Saturday, April 25, 2009

Query Letters-Part IV -The Package

So far we have discussed how to discover your market, how to know what you write and who you want to sell it to, along with how to write a tag line and a selling blurb. Then I discussed a simple template for writing the query letter.

For our last and final week, I want to talk about the full query package. What it is and how to make the most of it. So, what is the full package? Depends on what the editor/agent requires. Some require a letter only. Some require letter and synopsis. While other require the letter, chapters and synopsis. (Find query guidelines on their websites.)

1) The letter only. The query letter is your sales pitch. Your marketing tool to convince the editor/agent to look at a partial or the entire work for serious consideration. The letter should reflect your writing style and sell, sell, sell your work. See previous blogs parts two and three for how to write selling bits and how to write the query letter. This is your pitch make it as professional as possible. Hint: do your research.

2) The letter plus synopsis. While the query letter sells your work, the synopsis tells the editor/agent that you can plot an entire book. A well written synopsis-not an outline-will show the editor/agent a plot that is compelling, emotional and concludes with a satisfying ending. Some editors will take a synopsis in with them to the publisher as proof that the story in full "works." Synopsis can run anywhere from a single page to ten pages. Read the editor/agent guidelines to find out length of synopsis. (Short means one to two pages.) I usually have three written. A single page synopsis, a three to four page synopsis and a full ten page synopsis. (A rule of thumb for long synopsis is one page for every 10,000 words in the story.) Remember editors/agents are busy and a synopsis that is too long can be cause to reject the manuscript.

3) The full package: letter, synopsis and sample chapters. The query letter makes your sales pitch, the synopsis shows you can plot a book and the sample chapters show off your writing style. Always send your opening pages. Sometimes you may feel that a scene from chapter five is better than the opening hook of the book and be tempted to send that scene for sample pages. DON'T. If the opening hook of your book is not as good as other scenes- stop your query process and revise the opening. The opening hook of a book is what sells your book. Many readers will pick up a book, read the back blurb and then read the first page or two. If you don't hook in the first page the reader will put you down. Editors and agents know this. They want to read a strong opening hook. They want to be hooked. Hook them. Send them your opening pages-in consecutive order. ALWAYS. If they want 50 pages but that means you end in the middle of a paragraph-find an ending hook on an earlier page. End your pages there. Always leave the query chapters with a hook. You want them to want to read more. Never send more pages than requested on their guidelines, but you can give them fewer if you start with a strong hook and end your sample with a strong hook.

Remember, the query letter is your marketing pitch-your advertisement. The synopsis shows the editor/agent that you can plot an entire book and resolve all conflicts in a reasonable manner. The sample chapters hook your reader and leave them wanting more.

All these parts work in harmony to make your book the next must read on an editor/agent's desk. Good luck!

5 comments:

Morgan Mandel said...

Since most want that query letter before wanting anything else, it's scary. You know it has to be absolutely spectacular. Takes some work. Can't just put it together on the spur of the moment, unless you get really inspired all of a sudden.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Jessica said...

Great point about the first pages. That's something I've struggled with in my historical, but I just don't know yet how to make it better. It's true that it's what readers look at though.

Marilyn Brant said...

You hit it right on the head with the marketing aspect of the query letter and the way the synopsis shows a writer's ability to plot a complete novel. Sometimes it's hard for people to understand the distinctions between these different elements of a submission package. Nice job laying it all out for us!!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I've not heard the synopsis explained that way! Thank you- I'm going to remember that should I have to have a synopsis again - and lord I hope not *laugh*

Justus M. Bowman said...

"Remember, the query letter is your marketing pitch-your advertisement. The synopsis shows the editor/agent that you can plot an entire book and resolve all conflicts in a reasonable manner. The sample chapters hook your reader and leave them wanting more."

Nice description. Something worth referring back to in times of confusion.