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Queries and Synopses and Proposals

Successful Queries: Agent Allison Hunter and “A Royal Pain”

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This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The 68th installment in this series is with agent Allison Hunter (Inkwell Management) for Megan Mulry’s romance, A ROYAL PAIN (2012, Sourcebooks Landmark, part of the Unruly Royals series), which, in a starred review, Publishers Weekly called “a delightful love story… worth reading again and again.” Read more

Successful Queries: Agent Sara Megibow and “Falls the Shadow”

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This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The 66th installment in this series is with agent Sara Megibow (Nelson Literary) for Stefanie Gaither’s young adult novel, FALLS THE SHADOW (Sept 2014, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Kristi Helvig, author of BURN OUT, said of the book: “[It's] a smart, futuristic thriller that grabs you and doesn’t let go until the very last page. This is a fantastic debut.” Read more

Live Query-A-Thon with Literary Agents Kate McKean & Jim McCarthy: March 13 Webinar (w/ Query Critique)

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In this live webinar, literary agents Kate McKean and Jim McCarthy invite you to peek behind the curtain and watch exactly what happens when an agent considers your query. Working from the submissions they receive (all queries will be made anonymous), participants will have the chance to read along with them as they decide whether to stop reading or carry on. You’ll see the exact moment in query letters that each perks up or passes. Think of it like American Idol: Query Edition. Along the way, you’ll garner helpful tips on what to avoid as you write your own query, how to stand out from the pack (in a good way), and what goes on in an agent’s mind as they consider your material.

It’s called “What an Agent Really Thinks While Reading Queries: A Live Query-A-Thon,” and it happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, March 13, 2014. All attendees get their query critiqued by the agent instructors. The webinar lasts 90 minutes. At least four agents have signed writers after critiquing their work as part of a WD webinar. Read more

Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Queried 80 Agents or More

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The other day, a writer friend asked for my advice in dealing with all pesky rejections in the query stage. I asked how many agents she had queried. “Forty,” she said.

“Well, then you’re halfway there.”

I wasn’t trying to be flippant, but if you are serious about getting published, then don’t even think about giving up until you’ve queried at least one hundred agents. Really. But there are a lot of caveats attached to that advice… Read more

New Year, New Query: How to Write a Great Letter That Gets Attention — Jan. 9 Webinar With Query Critique

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It’s no secret that a writer’s query letter is extremely important in their quest to get a literary agent and get published. Agents evaluate dozens of queries a day, and make requests for more material from the few letters that impress them. They’re crucial, and that’s why people never get enough articles or advice or samples concerning them. If you’re having trouble with your query letter, why not let a literary agent not only instruct you, but also critique your letter, as well? Sounds pretty sweet to me. The agent in question is the awesome Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary, and the webinar is “The Anatomy of a Query Letter” at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Don’t forget that at least 3 agents have signed clients after critiquing their work as part of a WD webinar! Read more

Successful Queries: Agent Adriann Ranta and “Not a Drop to Drink”

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This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The 65th installment in this series is with agent Adriann Ranta (Wolf Literary) for Mindy McGinnis’s young adult novel, NOT A DROP TO DRINK (Sept. 2013, Katharine Tegen Books), a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent. Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian.

GIVEAWAY: Mindy is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: cotidiano won.) Read more

Pitch Clinic With Agent Critiques: How to Shape an Excellent Pitch to Hook Editors & Agents — Nov. 12 Agent One-on-One Boot Camp

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If your query isn’t getting many requests from agents and editors for more, chances are your pitch is to blame. The query pitch — where you explain what your book is about in several sentences — is the crucial, most important part of the query. Your pitch must be clear, concise, interesting, and possess a flavor of the manuscript’s voice. So if you’re struggling with your pitch, we have an opportunity that allow you to get not only instruction on pitching, but also a critique of your pitch from not one but two established literary agents.

This all-new Pitch Clinic Agent One-on-One Boot Camp (starts Nov. 12, 2013) will show you how to best present your book to literary agents and editors. In this intensive boot camp, 5 literary agents will personally help you compose and shape your book’s pitch – so you will have an excellent chance of hooking agents with a description of your story. As with all WD boot camps, seats are limited, so sign up for before the class reaches its maximum size and is closed. Read more

Querying 101: Putting Your Best Book Forward — New Sept. 26 Webinar (With Critique) by Agent Jennifer De Chiara

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Maybe you’re the next Stephen King, maybe you’ve written a New York Times bestseller, but if you don’t know how to query, no one will ever know. Learning how to write a great query, one that will not only make an agent want to read your book but pick up the phone and call you the minute he/she reads your query, is essential if you want to be a published author.

Literary agent Jennifer De Chiara will guide you, step by step, in writing the perfect pitch for your book. She’ll offer do’s and don’ts from her 16+ years of agenting and share queries that got her attention and those that didn’t. De Chiara will also give tips on how to find the right agents to query – if you’ve written a dynamite query, it’s still worthless if you’re not sending it to the right agents. It’s all part of her new webinar: “Querying 101: Putting Your Best Book Forward.” The webinar happens at 1 p.m. EST, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees receive a query critique. Don’t forget that at least 4 agents have signed writers after critiquing their work as part of a WD boot camp or webinar. Read more

Live Query-a-Thon With Agents Kate McKean & Jim McCarthy: Sept. 17 Webinar With Query Critique

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In this live webinar, literary agents Kate McKean (Howard Morhaim Literary) and Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich) invite you to peek behind the curtain and watch exactly what happens when an agent considers your query. Working from the submissions they receive (all names on queries will be removed), participants will have the chance to read along with them as they decide whether to stop reading or carry on. You’ll see the exact moment in query letters that each perks up or passes. Think of it like AMERICAN IDOL: QUERY EDITION. Along the way, you’ll garner helpful tips on what to avoid as you write your own query, how to stand out from the pack (in a good way), and what goes on in an agent’s mind as they consider your material.

We’re calling this webinar “What an Agent Really Thinks While Reading Queries: A Live Query-A-Thon.” It happens at 1 p.m. EST, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees will get a query critique from the literary agent instructors. Don’t forget that multiple literary agents have signed writers after reading their work as part of a WD webinar! Read more

Successful Queries: Agent Alyssa Reuben and “Hidden Cities” (Memoir / Travel)

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This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The installment in this series is with agent Alyssa Reuben (Paradigm Literary) for Moses Gates’s travel memoir, HIDDEN CITIES: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises; A Memoir of Urban Exploration (Tarcher, March 2013). Publishers Weekly said, “Urban exploration with Gates makes for wildly entertaining reading. A solidly entertaining ride for those seeking a gritty travel experience.” Read more

Check Out Agent Michelle Wolfson’s “Query Letter Intensive” Webinar on Sept. 27, 2012 (All Attendees Get a Query Critique)

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“How to Write a Query Letter” is probably one of the most important and common topics that we discuss here at Writer’s Digest. After all, a query is your all-important tool to get an agent to request more of your work, and eventually sign you as a client and sell your book. Your query letter must be short, but it must also explain what your book is about and hook the reader in. With all that in mind, we’re very excited to announce an all-new webinar called “Query Letter Intensive” taught by literary agent Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson Literary) on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. All attendees get their query critiqued. Keep reading to learn more.
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Agent Kathleen Ortiz Teaches How to Write a Great Query on Aug. 2, 2012 (Includes Query Critique!)

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The query letter is that all-important first contact with literary agents. Before they opt to read your work, they have to be interested in you and your story — and that’s what the query letter does. We all know that composing a query is a completely different monster than writing a story. If you’re getting rejected at the query stage, don’t fret — we have an expert for you. Literary agent Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary is teaching an intensive webinar on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012 called “How to Hook an Agent or Editor With Your Query.” The intensive webinar features a query critique by Kathleen for every registrant. Read more

Agent Kathleen Ortiz Teaches How to Write a Great Query on Dec. 8, 2011 (Includes Query Critique!)

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The query letter is that all-important first contact with literary agents. Before they opt to read your work, they have to be interested in you and your story — and that’s what the query letter does. We all know that composing a query is a completely different monster than writing a story. If you’re getting rejected at the query stage, don’t fret — we have an expert for you. Literary agent Kathleen Ortiz of Nancy Coffey Literary is teaching an intensive webinar on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 called “How to Hook an Agent or Editor With Your Query.” The new webinar features a query critique by Kathleen for every registrant. Read more

Successful Queries: Agent Jenny Bent and “Oh. My. Gods.”

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This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letters that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting the actual query letter, we will also get to hear thoughts from the agent as to why the letter worked.

The 56th installment in this series is with agent Jenny Bent (Bent Literary) for Tera Lynn Child’s book, Oh. My. Gods., (Speak; 2009) which Publishers Weekly called “an effervescent, fast-paced read.” Learn more at Teralynnchilds.com. Read more

Developing the Hook in a Query Letter

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Sometimes you only have seconds for your query to catch interest, and a great opening line can do that. We, as authors, try so hard to summarize our entire book, instead of just picking out the one or two elements that make our book unique, that I think we get lost when trying to do something like this. But practice will make it easier for you, and I hope the following ideas will help.

CRAFT A TAGLINE: Taglines are the one or two lines that are often on the front of a book cover. They are another way for publishers to draw the interest of a reader to your book. For example, the tagline on the cover of my December 2010 release, Beneath the Thirteen Moons. is “She never believed in fairy tales … until she found a prince…” Read more

The Art of the Query, Humor Style

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But something felt off in those early letters. I realized that rather than showing an agent my sense of humor, I was standing there saying the equivalent of “I’m funny.”

That’s not funny.

My solution? Approach my query letter as a piece of creative writing itself, one that reflected my style while still giving the reader all the pertinent details about my project. This wasn’t an easy proposition, as I could end up coming across as a jackass who didn’t take his work seriously if I went too far the other way. Read more

Using Conferences to Your Querying Advantage

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Conferences can be great places to learn, but let’s face it, when you’re unagented and have a completed manuscript, your main agenda may not be the workshops. I’ve attended several conferences, both as a pre-published writer and a published one. The truth is, my main goal has remained the same: Networking. Read more

Agent Bob Silverstein On: Query Letter Tips

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First, let me tell you about query letters that immediately turn me off:

1. When they are typed on an old typewriter or, worse, handwritten and often illegible. The look of a query letter is important in making a good first impression. Use a computer!

Bob’s guest column is an excerpt from Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents. Read more

Agent Scott Hoffman On: Making Sense of a Rejection Letter

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1. THE FORM REJECTION The most common (and least valuable) type, a form rejection tells you only that someone—not necessarily even the agent herself—glanced over your manuscript and didn’t think it could be sold at a high enough price to justify signing you as a client. By itself, one form rejection tells you nothing. Twenty in a row, however, may serve as a pretty convincing sign that your book, or at least the beginning of it, isn’t ready to hit the shelves quite yet.

2. THE PERSONALIZED REJECTION This can be either a form letter with a personal note added or a letter obviously written directly to you. If you receive one of these, it means your manuscript is head and shoulders above the majority of submissions an agent has read. Read more

Agent Cricket Freeman On: Nonfiction Credentials in a Book Proposal

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No matter what type of nonfiction book you’ve written, if you’re proposing your book for publication you must show you’re prepared. Imagine an editor is considering two book proposals by first-time writers. Both books are equally clever in concept, suited for his house, and he’d be proud publishing either. But he only has budget for one. Reviewing one he sees a tight synopsis, a descriptive table of contents, and a short author bio. Promising.

Cricket Freeman is a literary agent with The August Agency. Read more

Agent Mollie Glick Talks: 7 Things Agents Want to See in a Query, and 9 Things They Don’t

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7 THINGS AGENTS WANT TO SEE IN A QUERY

1. An entertaining but polite and professional tone
2. Multiple forms of contact information
3. Proof that you have researched and hand-picked an agent. (If you’ve got a connection, were referred by a client or met the agent Read more

Agent Dan Lazar On: Query Dos and Don’ts

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1. Be specific, but don’t vomit information. Saying “my novel is about a mom going through some life challenges” is vague, and remember: Vague = boring. However, be careful not to stuff your letter with so many details of your plot that it’s confusing to decipher what’s going on. Reading your pitch letter out loud can often help you identify these flaws.

2. Avoid the “duh” trap.Don’t bog down your writing by overstating the obvious. For example, “I’m writing this letter to tell you about my fictional novel, which I’d like to send you, and it is called TITLE.” That’s an awkward sentence. Read more

Rachelle Gardner On: 5 Reasons Nonfiction Writers Need a Book Proposal

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If you have a completed manuscript, you may be tempted to think that’s enough. It’s not. You still need a proposal. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Publishers usually don’t look at nonfiction manuscripts. The proposal itself provides information publishers need in order to make a purchasing decision. Before they even want to read sample chapters, they will review elements such as the author’s platform, how the book fits into the marketplace, and what titles already exist on your topic.

Guest column by literary agent Rachelle Gardner of Wordserve Literary. Read more

Learn How to Write the Perfect Query (and Snag an Agent!) on Nov. 4

Those query letters are pesky critters. You have to encapsulate your story through a pitch while explaining your writing credits. It’s no surprise that most writers would rather compose a novel than … Read more

The 5 Stages of Querying

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#1) Conceit – This is the beginning of the query experience in which you are convinced that any agent would be a fool to turn you down. You know deep in your heart this is the most fantastic book ever written and every agent who reads your query will request a full, (or at least a partial) immediately. And your mother, husband/wife and BFF beta’s said so.

#2) Fear – This second emotion is harder to contain as it encompasses a variety of anxieties at the same time: Is the query strong enough to get a request? Is the manuscript good enough? Have I revised enough? Did I find all my typos? Did I say everything I was supposed to say? Read more

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