Today we begin looking at query letters, and attempting to make them irresistible even to the most evil of editors. Naturally, Evil Editor doesn't want to feel like he's posting for just one person, so others should chime in with encouragement for the query author. And, of course, the usual praise for Evil Editor.
If you don't feel that the critique has improved the query, at least wait until others weigh in with their comments and set you straight. And of course remember that a better query does not guarantee better results.
The original query may be read by ignoring the colored sections of the first version below.
Also, bear with Evil Editor, as I haven't read the books. Which means:
1. These letters are going to end up shorter than they began, because your Evil Editor cannot add information as easily as he can subtract it.
2. I must make certain assumptions that may prove incorrect
3. When I insert specifics where they are needed, they are sure to be the wrong specifics. Unless I'm psychic.
As an added bonus, query letters will often be preceded by an opportunity for readers to "Guess the Plot," given only the book's title.
Guess the Plot
Par for the Course
1. Policewoman Vanessa Grute wants nothing more than to nab the gay albino who murdered her conjoined Siamese twin--until she falls head over heels in love with him.
2. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Sam tries to kill two birds with one stone by taking the bull by the horns. He soon learns, though, that run-of-the-mill problems like his are just a part of life, all in a day's work . . . Par for the Course.
3. When Belinda "Birdie" Winters meets her soulmate after hours at the 19th hole, he bends her over the bar.
4. A columnist writing a story on golf course romances, wrangles a trip to a golf resort for "research," never mentioning to her editor that it's the home course of the hunky pro golfer she's had a crush on since college.
5. Running marathons seemed like a good way for Terry Par to change her life. But when a rash of on-course killings hits the amateur marathon circuit, she wonders if she made the right decision.
6. Serial killer Herbert Hawkins takes his victims on golfing holidays and bludgeons them to death, each with a different club. Can Detective Paris stop him before he goes through his entire bag?
When Jillian Welch learns women are the fastest growing market in the global golf industry, [This is relevant if she's writing for Golf Trade Magazine] she grabs onto the fact with both hands. Golf courses have become the new singles bar [Now that is relevant]– a place where men and women of similar backgrounds can meet up. [Men and women who golf, anyway.] Jillian uses this truth to convince her editor to let her write her Dating Diva column about the phenomenon [I wouldn't think you would need to convince an editor on subject matter; perhaps on paying for a trip to a distant golf course]. Never mentioning what she really wants to do is fan an old flame.
Just once is all it will take [Just once what? Wrong move? Roll in the hay?] for Jillian Welch to stop obsessing about her college crush and move on with her life. Ben Cannon is just a man after all [Ben Cannon? Just a man? Why, he's a god!], and once he disappoints her as all men do, she’ll be able to get him out of her head for good [same thing you said in the last sentence]. Except every move he makes is the right one, in bed and out of it, making Jillian wonder if leaving [If, by "leaving" you mean "moving on," say so; or do you mean leaving town and going back to New York?] is the right thing to do after all… [I'm thinking this paragraph should be switched with the next one.]
There’s something familiar about the columnist [Is it the columnist or the magnetic pull that's familiar?] who arrives at his [It's his?] golf course to write about how the clubhouse is the new singles bar. Ben’s only felt this magnetic pull once before, for a bespectacled brunette who kissed him, then ran away. The platinum blonde from New York couldn’t be more different. Confident, poised, and hitting on him like crazy - is she interested in him, or looking for fodder for her Dating Diva column?
PAR FOR THE COURSE is a sensual romance about the one who got away. Currently, I have three other novels under consideration with different publishers: Come For Dinner, full manuscript requested by Mills & Boon; If You Say So, partial manuscript with Harlequin; and Breaking His Rules, full manuscript with Avon. Mills & Boon will publish my debut romance novel, Just One Spark, in May 2006. [This is more impressive than those other credits; put it first, and don't bother with the others' titles.] I can immediately send you complete manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
When Jillian Welch learns that golf courses have become the new singles scene, she convinces her editor to fly her to Myrtle Beach, where she can research the phenomenon for her Dating Diva column -- never mentioning to her editor that what she really wants to do is fan an old flame.
There’s something wildly enchanting about the columnist who arrives at Ben Cannon's favorite golf course. Ben’s felt this magnetic pull only once before, for a bespectacled brunette who was nothing like this platinum blonde from New York. Confident, poised . . . and hitting on him like crazy--is she really interested in him, or merely seeking fodder for her Dating Diva column?
Just one wrong move from Ben, one more disappointment, and Jillian can finally stop obsessing about her college crush, leave town, and get on with her life. Except, every move Ben makes is the right one, both in bed and out of it, until Jillian begins to wonder if leaving is what she wants to do after all.
Par for the Course is a sensual romance about the one who got away. My debut romance novel, Just One Spark, will be published by Mills & Boon in May 2006. Currently, I have three other novels under consideration, with Mills & Boon, Harlequin, and Avon. I would be pleased to send you the complete manuscript of Par for the Course.
A stamped envelope is enclosed for your reply. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
It's not clear whether Ben owns, is the pro, or plays at "his" golf course. Nor is it clear how Jillian knows where to find him. I found this slightly bothersome; if others do, you might change the first paragraph to something like:
When Jillian Welch learns that golf courses have become the new singles scene, she decides to devote her Dating Diva column to the phenomenon. And when she discovers that her college crush, Ben Cannon, is the new golf pro at the Myrtle Beach Country Club, she convinces her editor to fly her to South Carolina, for "research."
This would require some minor changes in the other paragraphs, like not using the term "college crush" again, etc.:
There’s something wildly enchanting about the columnist who arrives at the golf club one Friday afternoon. Ben’s felt this magnetic pull only once before, for a bespectacled brunette who was nothing like this platinum blonde from New York. Confident, poised . . . and hitting on him like crazy--is she really interested in him, or merely seeking fodder for her Dating Diva column?
Just one wrong move from Ben, one more disappointment, and Jillian can finally stop obsessing about him, leave town, and get on with her life. Except, every move Ben makes is the right one, both in bed and out of it, until Jillian begins to wonder if leaving is what she wants to do after all.
Fantastic feedback! That wasn't just a critique, IMO, it was a full edit. The new version is tight and compelling.
Can't wait to read the feedback on the other queries.
Damn, Evil...I can't wait to read mine. You out snark the Snark.
I found this very helpful. Specifically mine of course, but the others as well. Thanks for not just what's not working, but how to make it work.
There's a singer named Gillian Welch, so a change to the name might be in order.
This is some amazing feedback, I'm impressed! (Not that you'd need to hear it)
I guess this means I have to read your entire Blog... Good thing that what you're writing is not just poignant but also entertaining. Can't wait to read more. Which I will be doing right now, of course.
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