One Writer’s Journey

October 6, 2017

Query Letters: What would you want to know?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:00 am
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In about two weeks, I’ll be leading a workshop on query letters.  Here is what I’ve pulled together so far:

3 successful letters.  One is from a picture book author.  The other two are for novels.

I’ve put together a list of online resources.

I discuss the hook.  I compare it to the elevator pitch.  I still need to put together a “how-to” on elevator pitches but I thought that would be useful.

I discuss the story paragraph and what to include when you summarize the book.

Next I give them information about what “nuts and bolts” to include about the book — length, audience age level, genre, “will be enjoyed by readers of X.”

After this, I will talk about the “Why Me?” paragraph.  Why am I the perfect author for this book and how to include only pertinent credits and biographical material.

Then of course is the “Why You?” paragraph.  This is the one about “why you are THE agent for this book.”

Then I’ll go into the wrap up (thanks for reading) and signature (include pertinent social media info).

Can you think of anything else you would need to know?  I don’t want to leave anything out but I also want to leave time to workshop people’s letters and write elevator pitches of their books.




March 8, 2017

Query Letters: Connecting with the agent

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:04 am
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A query letter is a business letter.  Check.  That’s easy and straightforward enough that most of us get it.

A query letter is also the writer’s opportunity to connect with the agent.  But remember, it is still a business letter.

Did you hear the agent speak at a conference?  Then say so.  “When I heard you speak at the Mashed Mangoes SCBWI conference, your wish list included picture books about tropical fruit.  Enclosed…”  In much the same way I’ve reminded agents that we had dinner together as fellow conference speakers.

In much the same way, you should also let the agent know if your manuscript is a good match for a recent #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) post on Twitter or their profile listing on the Manuscript Wish List web site.  Just be sure to keep is short and simple.  “On March 2, 2017, your blog post included a call for …”  “Your February 22, 2017 #MSWL tweet …” You don’t have to quite them word for word.  Just mentioned the post, tweet or whatever.  This will let the agent know why you have chosen them and that you aren’t sending your work to every agent in the SCBWI directory.

But keep it business like.  If the agent likes dogs and you have a canine manuscript, say so but don’t gush on-and-on about man’s best friend.  If the agent tweeted about Firefly and you have a manuscript with the same feel, say so without confessing your undying love for Nathan Fillion or Gina Torres.

Loved her hair?  That’s awesome.  But keep it to yourself.

Think he has great taste in messenger bags?  Cool!  But don’t mention it.

You want to make a connection but you don’t want to come off stalker-ish, creepy or just plain strange.  I know, I know.  Most of us don’t need to be told that but my job at one conference was to follow the editor to the restroom and make sure no one bothered her while she was doing her business.  Yep.  I was a bathroom bouncer.

Make that connection but be professional.  As Cobra Bubbles would say in Lilo and Stitch, “Do I make myself clear?”


October 8, 2015

Agents: The Bent Agency

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:32 am
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SCBWIIf you are an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) member, I hope you take the time to read Insight when it arrives in your e-mail.  This means that you need to click through and read entire articles, all the way to the bottom.  Because if you do, you’ll see things like this exclusive opportunity for SCBWI members.

Throughout October, all of the agents of the Bent Agency will take submissions throughout the month of October from SCBWI members. Yes, that even means the agents who are closed to submissions.

Susan Hawk, the agent that I’m interested in is NOT closed to submissions but I’m a little concerned that if they get too many submissions that could change.  So in spite of the fact that I’m drafting an entire book in about a week (15000 words), I need to get that query letter finished and send in my submission now while she’s still open.

I hope that some of you take the time to find a piece of work that is suitable for one of these agents.  And, if you have something, good luck with your submission!


March 17, 2015

Querying: Query Letter Tips

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:33 am
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Kristin at Nelson Literary recently published a series of blog posts on querying.  I really appreciated these posts since I’ve been sending out more of my work lately.  Here are some of the tips that I gleaned from her 3 posts:Query letter tips

Short and simple gets a better response than long and wordy.  It may not seem fair but if you can keep your pitch paragraph to 5-7 sentences, you have a better chance.  Why?  Because agents like Nelson will know that that amount of attention to craft in a query says something about the craft of your manuscript.  A poorly crafted, wordy query indicates that your manuscript will likely be wordy and poorly crafted.

Pitch Perfect Rules.  Put extra effort into your pitch paragraph.  Why?  Because agents frequently don’t read the entire letter.  Hook them with the pitch paragraph and they will look at the rest.  Fail to sell your project in that one simple paragraph and you probably won’t get a second chance.

Show that you’re a pro.  Once you’ve hooked the agent with your pitch, let your professionalism shine.  Show that you know where your work fits into the present market.  Identify the genre of your manuscript.  Young adult mystery.  Middle grade adventure.  Humorous picture book. List competing books.  Identify your audience.  Fans of XXX will like this book because…

You’ve put so much effort into your manuscript.  Now it’s time to put the work into a top-notch query so that you can get your work into the hands of potential agents and editors.

You can read Kristin Nelson’s original posts here (post 1, post 2, and post 3).




September 16, 2014

Writer’s Resume: What to include, What to Leave out

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:22 am
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resumeWhen you start writing, having to put together a resume is tough.  You have little or no experience and filling those blank lines is a daunting task.  New writers tend to include every scrap of vaguely relevant experience.  As we add lines to our resume, we need to outgrow that tendency and prune what needs to go.

I’m not telling you to delete portions of your resume.  At least not your master resume.  Mine is something like 21 pages long.  Yep.  21 pages.  My byline has appeared something like 425 times.  This resume has it all but that’s why this isn’t the resume that I send out when I apply for any type of writing job.

Instead, I customize the resume for that job.  Ecuational writing gets a summary of all my educational work because much of that was confidential.  I can say I wrote 12 3rd grade passages for Harcourt, but not what they were about.  An educaitonal resume will include everything that isn’t covered by a confidentiality clause and a summary of what is as well as everything that relates to the type of educational writing they want me to do be it science, history, leveled readers or high school curriculum.

This is similar to what I do when I write a query letter.  I don’t tell anyone about all of my sales — who wants to go through all of that?  But if they want eclectic and varied, they hear about the sidebar I wrote on horse manure, the piece on electricity and sharks as well as the piece on the New Madrid earthquake.

If I have nonwriting experience that fits in with what they want, I include that as well.  Sometimes I mention my degrees (anthropology and history), my thesis (based on original oral history interviews) or my work experience (from nanny to archaeological illustrator).

The long and the short of it is this — include what fits, leave out what doesn’t.  Do this and you’ll convince them that you are just the writer for the job.


April 24, 2014

Query Letters

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:28 am
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QueryI’ve been reading up on query letters lately because I’ve been writing query letters lately.  Ugh.  Not my favorite job.   There is so much that has to go into this one little bitty page.  Here are 5 tips to help you craft your own letters:

  1. E-mail header.  I love it when a publisher or agent’s guidelines tell me exactly what to include.  Mystery solved.  If not, remember that the subject of your email should include your book title and your name.  “Query” isn’t specific enough.
  2. Why this agent/editor?  Be specific about why you are contacting this person.  “You are next on my list” isn’t good enough.  Did you read an interview or hear this person speak at a conference?  Maybe you know one of their authors.  Let them know that you chose them with purpose.
  3. This is a book about…  Don’t leave the agent or editor wondering what your book is about.  Include a bit about your character including their name, their goal, and what stands in their way.  What is at risk if they fail?  You really need to make this section sing so include the most compelling facts about your story.
  4. Who is the expert?  This is for nonfiction writers.  If you aren’t an expert in your field, then give the editor some idea where you will get your expertise.  I recently landed a gig to write two ancient history texts.  Why?  Because I have degrees in anthropology and history.  I can evaluate the sources.  If you don’t have this kind of edge, who could you interview?  What sources do you plan to use?
  5. Writing credits.  So many writers through in everything but the kitchen sink when they share their credits with an agent or editor.  Only give them specifics about credits that matter.  You can include how many sales you have, but only list the publications that are in the same area.

I know I’ve just scratched the surface on how to write a query letter.  Here are three really good blug posts on the topic:

How Diet Mountain Dew Helped Me Sell a Story by author Kelly James-Enger

Making a Good Impression with Your Query Letter by agent Gemma Cooper

The Complete Guide to Query Letters that Get Manuscript Requests by editor Jane Friedman

Happy querying!


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