Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Putting Your Best Query Forward--and a Giveaway!

As promised, this week's blog is brought to you by Deanna Klingel. When I read Deanna's Facebook post about how a query letter resulted in a contract for three picture books that "had been in her drawer for 25 years," I asked her to be a guest blogger. Without further ado, here are Deanna's thoughts about writing a query, followed by a portion of her winning query. 
Deanna lives and writes in the mountains of western North Carolina, with husband Dave, and golden retriever, Buddy. Her blog "Selling Books" chronicles her adventures while selling books.

There’s always a short cut. You can steep a perfect cup of tea, or you dunk a bag in microwaved water in 45 seconds. Not a perfect cup, but you can drink it. You can let your yeast dough rise under a damp cloth or you can pop a freezer loaf into the oven. It tastes like bread. But it won’t have that memorable lasting aroma. Some things just take longer if you want perfection.


For writers who spend months perfecting their manuscript, the short cut is often the query letter.  Recently I received a reply from a submission. It was rejected because they have that line through 2015. However, the letter raved about the query letter. Her opening line was congratulations on a very nice query letter. Well done, she said; a pleasure to read; an excellent query letter. I felt like I’d won the lottery. What made this query stand out and get this publisher’s attention? I compare it to many others I’ve written, and see hardly any difference; nearly the same, yet not quite.

Two weeks later a publisher accepted a three-book series for children based only on the query letter. She hadn’t seen the manuscript. When I compare this query to previous ones, I don’t see any one thing stand out.

It’s the overall package I think makes the difference. It’s the difference between a steeping and rising or a quick trip to the microwave that makes a difference. It’s all the small, seemingly insignificant things, including format and tone. It’s following to the minuscule guideline, and the same amount of polish as you use on a manuscript.

Most submissions are electronic. The email habit is a quick memo, no proofing, no format, no formality; the short cut. The query is not the place to short cut. Everything depends on its perfection.

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(Please note that Deanna mentioned an illustrator because the publisher had requested input on illustrations, she had previously worked with him, and he was known to the publisher. It's VITAL that you play by the rules--and completely follow a publisher's guidelines.)

Dear __________Publishing: 

Please consider the following works which are completed and edited for line and content.

Little Beth Books

This is a series of storybooks for very young children. Beth's Birds is a "bird identification" book with little Beth physically displaying the various bird's attitudes. Beth and the Night is an explanation of the night noises that are frightening until she knows what they really are. Beth's Backyard Friends is an identity book of the small mammals that frequent backyards, told by Beth, of course.

Beth's Birds has been illustrated by an artist in Melbourne, Australia. They are beautiful chalk drawings and remarkable birds. However, if the books are to be done as a series, they should have all the same artwork done by the same artist. I do have an illustrator to work with. He's also created two of my covers.

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To celebrate her winning query, Deanna is giving away a copy of her young adult book, Cracks in the Ice

Leave me a comment with your email address (if you don't think I have it) and I will put your name in the hat. Winner will be drawn on Saturday, September 7. 



29 comments:

Barbara Younger said...

Congrats on the query letter! I sometimes think they are harder to write than the manuscript. Love to win the novel!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Barbara. Your's is the first name in the hat!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Ah, the query letter. I maintain that my query that lead to my snagging an agent was the most important piece of writing I have ever accomplished.

Carol Baldwin said...

I must beg to differ, Linda. Your constant encouraging emails to me are pretty important in my book! :) But I'll let them be second to your query letter.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Yes, congrats on the query and the sale! I tend to dread the query and all marketing materials.

But you make it look easy, Deanna.

Carol, enter me please. I'd love to win Cracks In The Ice.

Kathy B said...

Thank you Diana for some great advice and I love your analogies! Carol, please add me to your hat :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Kathy and Joyce. Your names are in. Yes--good writing always looks a lot easier than it really is!

Rosi said...

Queries are, I think, so hard to do well. Thanks for a useful post.

Clara Gillow Clark said...

Query letters make us break out in a cold sweat and our knees quake. It's always great to be shown a model for a successful one! Thanks for sharing. Congrats to Deanna. Yes, please add my name to the hat for a chance to win Cracks In The Ice.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, Clara, query letters do the same to me! I added your name to the list. Thanks Rosi for stopping by too! Glad this post was helpful.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Congratulations Deanna! Your query is direct and crystal clear. And it doesn't hurt that your series is based on a great idea!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kim. I guess you know all about queries!!

Linda A. said...

So exciting how it all came together. So happy for you Deanna. What a terrific prize--a three book deal. You are very generous to share some of your query with us.

Carol, very clever of you to host Deanna and her query. I'm glad you did.

If you happen to draw my name, please pass on since my luck has been so good lately.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. You're a sweetheart!

Jean said...

Wow, Deanna! This is your time for success and I'm truly happy for you! Thanks for the info in this post.

Put my name in the hat, please, Carol. And thank you for brining many great posts to your readers.

Blessings!
Jean

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, Jean!

Samantha Bell said...

Great advice, Deanna. Congratulations on the sale! That's terrific! Please enter me to win! Thank you, Carol!

Gail Hurlburt said...

Carol...
I don't think my post are going through.
I would love to be entered in the book give-away.

Congratulations to Deanna!

Gail Hurlburt

Jeannie Smith said...

Kudos to all you writers out there who push through the process necessary to be published. It takes a good person to accept the advice and criticism of others knowing it will result in a better product in the end. Must be really rewarding to have a query letter spoken of so favorably. Congrats!.
I'd love to be entered into the CRACKS IN THE ICE giveaway. Thanks!

Carol Baldwin said...

Jeannie, Gail, and Samantha- you're in!

Deanna Klingel said...

You are right, Barbara. And I think the synopsis can be hard too, as an author you want to tell it all!

Deanna Klingel said...

Oh, so Kathy B is a tea drinker, huh?

Deanna Klingel said...

I'm glad it was helpful, Rosie.

Deanna Klingel said...

You are welcome, Clara

Deanna Klingel said...

Thank you, Kim. Glad you found it helpful.

Deanna Klingel said...

Linda, your jester hat makes me smile! You are so generous, that makes me smile, too.

Deanna Klingel said...

Thank you Jeanne and Samantha. You are welcome. And Samantha, congratulations to you. I'll see you next Friday at Fiction Addiction in Greenville. I'm sure it'll be a great event.

Deanna Klingel said...

Gail, you and I might be in the same boat. I keep looking for my response comments to everyone and so far none have shown up. I've sent a thank you to every one of you, sincerely. I'm not ignoring you, honest! Maybe I've not convinced blogger I'm not a robot. I AM NOT A ROBOT> THANK YOU ALL FOR POSTING>

Deanna Klingel said...

Congratulations to Jeannie Smith. I will get your book in the mail.