March Book Madness: Tips on Querying with Lynn Wiese Sneyd


Today is the first official day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS.

Here’s the Schedule:

I feel very lucky to have Lynn Wiese Sneyd here, talking about querying. I personally have not queried any agents since I worked directly with Deseret Book on Sadie, so I know very little on the subject except that it can be done and it can be done well. Thank you, Lynn, for being willing to give us some advice and I’ll let you take over. 


Lynn:  It took me six months to get up the nerve to write my first query letter. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a book that guided me along the uneven path through the dark forest – How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool. I studied, highlighted, and almost memorized this seminal work. Finally I wrangled the courage to pen a query. Boom! It hit a home run, scored an agent and soon after a publisher. Needless to say, to this day Lisa Collier Cool and her book remain my heroes and I still follow her formula. (Lisa’s book is available on Amazon  http://amzn.to/vfxKKF and you can follow her on Twitter at @LisaCollierCool.) 

Like book proposals, query letters are formulaic. They need to contain certain pieces of information, while enticing an agent or editor, motivating him or her to ask for your article, book proposal or book manuscript. The key components of a query letter include the following: 

·      A hook: Grab the reader with an anecdote, a startling statistic, a comparison, a quote, or a reference to a movie or book.
·      Proposed title: Be creative. Be clever. But also be prepared for an agent or publisher to change your title.
·      Length of book: Some agents prefer word count, others prefer page count. Also include the number of chapters.
·      Author credentials: This is no more than one paragraph, so make it sing. 
·      Brief overview of book: Sell the sizzle! Maybe that comes in the form of controversy, a topical subject, a unique spin. Pinpoint what’s hot and what’s not. 
·      Target market: Outline who will read this book and how you will reach the targeted audiences. In other words, describe your platform. 
·      Competitive or complementary titles: If possible, mention several books – preferably popular ones – that compare or contrast to your book. 
·      Multiple submissions: If you are submitting to more than one agent or query, it’s considerate to let everyone know this up front, so mention it in your letter.
The length should be one page, from salutation to signature, single-spaced in 12-point font. You can either email the query or snail mail it. The agent or publisher’s website usually will indicate the preferred delivery method.  If you’re mailing the query, make sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope, commonly referred to as an SASE. These days, many agents and publishers accept queries via email.
Here is a sample query letter for a non-fiction book sent to an agent who sold it the book proposal to Prometheus Books. It eventually was published as Hands Off My Belly! The Pregnant Woman’s Survival Guide to Myths, Mothers and Moods. (You can find the book at http://amzn.to/vqdmgn.) If I were to do it again, I would “ghostwrite” the query in the first person voice of the authors. But for now, this gives the idea of what goes into a query letter.
Dear Agent:
Shawn Tassone, MD and Katherine Landherr, MD, a husband and wife obstetric and gynecological team, hear the questions every day in their clinic. If I crave spicy food, does that mean I’m having a boy? If I carry the baby low, that means it’s a girl, right? My grandmother said that if I crack an egg on my belly, and it falls to the left, I’ll have a girl and to the right, a boy. Is that true?
Such claims are nothing more than myths and superstitions that have developed over centuries, contend Drs. Tassone and Landherr, who have learned that myths and superstitions permeate every stage of pregnancy and childbirth. In their engaging and informative book, The Superstitious Pregnancy: Myths and Misconceptions about Pregnancy and Childbirth, Drs. Tassone and Landherr will explore the most common superstitions and myths surrounding fetal gender identification, infertility and childbirth and will offer scientific proof either supporting or debunking them
This unique 40,000-word book will appeal to the 4 million women who are pregnant each year. Rarely does a woman go through pregnancy without hearing at least a handful of myths. The Superstitious Pregnancy will provide the expectant mother, her partner and family with medical explanations of many of the superstitions and myths that abound. Besides being a perfect baby shower gift or gift for a woman who has just found out she’s pregnant, The Superstitious Pregnancy will attract the attention of readers seeking practical information about pregnancy and childbirth, readers who gravitate toward popular books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
Divided into seven chapters, The Superstitious Pregnancy will delve into superstitions and myths concerning conception, early pregnancy, second and third trimester, and pre-delivery and delivery. In addition, the authors will address myths about diet, gender identification, preterm labor, and the umbilical cord, as well as myths about the fetus, such as movement and size. Myths about how to initiate labor also will be discussed. As they explore the scientific perspective of these myths, the authors will provide readers with practical information that will ease the fears and anxieties so often accompanying pregnancy.
During their years in practice, Drs.Tassone and Landherr have seen thousands of patients and have a wealth of stories about patients’ beliefs and what they have tried in order to become pregnant, determine the sex of their child, and induce labor, among other things. Their entertaining anecdotes will pepper each chapter. Unlike most other authors of pregnancy books, they can address both the male and female perspectives of the pregnancy experience. Not only do they have medical experience, they also have children of their own and have experienced first hand all the emotions and issues of pregnancy and childbirth. Indeed, they are the ideal authors for this book.
If you would like to read a proposal for The Superstitious Pregnancy, please let me know. I appreciate your time and consideration. This is a multiple submission query.
Sincerely,
Lynn Wiese Sneyd

Lynn’s Bio:
As owner of LWS Literary Services, Lynn Wiese Sneyd coordinates national, regional and local publicity campaigns for authors of non-fiction and fiction books. In addition, she specializes in writing query letters, book proposals, and provides editing and ghostwriting services. Prior to starting LWS Literary Services, Lynn served as the literary publicist for Russell Public Communications and also worked as a community relations manager for Barnes & Noble Booksellers. An award-winning author and a frequent presenter at writers’ conferences and workshops, Lynn has had poetry, essays, and articles published around the country. She and her family currently reside in Tucson, AZ. 


Thank you Lynn for your great post on querying! I love working off a list and as such, appreciate her straight-forward steps. Her website, www.lwsliteraryservices.com, has more great information on querying, as well as book publicity and editing services. You can also find her on twitter @LWSLiterary and on facebook here. Go check it out.

What about you? What tricks have you learned about querying? What things have you learned not to do? What do you wish you knew? Do you have any questions for Lynn? 

Tune in next Tuesday for more MARCH BOOK MADNESS, when Tobi Summers will be discussing plotting versus plodding.

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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

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