a hundred people in the room waving their hand and calling the speaker's name. You have to stand out from the crowd-think fireworks and sparklers.

Now, was my query sparkly enough? I'll let you know in 60 to 90 days (accounting for the holidays) when the SASEs start showing up in my mail box.

Fingers and toes crossed, I'm moving on and planning my next book.

1 comment:

Morgan Mandel said...

It looks to me like your shot in the dark may have hit the nail on the head. Great stuff!!

Once your book's published, I'll be sure to buy an autographed copy!

Morgan Mandel