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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guest Blogger ~ Camy Tang on Query Letters


Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is her chick lit Sushi series (Sushi for One?, Only Uni, and Single Sashimi) and her romantic suspense, Deadly Intent. Formula for Danger releases in September. Originally from Hawaii, she worked as a biologist for 9 years, but now she is a staff worker for her San Jose church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She has coordinated the ACFW Genesis contest for 5 years and runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in online classes and book doctoring. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Be sure to visit her website.

QUERY LETTERS

This is Camy Tang and I’m thrilled to be able to guest blog on Novel Journey today!

I also run a critique service, and lately I’ve been critiquing a lot of query letters, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on them.

Not all query letters are set up this way, but here's a quick and dirty skeleton structure:

Date

For editors:
Name, title, house, address
or
For agents:
Name, agency, address

Greeting (make sure you address the person by name—for example, Dear Ms. Lawton)

First paragraph. Some people start with a hook, some people start with the info line. It's up to you, although I have heard of some editors/agents who detest the hook opener—including rhetorical questions—so I usually play it safe and start with the info line.

I am excited to present my novel, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, a completed 75,000 word Inspirational Christmas romance set in San Jose, California.

Info line should include:
Title
If it’s completed or not
Word count
Genre
(optional: setting)

Story blurb. Typically they're one to two paragraphs long, and they can be similar to back cover blurb.

Issues, hook, appeal. What makes this novel unique or different? Is the storyline high-concept? How would it appeal to readers? How would it be similar to but different from other books out there? If you're targeting a certain house, it would be a good idea to mention a book in their catalog for a comparative market analysis.

Your bio. What makes you qualified to write this story? Include publishing credits (and any awards), clubs, and/or experiences that are relevant to the story or your writing.

Closing thanks and polite nothings. Keep it short. Also, either here or in the first paragraph, you can include any personal notes if you met the editor or agent at a conference, just to jog their memory.

Camy here: I want to point out some key places to focus on:

Story blurb. A lot of query letters I’ve seen need a stronger story blurb. Many writers get too caught up in the details of their story and don’t take a step back to give a general overview instead. Make sure you mention:

Main character(s)
Character external goal(s)
Story premise
Optional: Character internal conflict (This is mandatory if you’re writing contemporary fiction or women’s fiction, since the internal conflict tends to overshadow the external conflict)

Issues, hook, appeal. This is a key paragraph in a query letter, in my opinion. The editor or agent is looking to see how your book stands out from the THOUSANDS of other manuscripts and DOZENS if not HUNDREDS of published books they have read in the past year.

That can seem daunting, but if you’ve done your homework and have read extensively in your genre and/or the books put out by that publisher, you’ll know exactly how your book is unique from the other books out there.

For example, Cheryl Wyatt wrote not just about a military hero, but Pararescue Jumpers (PJs) for her debut manuscript, which immediately garnered the editor’s interest. There had been Army and Navy and Marine heroes published by that house, but not PJs, who are also paramedics and have a natural compassion aspect of their exciting job.

When Mary Connealy debuted in the Christian historical romance market, there were one or two humorous historical romance writers at the time, but Mary’s humor was unique in that her books are like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus set in the Old West. Her “war of the genders” brand immediately caught the attention of the editor reading her single title manuscript, Petticoat Ranch.

When I submitted my debut manuscript, there were absolutely no Asian American authors in the Christian romance market, and no novels with Asian American characters, as opposed to overseas Asian characters. My editor immediately saw the marketability and appeal of my brand.

Your bio. After you’ve set up your uniqueness in the market, then show why YOU are the writer to write this book. Cheryl is from a military family. Mary’s husband is a rancher. I’m, well … Asian.

If you can tie your bio in cleverly with your hook, you’ve nailed the query letter.

One last thought: You can have a rockin’ query letter, but don’t neglect the manuscript. A good story, well told, is what sells to the editor.

Thanks for having me here on Novel Journey today, guys!


The Grant family's exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation--not murder! When Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, everything falls apart. The salon's reputation is at stake...and so is Naomi's freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect--Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim's ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn...and whom can she trust?

3 comments:

Carrie Turansky said...

This is excellent advice! Thanks, Camy. : )
Carrie

Camy Tang said...

You're welcome, Carrie!

Thanks so much for letting me guest blog today, guys!

Camy

sampleletters said...

I would like to suggest Appeal Letters