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  1. #1

    Default Lesson 3: The Great Agent Search

    [FONT='Times New Roman','serif']Good morning!

    Before we start this lesson, I'd like to say that this is MY version of a good query. There are many others. In this business, it often comes down to finding what works for YOU.

    Lesson 3: How do I attract the attention of a good agent?

    Why is a query so important?
    You may not realize it (or want to accept it), but sometimes your query can be more important than your book... at least initially! It's the gateway, the first thing an agent or editor reads. And while a 400 page manuscript may start shakily, some industry professionals will look past that and decide to work with you regardless. However, with a query letter, you give them one page to make a first impression. Based on that first impression, they will either ask for more materials, or turn you down flat. So having a
    strong query can be the difference between a request for a full manuscript and a form rejection.

    What goes into a query?
    There are three parts that you should have in every query.
    1. Basic intro -- This is the part where you give an eye-catching intro (usually one line), the title of your story, the genre/subgenre, the word count and any info about your previous experience with this agent or editor (such as, they requested the manuscript, that you met them, that you're the one who retrieved their lost credit card at the bar during the last National conference, whatever will make you stand out if you have it... do NOT make stuff up if you have no connection to the editor).

    2. Story Blurb -- One to two short paragraphs that describe your story. I usually put a brief story summary in one paragraph and a one sentence line about hero motivation, one sentence heroine motivation in another. Try to make this paragraph lively and give it a little of your voice.
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    3. Author info -- Here is where you're going to tell a little about yourself. If you have been published in the past, make sure you put that info in. If you have finaled or won contests, that goes in. If you are a member of RWA or another writing organization, put that in (including how long you've been a member). If you have volunteered for anything writing-related, put that in. If you have a website, mention it. Finally, here you can put any info about your life that PERTAINS to your book. If you are a trauma nurse and you are writing medical mystery, put it in. But if you're writing character driven erotic romance, it doesn't pertain to the book and you should probably leave that out.

    Now that you know the ingredients, you may wonder what order to put them in. Well, that depends on where the info will have the most impact. Before I was published with Red Sage, I put the info in the order I've placed it in above. Afterward, I often put the information about myself first and then 1 and 2.

    Here are a couple general tips about queries:

    1. Always address a query to a person if you can. Dear Agent or Dear Editor is like saying Dear Rejection Slip. There are a couple of exceptions. Online forms are one. You might not be able to direct your query to a specific person if you submit via an online form. And Avon's email submission process goes to a general query address and then any editor can pick them up. You might still try picking a specific editor to query there, but if you don't your query will likely still be read.

    2. Never go over one page. If you go one line over one page, edit some more. You can fix that. Play with the margins a little, cut out a line. Whatever you have to do to make it one page.

    3. Always include an SASE.

    So now you know about queries in theory, but you probably want to see a few, right? I'll post several examples below from my own collection that were effective for me. Read over them and take what you will from their organization.

    The next lesson: What Do I Do Now that I Have An Agent Interested in Me?

    Please feel free to ask any question you have about the lessons so far!

    [/FONT]
    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007)
    http://www.jennapetersen.com -- Which Lady Spy Are You?
  2. #2

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    [FONT='Arial','sans-serif']The following is the query letter I sent to my current agent (actually
    Miriam Kriss of this agency, though I addressed the query to Irene) in 2004.
    It resulted in her asking for my full and ultimately taking me on, though
    this book is not the book that sold to Avon.

    Name
    Address
    Phone
    Email

    March 2, 2004

    Irene Goodman
    Irene Goodman Literary Agency
    80 Fifth Street, Suite 1101
    New York, NY 10011

    Dear Ms. Goodman:

    (The Basic Intro)Both Ginny Blanchard and Simon Webber have reasons to
    hide from love, but once they meet they begin to find even more reasons to
    embrace it, despite the terrible secret that threatens to destroy them. Now
    they must fight the past and each other to keep their love alive in A
    Widow's Kiss, my 95,000-word Regency-set historical.

    (The Story Blurb)Ginny has dark secrets. Ones she's willing to hide away
    from the world in order to keep. But when Simon arrives at her home as
    trustee of her young son's inheritance, his presence reminds her of
    everything she's given up. As he pushes ever closer to her, thwarting her
    every attempt to send him away and taking over her senses with his touch,
    his kiss and his unexpected honor, she realizes that she has even more to
    lose. Because if he finds out how far she's gone to protect her life and her
    child, all she's fought for could be forfeit. Including Simon's love.

    (The Author Info)Writing as Jess Michaels, I will be published in Secrets,
    Volume 11 from Red Sage Publishing in December 2004 with my novella "Ancient
    Pleasures". Arabella Magazine will also be publishing my short story
    "Dueling the Debutante" in their April/May 2004 issue. I have been writing
    full-time since 1999. In addition, I own and maintain The Passionate Pen, a
    popular website for aspiring authors.

    Enclosed you will find a short synopsis and the first chapter for your
    review. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

    Sincerely,

    etc

    Look for two more examples below.


    >>[/FONT]
    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007)
    http://www.jennapetersen.com -- Which Lady Spy Are You?
  3. #3

    Default

    [FONT='Times New Roman','serif'][FONT='Arial','sans-serif']October 25, 2001

    Dear Ms. Agent:

    (Basic Intro)Eye for an eye justice is just too easy. After a cad ruins
    and impregnates his younger sister, what Sebastian Wolfe wants is a sister
    for a sister justice. So he hires Rose Covington with the plan of seducing
    and ruining her in The Heart of a Wolf, my 100,000 word Regency Historical.

    (Story Blurb 1)Rose Covington has just lost her job but hasn’t saved quite
    enough money for her dream of going to America when Sebastian hires her.
    Intrigued by the dark man who is her employer, and the secrets of his
    half-burned house, Rose sets out to win his trust and eventually his love.
    But there is more danger in Sebastian’s life than either our hero or heroine
    realizes, and they will have to fight to remain safe.

    (Story Blurb 2, Character Motivation)Rose is a resourceful young woman who
    believes that there is good in Sebastian.. She just has to convince him of
    that. Sebastian may try to hide behind a façade of bitterness and anger,
    but beneath it all he’s just a man trying to make things right, and never
    seeming to be able to succeed..

    (Author Info)I have been a member of RWA since 1999. I am the local
    chapter’s President and former webmistress, as well as contributing monthly
    to its newsletter. I also have a personal website for romance writers. The
    Heart of a Wolf is my sixth manuscript. In the past I have been a Molly
    finalist.

    Enclosed you will find a synopsis and first three chapters. I look forward
    to hearing from you in the future. Thank you for your time!

    Sincerely...

    Look for one more example below.>>
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    [/FONT]
    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007)
    http://www.jennapetersen.com -- Which Lady Spy Are You?
  4. #4

    Default

    [FONT='Arial','sans-serif'][FONT='Arial','sans-serif']A final example:

    Author address

    September 7, 2000

    Dear Ms. Agent:

    (Basic Intro)Everyone has secrets. Sophie Hamilton knows when hers come out it could destroy any hope she has of a secure future for her and her family. That's why she's determined to keep her secrets, no matter what the cost in GLORIOUS, my 100,000 word historical romance.

    (Story Intro)When Sophie goes to a weekend party in the country, it's with the express purpose of finding a suitable husband and marrying him even if it's by force. Her life, and the lives of her family depend on this
    marriage. Who she finds is Ian Tyler, a man with his own secrets and his
    own guilt, who arouses feelings in her she never imagined. Through wicked
    mistresses, troubled sisters, and a man bent on destroying them, these two must find a way to get past all the lies and into each other's heart.

    (Story Intro)Sophie is a kind and decent woman who is thrown into her
    current situation by circumstance, not choice. She has a passion within her that wants to be awoken, no matter how much she fears it. Ian is a man with a past he longs to forget no matter how many times it's thrust upon him. Sophie is the only woman who can help him move into the future.

    (Author Info)I have been a member of RWA since 1999. I contribute monthly to my local chapter's newsletter, as well as designing and maintaining the chapter website. I also have a personal website for romance writers. GLORIOUS is my fourth manuscript. In the past I have been a Molly finalist.

    I look forward to hearing from you in the future. Thank you for your time!

    Sincerely...

    Feel free to ask any questions you may have about the previous workshop
    lessons.


    [/FONT]
    [/FONT]
    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007)
    http://www.jennapetersen.com -- Which Lady Spy Are You?
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    Hi Jenna,
    Another great lesson. In fact, I really can't think of any questions you haven't covered in Lesson 3.
    Well,maybe I've got a couple. I noticed that each query was different regarding how much of your manuscript you sent. You either sent one chapter, three chapters or none. Is there a preference regarding how many chapters (if any) you should send?
    I am also wondering whether manuscripts are ever sent via email?
    Thanks,
    Rainy
  6. #6

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    The amount of work sent depends on the submission guidelines established by the agency, just like with a publisher. Some agents want to see work with the query, others don't. Make sure you read those closely.

    As for electronic submission, again it varies from agency to agency. Check the guidelines for every agent before you submit. If in doubt, just send a query letter.
    Jenna Petersen
    Desire Never Dies -- Available Now!
    From London With Love -- Still Available
    Seduction Is Forever (October 2007)
    http://www.jennapetersen.com -- Which Lady Spy Are You?

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