Writer’s Resource – The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit

sell your novel tool kitBy Elizabeth Lyon

The publishing world has changed in the last number of years. This book was originally published in 1997, but came out as a paperback in 2002. Publishing has changed a lot in twelve years, but there is still a lot to be gleaned from this book.

The subtitle is “Everything you need to know about queries, synopses, marketing, and breaking in.”

Since Meghan’s Choice is a historical romance, I marked the “Romance – Western Historical” tab in the chapter on Queries. (pg. 182-183). I particularly wanted to know what worked and what didn’t – especially if I was going to have to do a lot of “cold calling” type queries. I have since learned that yes, cold query does work sometimes, but in our age of “relationship” – agents and editors make themselves available at writer’s conferences. I believe I mentioned that I attended a writer’s conference last September, where I had five appointments.

First, know that nothing “guarantees” you’ll ever get your book published. You can everything right, and still not get a book contract. What I’m trying to do is share my resources with you that I hope will give you a “leg up.” I’m with you in the game, but I’m “pre-published” too. Funny, how we try to put a positive spin on everything.

Okay, on to what this book has to offer.

On the two pages I mentioned (pg. 182-183), the author looks at one query. She mentions the name of the book, the would-be author, copies the query letter into a two-column format, and places comments in the second column. Here’s an example:

“I am querying for your consideration of my western historical romance entitled Tempered With Love. It is 102,000 words in length and is set in a small town in northern California in the year 1878.” That’s in column one.

The author’s comments: “Feels a little awkward as a lead. Seems long, and “in length” is redundant. Clear statement of time and location.” So basically, the author had only one really good thing to say about the opening paragraph. She liked the clear statement of place and time.

To summarize the rest of the query letter: The writer names the two main characters, Rebecca, a cattle rustler, and Forrester, the rancher who catches trying to steal his cattle. Both characters have issues and secrets. Another paragraph gives the author’s credentials of membership in RWA (Romance Writers of America), that she’s taken a number of English classes, and meets with a critique group.

At the end of the query, the author analyzes the letter and its contents.

“Besides its brevity, the most compelling quality of this query is the role reversal of the heroine as the cattle rustler. The author has introduced just enough about the characters and her study of romance to explain why she got positive responses requesting the full manuscript. With some polishing of awkward phrasing and redundancies and some strengthening of the characterization and conflict; this query will sparkle.

The back of the book also has listings of numerous other resources for further study.

I haven’t written many query letters recently, but about six years ago I wrote between five and ten. That may not seem like a lot, and in reality, it’s not. But for someone with rejection issues, that’s about all they take – especially when they all come back rejections. How many query letters have you written?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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