Challenge 2: Have your query letter critiqued by Harlequin editors
by Patience Smith, Senior Editor, Romantic Suspense
Now it’s your turn!
The ideal query has three paragraphs. While you want to convey your personality, remember that editors read many cover letters and submissions. A gimmicky query letter tends to bomb and put you at the bottom of the pile. Why is this? Because most of all, editors want just the facts about your story. You can put all your wit and sparkling prose into your writing, but the query letter should go something like this:
Opening paragraph: What is this submission and what line were you targeting? It only needs to be about three sentences, a brief overview and introduction of your story. You should also mention if the book is complete or not. Consider, as well, that we keep track of our submissions, so if you have previously sent this manuscript to us, we will have records of this.
Example: In Deadly Waters is my 55,000 word story which features a couple white- water rafting in Colorado. Danger strikes as an enemy sabotages their romantic trip. This romantic suspense would be ideal for the Romantic Suspense line. If you’ve met the editor in person, you can include that here: I enjoyed meeting you during our editor appointment at RWA in San Francisco.
There. Wasn’t that easy? On to the next paragraph.
Middle paragraph: What is your story about? In about five sentences, you should describe your novel more thoroughly, focusing on the most important aspects. What is the major theme? Who are the key characters? What do they learn at the end? If you have a romance, what is the big conflict between the hero and heroine? You’ll want to use enticing language to make the editor want to read the story. Also, bear in mind that the editor wants to know how the story fits into her line.
Example: To try to mend their relationship, Jesse Smith and Martha Brown take a vacation in Colorado. No sooner do they begin than they encounter bad luck on their trail. The further from civilization they go, the more dangerous their trip becomes. They have to band together to fight a vicious threat from the past. You can add a few sentences from here and just remember to write the most exciting parts of the story. Leave out that it took Martha Brown two hours to pack her suitcase. We just want the juiciest parts of this tale.
Concluding paragraph: What is your background? Do you have any writing credits? Day job? Night job? Do you belong to RWA and/or a chapter of RWA? This is the part where you get to brag about what you’ve done or how much you love the romance genre. After this, remember to thank the editor for her/his consideration.
And you’re done! With this foolproof formula, you can crank out a winning query letter in no time.
We’d love to see your wonderful query letters. Please submit to us at firstname.lastname@example.org by 6:00 p.m. EST, today, November 2, 2010. Be sure to include in the subject heading: SYTYCW Query Letter Challenge. We’ll randomly pick five to critique tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m., November 3, 2010. Good luck!
You’ll find the critiques posted on the eHarlequin.com Community. Comments have been closed here, so if you want to discuss the challenge, hop on over there and chat away!