Guest blogger Christine Trent landed a two-book deal with Kensington Books. Her debut novel, The Queen’s Dollmaker, a historical with strong romantic elements, is due to be released in January 2010. I interviewed Christine September 3, 2008. Three weeks later, she sold, and on October 31, 2008 she shared her exciting story of receiving The Call.
Christine has learned a great deal as she’s traveled the path to publication, and I’ve invited her to pass on some of her tips to you. Join us as we explore four topics so important to those eager to receive a contract offer:
April 13: How to . . . Complete a Manuscript
April 16: How to . . . Submit a Query Letter
April 20: How to . . . Interpret a Rejection Letter
April 23: How to . . . Get from First Sale to Publication Wisely
Be sure to follow the comment trail, where Christine will stop by to respond to your questions. As usual, there’s a drawing. Find out about my biggest giveaway yet at the end of the post.
And now, here’s Christine . . .
A Writer’s Tool Kit: Part 2
How to . . . Submit a Query Letter
by Christine Trent
“I have finished the race”
Christine’s Top 5 Rules for Query Letters
Today we’re not going to go into the mechanics of writing a query letter, as there are vast amounts of material out there on creating a perfect query. Instead, I’m going to discuss the etiquette of writing query letters. In particular, I’d like to cover five things I think every writer should know.
1. If an agent/editor invites you to query, DO IT RIGHT AWAY, THEIR WAY
If you get an opportunity to pitch an agent/editor at a conference or elsewhere and are invited to send in a partial, it is imperative that you send within a week of the invitation. If you don’t, the agent/editor may forget you, and it also suggests that you may have difficulty with future deadlines. If you wait a month or more to send in your submission, you have probably missed your window of opportunity. Think of it this way: if someone knocks on your door and asks if they can give you a proposal to paint your house and you say yes, what is your opinion if the painter doesn’t show up with an estimate for a month?
In addition, learn what the agent/editor wants, and submit exactly how they want it. Some want you to send you query by e-mail, with the first three chapters in the body of the e-mail. If so, then do not send it as an attachment! If you’re asked to query only by snail mail with a two-page synopsis, do not mail in your entire manuscript.
Do exactly what is requested. To ignore their requirements suggests that you may not be able to follow their directions after you are contracted.
2. Don’t Query One at a Time
My heart has gone out to writers who submit one query at a time, waiting to hear back from individual agents/editors before sending out the next query. You don’t need to do this! I have typically sent queries in batches of ten at a time.
Now, sometimes an agent/editor may ask you for an “exclusive read.” What does this mean? It means they want to have an opportunity to read your manuscript without worrying that someone else will contract with you before having a chance to finish it
So, what do you do? My personal advice is that you send in your submission with a letter that includes a statement like: “I am happy to offer you a three-week exclusive read on this manuscript, to conclude on <DATE>.” If the agent/editor has asked for a specific time period for the exclusive read, graciously give it. Just don’t let it be open-ended.
During the exclusivity period, you will have to refrain from sending out other queries, of course.
My other caution is that even though you can send multiple queries at one time, you should still be careful and selective about your mailing list. Do your research. Sending your paranormal time travel to an agent/editor who specializes in American westerns may not be the best use of your time or his!
3. Don’t query if your manuscript isn’t FINISHED
If you have not yet finished your manuscript, I urge you not to begin the query process. This is mostly for your own protection. If the agent/editor reads your partial, loves it, and wants to see more . . . what are you going to do? You’ll be in the same position as the writer who doesn’t respond immediately to a positive response to a pitch. You won’t be able to deliver, and the agent/editor will be left with a bad impression. Although it is very tempting to query before completing a manuscript, whether because you think you will finish soon anyway or because you want to see what interest is out there, it truly is not a good idea for your career.
One caveat: This doesn’t apply to non-fiction. Non-fiction writers frequently sell from book proposals. First-time fiction writers, though, need a finished manuscript.
4. Send a thank-you note
Even if you get a rejection, send a quick note to the agent/editor to say you appreciate the time spent reviewing your manuscript. If an agent/editor has e-mailed me a nice rejection with helpful comments, I frequently reply with a thanks and an inquiry as to whether or not she would be willing to review my next work in progress. You’d be surprised how often you get a “yes” to that.
5. Be patient
As with justice, the wheels of the publishing world can turn slowly. I’ve sent out query letters and waited agonizing months for that regrettable rejection. I’ve also waited months and figured my manuscript was propping up a broken desk leg somewhere, only to have an agent/editor come back and request a full. Then send me a rejection several more months later. 🙂
Ironically, when I finally sold to an editor (the lovely Audrey LaFehr at Kensington), it was at a lightning-fast speed I did not expect. You just never know when you’ll get The Call.
You can sell your manuscript. It may take a lot of time, tears, and travel to the post office, but there are loads of success stories out there. The market is always open to a great novel. The secret is in persisting, in finishing the race, in keeping the faith.
Can I answer any questions about query etiquette?
Leave a Comment for Your Chance to Win
I have a plethora of prizes to give away while Christine’s posts are active. This time I’m keeping the prizes a secret. Yes, each winner will receive a package with a minimum of three mystery items that range from note cards to necklaces or memo pads to magnets.
I’ll choose 11 winners from those who leave a comment for Christine between April 13 and 23, one each day, and will post the winners’ names as they are drawn.
To be entered in the drawing, please include an email address when prompted, which I don’t share. Each comment counts as an entry, and you may enter as many times as you’d like.
Winners: #1 Leslie Carroll, #2 Leigh, #3 Jessica, #4 Eileen Astels, #5 Karen Fraga, #6 Sherrinda, #7 Margay
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and April 30. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On May 1, Keli will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)
Learn More About Christine
Visit her Web site: www.ChristineTrent.com
Learn More About Her Debut Novel
The Queen’s Dollmaker
Coming January 2010 from Kensington Books
“An exuberant, sparkling debut. Beguiling details of doll making are a joy in this rags-to-riches romp. Brims with Dickensian gusto.”
–Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen’s Lady and The King’s Daughter
A young woman, struggling to expand her London dollmaking trade, finds a surprising customer in Queen Marie Antoinette, an avid doll collector herself. This seemingly innocent exchange puts Claudette’s life in danger when she is lured to Paris under false pretenses. Money and jewels are being smuggled in dolls destined for the Queen, and have now been discovered by the fledgling revolutionary French government. Her only hope for escaping the guillotine is a man she pledged not to love, who has no idea she has even been imprisoned…