Query Letters: Quantity or Quality?

I met a writer at a conference who said he sent 300 query letters before self-publishing.  I read some of his work, he is a good writer; but is writing 300 query letters a good strategy?  Based on my research over the past several years, I would say that quality is always better than quantity.

This may even be the motto of my life.

I am not an expert on writing query letters, but I have found some:


True confessions time!

After researching Agencies, http://www.agentquery.com/  I sent three letters for my first novel Seeing Scarlet before beginning yet another round of rewrites.  The rewrites are my decision, because I know I can better.   Of the three letters sent, I received one request for a full manuscript.  Not bad odds.

For my second, not quite completed novel, I sent one letter and received a very nice rejection.  By that, I mean, several paragraphs, which were both encouraging and offered an explanation about why she could not take on the novel.

What is the consensus?  What do they want?

Send it to the right agent, someone who represents your genre and is actively seeking new authors.

No typos or grammatical errors.

  • If your letter is boring, the assumption is that your novel will be as well.
  • Brevity: agents are busy.
  • No gimmicks, but a good hook doe not hurt.
  • Answer the question:  what is your story and why are you qualified to write it?

If you think have ever been in involved in a job search and who hasn’t, it’s not unlike writing a cover letter, if yours stinks, no one will read your résumé or your novel in this case, no matter how great it is.

Oh, and most importantly, double-check the spelling of the name of the Agency and Agent.  They say this actually happens, but it won’t get you very far.

Why Black and White Films Trump Reality TV

So I’m flipping through the three hundred or so channels on my new overpriced and overrated ‘bundle’ and finding absolutely NOTHING that holds my attention.  After a hosing by the last ‘bundle’ company, you would think I would have learned my lesson.

In truth, I could pull the plug, plop the TV on the curbside and replace the old “square eye” with a reptile tank.  Not to mention, it’s fun to peer out the window to see who picks up the beast.  After looking it over curiously wondering if it still functions properly, glancing askance at my residence and then back to the machine, before…with a shoulder shrug, the curb cruiser whisks it away to its’ new happy home.

I love recycling.  Anything and everything I put on the curb with a “FREE” sign attached, miraculously disappears.

Anyway, it’s not my decision exclusively, so the TV stays put for now.

But wait!  After cursing and bemoaning the abundant reality TV shows, I unveiled a pale light flickering in the TV tunnel of doom.

First, I digress.  Seriously America, are we that nosy?  I don’t have time to care about what the Housewives in New York are doing.  And just for the record:  “Real Housewives” do not wear Prada, have expensive personal trainers on retainer and travel in limousines to fine restaurants to meet their friends and  discuss million dollar fundraisers, which benefit from the proceeds of their personal perfume lines.

And, we do not punch eachother…at least not physically.

True Housewives wear workout clothes all day, because it might motivate us to actually work out or at least convince others we just worked out and also serves as an explanation for the state of our hair.  We drive mini vans or SUVS full of screeching eight-year-old girls to public swimming pools for Birthday parties, have Papa John’s on speed dial and volunteer at the public schools.

Maybe I’ll tweet Ryan Seacrest  http://twitter.com/RyanSeacrest  to see if he wants to promote a show called “Keeping Up with my Stay-At-Home-Mom GF’s and me”.  It would be entertaining.  But would anyone care?

So, just as I’m getting ready to toss the remote across the room and cry out in defeat, I find this great black and white film from 1946, The Razors Edge, 

, starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney;  a brilliant story based on the novel by Somerset Maugham.

There’s something about the sharp contrast of Black and White that immediately gets your attention, it’s so stripped down, no bells, no whistles.  Nothing explodes and there is no nudity.  The actors needed skill back then and the story was compelling because, as I said, nothing explodes.  The actors held your attention and pulled you into the story.  Imagine!

It’s a tragic story full of loss, deception and heartache.  I immediately felt compassion for, Sophie Nelson, played by Anne Baxter, who for me was the tragic heroine of the film.  I kept hoping her story would end happily, after all she had been through.  Poor Sophie!

There are riveting close-ups, where you have only the actors expressions to convey the scene.  Amazing!  Think, Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, with her terrifying eyebrows arching as she bellowed,  “No more wire hangers!”

Yikes!  That still gives me the chills!

Okay, here’s a clip that isn’t black and white, it would be better if it were:  

Who knows, going back in time may just be the thing to still our over stimulated minds.

I’ll put a note in my tweet to Ryan Seacrest, that my “True Housewives” show, be shot exclusively in black and white, like an I Love Lucy episode.  For my close-up, I’ll need huge arched eyebrows and when I shout, “No more video games or reality TV, EVER!”  Audiences will shudder.

Sharing the Gift of Literature

“We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis

After completing the seven book series “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, my ten-year-old son, asked:

“Do you ever get that sad feeling when you’ve finished a good series and you can’t continue (to read) because there are no more books?”

My heart leapt!

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy

I started to think about my childhood introduction to literature, which began with the first book in the Lewis series, read aloud by my retired neighbor.

My sister and I met our neighbor, Mrs. Olsen one day, while following our dog Cassius on his daily treat rounds.  Cassius performed in a traveling neighborhood show, singing for cookies.  As it happened, Mrs. Olsen kept a stash of human cookies as well and our visits became a routine thing.

An avid reader, she encouraged and inspired us, by reading stories during our visits.  When she read “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and it was like nothing we had ever heard before.  We began looking for excuses to visit more often, not just for cookies, but anxious to hear more of the adventures of Lucy and her siblings.

C.S. Lewis, according to his Biography, http://www.biographyonline.net/writers/cs-lewis.html and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends who shared a writers group called Inklings, which met in a pub.  Can you imagine being a butterfly on the wall for one of those discussions?

Mrs. Olsen, also a fan of Tolkien, read us “The Hobbit” as well, yet another story my son now loves.  As we all anxiously await the film version http://www.thehobbit.com/index.html due out this fall, he has begun reading the “Lord Of The Rings” trilogy.

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of the past centuries.” – Descartes

I am certain I would never have fallen in love with literature had it not been for the kindness of my dear neighbor, Elisa Mitchell Olsen, who also taught me many lessons about life, character and the importance of having a mind of one’s own.  I only recently learned she had spent her career working in Publishing, not surprising.

The last time I saw Mrs. Olsen, in 2001, she was a guest at my wedding.  Sadly, while my family and I were living in Italy, on February 21, 2009, she passed away.  I am forever grateful to her for opening my eyes to the wonderful world inside my imagination, a gift I have since passed on to my own children, as they will for generations to come.            

#Putting Some Win in Your Sales

Question for the week:  Can you sell your words without selling your soul?

If you directly show the desire to sell something or worse, call yourself a Salesperson, can you escape negative connotations? 

Slimy Salesman Image

The word Salesman calls to mind images of polyester leisure suits, used cars and telemarketers hawking something you don’t want, refusing to take no for an answer.

Funny how words work.  The alternate spelling of the word, sails, invokes much lovelier imagery:

Croatia Yacht Charter Sailing Catamarans

Is sales really such a dirty word?  As consumer’s we like to buy things.  So, are salespeople villains?

Is it because it seems so desperate to have to ask, “would you like to buy this?”

Or is it because we like to kid ourselves that we are not being sold to every minute of every day?

As Authors, we shudder at the thought of having to sell our books; it’s not just about book signings and readings anymore, subtle selling events.  At the mere suggestion of promotion, we cry out:  “I thought the Publisher did the selling?”  Maybe once upon a time, when Agents were more like Fairy Godmothers.

Fairy Godmother

The selling starts long before the story is even printed.  First, we have sell our manuscript to an Agent, then it’s (hopefully) sold to an Editor and Publisher.  If we are fortunate enough to find success, the expectation remains, we will do our part literally, to get the word out about our book and sell it to the public.

Even with twelve years in Sales and Marketing experience under my belt, it took a long time to come to terms with this fact.  I thought I’d escape selling by becoming a writer.  The jokes on me!

As a salesperson I preferred to view my job as educating people on a quality product.  I chose to offer a service or fulfilled a need.  Of course, in doing so, I was in fact, selling something. My sales improved when customers viewed me as likable or better yet, as possessing a sense of humor.

Can selling a book be so different from selling some other type of product?  How do you make yours the one people want to buy like some of the blogs turned books that sky rocketed to success:  Author Julie Powell’s, “Julie and Julia” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”, by E.L. James.

“Julie and Julia”, by Julie Powell, (Little, Brown)

With  416, 039 bloggers just on WordPress alone, and how many are seeking book deals, has this ship already sailed?

Okay writers, time to get creative!

In Writer’s Digest, September 2012 issue, Author, Laura DiSilverio used Pinterest to show the items in her character Gigi Goldman’s wardrobe, to promote her book.  Clever.

At the Unicorn Writers Conference, self published Author, Joseph J.   Bradley handed out bookmarks instead of cards, which included the book cover, a brief plot synopsis and all of his pertinent information.  Smart.

Candace Knoebel, a blogger/Author I discovered here on WordPress.com, produced a book trailer for the release of her new book, “Born in Flames”.  Inventive.


I love this idea.  For me, writing is visual.

Small businesses have used t-shirts, magnets, direct mail campaigns, pens, pencils, golf balls and ball caps among other things to help promote their businesses for years.  Maybe your character likes to play golf?

Over the summer, I saw an airplane banner advertising wine.  It did make me a little thirsty.

Airplane banner

Skywriting would work, after all, it was a big hit for the Wicked Witch Of The West.

Skywriting Spells Out, “You Didn’t Fail”.

Writing the book it seems is only half the battle.  The challenge is before us to seek out  the next best way to sell our work without sacrificing integrity.

For now, my mission is to finish writing what I hope will be a quality novel that might fulfill a need to read, with hope that readers will find my characters likable and maybe even entertaining.

Thanks for reading and keep writing!