Tuesday, January 24

Dear Editor

Soooo....this week on Wordwranglers, Margie suggested that we give up our query/synopsis tips.

Mine is simple.

If you haven't written one, or even if you have, go to a published author site and check and see if they have a published query to look at. This is a super way to learn how to format one.

This is how I learned. I took a class at the college from Margot Early, superromance author. She wasn't yet published, but she had been mentored by authors who were, and she gave me that advice when I began to struggled, and I mean struggle with queries.

I actually like to queries now. I like to tighten them down to three paragraphs. Well, actually four-five with a tagline. I have done pretty well with this one, although it is a little longer than one I normally write. One mistake here, though. I should have addressed this to a specific editor.


Dear Penguin Editors:

Mississippi Blues is a southern-set suspense novel—Prison Break meets Steel Magnolias.

Can a man who believes wholeheartedly in a killer’s guilt and a woman who never wavers in her belief of that same man’s innocence find a common ground?

Five years ago Trey Bouche´ found his best friend, with blood on his hands, standing over a body. Although Trey wanted to believe in his friend’s innocence, he was forced to testify in court and Jace was sent to prison for life. Now, Trey returns, determined to prove he was right. Even if it means losing the woman he still loves.

Summer Hill cannot forgive Trey or his father, The Chief of Police, for the wrongs she feels they did to her family. When her brother escapes from Angola, Summer vows to keep her brother safe, no matter the cost. Falling back in love with Trey again isn’t an option.

Now, five years later, the past begins to unravel. Reluctantly thrown together, Summer and Trey follow a twisted path that lead them to the truth—Jace didn’t kill anyone and an entire town’s ugly secret is unveiled. But more importantly, Trey and Summer rediscover the love they lost.

I have been writing for many years, and my passion is romantic suspense, often with a western or southern setting. In the last year, I have placed in or won seven contests, including The Daphne, The Lone Star and the Heart of the Rockies. In addition to Mississippi Blues, I have several other completed manuscripts.

I would very much like to send you a partial or full manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

D’Ann Linscott-Dunham
xxx Road
O-town, Colorado XXXXX
Phone #####

Love to hear any tips you have on query or synopsis writing. Tune in tomorrow to learn what tip Kristi has!


  1. Great query D'Ann...it's similar in layout to mine except I put my name and info at the top centered. Like you I visited sites with author's sites to see if they had a sample, googled query samples and tips and read so many queries on queryshark dot com my eyes blurred. I used to dread the query, but not anymore, now I struggle writing that darn tagline. LOL Yeah, one single sentence and I break out in a sweat :)

  2. Thanks for the tips, D'Ann. I'm dreading mine when it comes due. Which will be soon. But I will take your advice and scope out some authors blogs and web sites.

  3. This is great! And you wanted MY wisdom?

  4. After having eleven books published in print by various publishers, I should be able to share some great query tips, but I don't consider myself good at it. I still don't have an agent and so my hundreds of published short stories, articles, poems as well as novels don't seem to impress them.

    I think you are right to say that it's important to address someone by name--more likely to draw a response. My problem is how much of my published work to list. I'm now only mentioning most recent publication.

    Jacqueline Seewald

  5. I really don't have any tips. I'm not great at writing queries. I do better with 2 or 3 line pitches.

  6. I'm terrible with the query, tag lines, blurbs, synopsis, and three line pitches.

  7. I've read a LOT of query letters in the past 3 years. Since most queries are done digitally now, it's very important you work out a nice, clean letter in a document format (and by clean, I mean have your CPs review it so you don't have dumb typos you're blind to), that you can paste into your email window, and then customize. Make sure if you're querying an editor, you don't have a line in there about looking for representation. If you're querying Publisher XYZ, don't use Publisher 123's name in the salutation. These sound like no-brainers, but TRUST ME. It happens a lot.

    Make the letter professional. Just because it's an email, don't think "Hey there" passes as a suitable salutation. Use "Dear Editor" or "Dear Acquisitions Editor" if you're not sure of a name the letter is going to. But a name is nice, if it's going to one specific person.

    Next, keep your tag line and blurb as concise as possible. As writers, we love to provide details. It's who we are--but details don't belong in the tag line or blurb. Neither do spoilers, or any of the plot from the latter half of the book. It should be about premise. What makes your characters' situation unique? Put it out there, using a few snappy lines.

    And please, for the love of all that is written, do NOT tell the person you're querying how she'll react to your book, or how much she'll love it. Nothing puts us off more. It's like daring us to find what we hate about the submission--which is always easy. After reading comments from many other editors, I can assure that's a universal reaction.

    Lastly--and this should go without saying, but it happens several time a week where I work--Follow the submission guidelines. If you only send 3 chapters when the publisher has specified to send a full, do you really think they're going to bother with emailing you and asking for the rest of the manuscript? Authors who can't follow directions set off warning bells. When it comes time for edits, directions get much more specific, so it doesn't bode well when somebody can't adhere to those few steps to submit.

  8. I found the old one, two, three, four beat worked best for me. a very short line of introduction that included word count and sub-genre. Then a paragraph setting up the heroine. A paragraph setting up the hero. A paragraph setting up the conflict/plot and a final paragraph with credits/quick bio.

  9. Great tip, D'Ann! It's always great to see how published authors are formatting...

  10. I have a CP that helps me with my blurbs. She and I toss it back and forth until it's right.

  11. Good post D'Ann! I don't think I'll ever like or be good at query letters.

  12. Great tips! Querying is super hard for me, I'm just not succinct enough quite yet. But yours looks good!

  13. It's a good query if it gets them to read your crap. It's bad if it doesn't. I'm convinced there is no good way to tell the difference. It's a crap shoot. There are simple things you can do - I think you've included some good one's here. Other than that all I can say is--pray! LOL

  14. I say find a CP who loves to write queries and synopsises and never let them go! LOL EVERYONE's query is better than mine. And anyone but me can make their synopsis sound like a movie trailer I'm dying to see. A thank you to Piper Denna - Very detailed explanation. Care to crit mine? Ugh...back to the drawing board.

  15. Sheri,
    Sure--send it my way when you wanted it looked at. I'm piperdenna at gmail dot com

  16. Nice query, D'Ann.... I too don't dread queries. Often I have a rough blurb already written--it often is my only form of physical (writing down) plotting.

    I also visited websites that have queries of actual authors. Charlotte Dillon has a great site.

    I structure mine like a business letter (I'm a medical secretary. So, I always put my info at the top.

  17. Howdy D'Ann-
    I like to check out Critique my Query on the magazine "The Writer" 's website. She reads the letter then points out its strenghts and weaknesses in a webcast. She does about two a month in all genres. It is interesting to see an editor's gut reaction to what is on the paper.
    Renee Charles (Brenda L)

  18. Thanks for this post today, D'Ann as I'm getting ready to saddle up and start querying again.

    My best pieces of advice are 1) to make it succinct and intriguing. Make them want to know more about your H/H. And 2)make damn sure everything is spelled correctly, including the agent/editor's NAME!

    You know when the query works because you get requests--after that it's up to your work itself to wow them.

  19. Thanks, all, for coming by today!
    I appreciate it!
    And, yes, I caught the damn typos in my post after I hit publish. Sigh.

  20. Great post, D'Ann. I hate queries, blurbs, tag lines, etc. Lol, it's a miracle I even like writing!

    Crit partners are invaluable when it's time to toss around ideas and suggestions. And, boy, do I ever need them with queries and blurbs.

    Lol, and I think we've all caught typos as soon as we hit the 'send' or 'publish' button. I swear I can check over the document a thousand times, and my eyes remain blind until I hit send.

  21. I agree with Trish. That's exactly how I write my query. Short sentence about the specifics of the story--genre, word count, etc. A paragraph about the heroine, a paragraph about the hero and a short paragraph about what keeps the two apart. The last paragraph is about my writing credentials.

    I actually like writing queries. I know, weird, right?

  22. I joined Query Tracker - they have a forum where you can post your query and people will critique it for you.

  23. Chiming in late, D'Ann! Wonderful post and letter to the editor. I don't dread a synopsis as much as the query. I have a hard time summing up in a couple paragraphs :)
    Great post!

  24. That seems like a great tip to me. In fact it's what I'd recommend. Or ask any published authors that you know well if they would share their query letter with you. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. Rather, use a proven method.