Another sample query letter

Below is another sample query letter from one of our upcoming novels, Damewood: Demons of the Past. This query not only gives a pretty good idea of what the book is about, it is written in a format that makes the reader think about what the author is saying, not just processing the short synopsis.

The best part of this query is that it jumps right into the novel. It does not open with “I would like to offer up for consideration of my novel…” or “My name is Joe, and I have been writing since I could hold a pencil…” By going right into the “hook,” it demands attention and forces our eyes to go on, wanting to read more.

Dear Mr. Ishitani, Acquisitions Editor;

What if, in the not to near future, modern civilization were to come to an end? The technological advances of mankind have flourished beyond the highest expectations, and have escaped the controlling hands of the human race. Cloned humans and genetically engineered creatures prowl the lands, while androids and security systems move beyond the known parameters of Artificial Intelligence, pushing the earth over the edge to a third World War.

What if, though, the world did not understand this? A world that, after a prohibition of science and technology spanning nearly four centuries, had regressed to a feudalistic state unaware of its advanced past. A land that lived in fear of mutated “demons,” of shadowy forests, and of the frost destroying their spring crops. A land where only the secret of society’s past is known by a few trusted officials and mentors—who seem to have their own agenda on the upcoming successions of thrones.

What if there was a young girl who would strike out on a mission to save her kingdom and to find the answer? Nadia, the eldest princess of Damewood flees for her life after the castle is attacked by an underground cult of revolutionaries bent on bringing society back to it’s “roots.” Disguising herself as a knight, she joins a hunting party along with her “demon” horse to put an end to the massacres and retrieve a stolen key that will unlock the mysteries of the ominous Order, and the history of her people.

Cloning, world-ending wars, and futuristic technology has never been more popular as can be seen with recent books and movies such as “Armageddon,” War of the Worlds, and “I, Robot,” my novel Damewood: Demons of the Past takes those stories one step further by delving into the mind of a young girl from a land that turns its back on the ideas of race, country and technology, and is thrown into the midst of these issues with no warning or protection save her sword and trusty steed.

Thank you for your consideration of my novel. If you would like to see the rest of the book, I can be reached via phone or email. I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Erin Durante

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Editorial Internship

Description:
Intern (one position) will spend most of their time writing, fact-checking, copyediting, and working with their assigned editor on character development, plot, and story details. 

Internships may be on-site or long-distance – Intern will work directly with an assigned editor through email and mail correspondence, phone conversations, or in person. Contact us for more details.
 
Qualifications:
Student seeking a degree in English preferred (but not required); familiarity with Excel and Word; serious attention to minute detail with regards to manuscript editing; strong communication skills; eagerness to learn; and must demonstrate a passion for publishing. 

Must have interest in science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Trust us, we will be able to tell…

Experience with Macs a plus.
 
Paid Internship Info:
Small monthly stipend will be provided

Hours:
Varies, approximately 6-15 hours per week
 

Length/Availability:
3 months, will be determined
 
Start Date:
9/01/2008
 

End Date:
12/01/08
 

How to Apply:
Send a resume, cover letter, two writing samples, and three references to jobs@leucrotapress with Editorial Internship in the subject line.

Deadline to Apply:
8/22/2008

Another reminder about submitting

Ok, so it seems I must repeat myself–again–on our submission guidelines.

Leucrota Press has explicit instructions on what we are looking for in novels as well as how to go about sending it in. While the submissions for the most part have been following the “what we want” part by not sending us westerns or how-to books, submitters have been ignoring the “how we want it” when it comes to electronic submissions.

Submitting Your Manuscript Electronically

Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of submissions where the author just puts “Here’s a submission for ya, hope you like it!” and then pasting their three chapters (and sometimes the entire novel) into the body of the email.

…In case you’re a little behind, that’s not what we want. It’s annoying as hell to read such a long email, a pain in the ass to try to copy and paste it into Word so that we can read it later.

So, as I’ve stated before, we’ve decided to stop.

If you decide to paste your submission into the body of your email, fine, by all means go right ahead. And this is exactly what will happen:

“$#*! again? For someone who calls themselves a writer they sure don’t know how to read $#*!ing directions.”

The editor quickly scrolls the cursor across the screen to select the reply button. His fingers twiddle over the keyboard for a moment before rapidly clicking across the keys.

“Dear Author. You failed to follow directions. Sorry.”

He shakes his head, thinking about how badly he needs a drink, and hits send. He opens up the original email, and with a flick of the wrist clicks delete. He stretches his neck and moves on to the next submission, forever forgetting the naughty writer who didn’t follow directions…

Sound harsh? We thought so at first, but after giving chance after chance, it’s become the norm here. And it’s not like we’re doing anything different than what the “big houses” do. In fact, many other publishers might not even bother responding at all. So no, we’re not being mean. We’re being practical–we don’t want to deal with authors who can’t follow simple instructions on something as simple as an email.

Postal Submissions

As a quick note, those authors that have been submitting by mail have been rather good at following all directions. Though just remember to include all of the required materials when submitting by mail: ie. a SASE.

Or at least an email address or phone number. Just remember–no contact information means no response. ‘Tis the way it goes…

Job openings available

Take a peek at our new “Jobs” page for open positions. As we’re slowly expanding, more will be coming soon.

Annoying Multiple Submissions

Mkay….it’s been a while since I’ve ranted, so I’m going to take a few moments here.

Multiple submissions.

Most houses don’t accept them. Almost all don’t like them. We’re included.

While we might look at another submission by an author within a short timeframe, it’s not cool for the thirty-year writer to submit four books to us at once, begging us to take at least one of them. Why is it not cool? Well, for starters it makes the author look naive and unprofessional, and it immediately raises our hackles rise and makes us want to step back yelling “whoa the **** back, dude!”

Example:

It’s especially annoying when an author sends multiple novels in a single email. A perfect recent example:

Dear Sirs,

Given your likely overload of MS submissions and queries, I am (with your approval I trust) only attaching two synopses of recent titles for your consideration. One (or both) may fit in with your forthcoming publishing plans, and I would therefore welcome your opinion regarding the two proposals attached. Both (though I say it myself !) are somewhat innovative and unusual suspense thrillers, one being platformed in the sci-fi catagory.

The “NOVEL 1” is a rather dark and highly unusual story being based on historical fact. Some may see it in the vein of The Da Vinci Code but this is far from the case as it diverges in to a contemporary gothic suspense thriller, making no claim for authenticity other than the historical material in the opening chapters. “NOVEL 2” has it’s own cynical and disturbing quality. Those that read it will tend to see it as a tale of determined revenge, taken by one man against a faceless corporation implacable and inviolate in its power. Yet the story has an unexpected twist and, as noted above, is technically categorised as Sci-Fi, though the reader only comes to understand this in the last two pages.

Please let me know if any of the two synopses strike home; if so I will forward a complete MS.

Your response would be appreciated.

Well, a little professionalism would be appreciated as well. Not only did we not get a single clue as to what the novels were about, the cover letter simply threw the five-sentence synopsis at us in a single rushing breath, cramming in the author’s attempt at grabbing our attention between name dropping and unneeded commentary. So for the author to ask if either synopses strike home…the answer is no. Besides none of the sentences being of quality enough to be considered a synopsis, they didn’t provide even basic information about the novels.

If in doubt, ask

There have been a few authors that have been rejected, or have submitted a piece and mentioned that they have a second novel they would like to submit, and ask when would be an appropriate time to resubmit or multiple submit. This is great! Questions work, people, remember that. If you’re not sure on what protocol to follow, or your question may not be clearly answered in the publisher’s FAQ or submission guidelines, email and ask. It’s ok. Trust me, most editors don’t mind. We’d much rather receive a polite emailed question than an email with twenty attachments any day.

Once (or in some cases, if) the editor responds, listen to what they say. If they say three months, then wait the three months. If they say go ahead and send it in, get your ass to the post office. But don’t send out a submission the next day if the editor said to wait a month…you’d just be cutting your own throat because you’ve already brought attention to your name and submission, and chances are it will be fresh in their minds when your next one comes in. It’s annoying. Don’t do it.

Our take on multiples

While I think mulitples can be great, they’re not always wanted. Which was why I was relieved when I was assured I was only having one baby….

Here at Leucrota Press, we prefer to only view one manuscript from an author at a time. If an author does have another manuscript typed up and ready to go, hold onto it. After we send out a response to an author, whether it be an acceptance letter, a hold, or a rejection notice, we don’t want to see anything from that author again for at least another three months. Why? Well, because it gives us time to refresh our eyes with new writing, new styles, new names, so that when an author resubmits a new novel we’re not biased in any way, and our judgement is not tainted by our feelings on the last book. Especially if the experience with the previous submission was not a pleasant one.

Trust us, it’s in your best interest to follow directions, and not pile on stacks of your manuscript on an already crowded editors desk. Give us some breathing room, take a breath after that last rejection letter, go back and evaluate your writing, and take into account the comments the editors made on your first submission before sending in another. It will only help you in the long run.

Marketing Abaculus 2007

We’ve gotten a few emails from authors with questions as to the marketing efforts on Abaculus 2007. Below is a copy of a comment I posted on an earlier post:

As far as marketing, we’ve sent out promotional material to many bookstores, libraries, highschools, and book/reading groups around the country. We’ve got several bookstores interested, and B&N has picked up a few, as well as on the Borders website, but we’re still waiting on a definate list before we start naming names. The book has also been picked up in several highschools in California, Washington, and possibly one or two back east, but again, still waiting.

One of the contributors to Abaculus 2007 called us earlier this week and asked about the possibility of setting up an author book signing tour. While I greatly appreciated his efforts and legwork in trying to talk to bookstores to put something together, it really isn’t something that’s possible; one, because half of our authors are overseas and the rest are spread across the US, and two because we’re a small press and can’t afford to fly 20 authors around the country on a 10 to 15 city tour.

Usually, that kind of promotion is held off for a single author–and not just any author, only the ones that either have made it big, or the entire house really believes that the author will make it big. Why? Well, because it’s expensive. Really expensive. And beyond getting much needed promotion, the actual tours don’t normally sell many books. It’s more from word of mouth by people who attended the events, or one who bought a book, and who told a friend who then went online via Amazon to buy a copy.

Because Abaculus 2007 was our first anthology, a lot of our marketing efforts were sent out trying to get writers’ (your) attention to send in your stories in the first place. For this year’s volume, 2008, we won’t have to do that as we constantly receive questions about the upcoming book from prospective authors, questions from independent bookstores about getting books pre-release, and we already have several authors and editors set up to read review copies before the Abaculus 2008 release.

So while we’re doing our best with 2007, Abaculus 2008 will already have the marketing plan laid out by the 2007 version, and the promotion will come much easier. This past year’s anthology is just taking a little longer to get off the ground, but we are trying.

If anyone has particular suggestions or questions, don’t hesitate to let us know about them. Thanks. 🙂

Is is ok to ask for help in regards to the competition?

I opened an email today marked “query,” and was expecting to read an author’s pitch on their book. Well, turned out I was mistaken. Very much so, actually.
This letter had nothing to do with a query to our house, but rather an author asking for advice on submitting to another publisher.

…the letter is provided below:

Hello,

I would be very grateful if you could answer a question that may (or may not be) stupid…

I recently won a place in a new writing anthology that is going to be published early next year and distributed among agents and publishers. Two editors from the judging panel (both of whom represent internationally well-known and respected publishers) have now asked to see the full manuscript. Is it necessary to send them a synopsis with the submission? (Although the manuscript is now complete and the initial edits now done, I have not yet written a synopsis. [What can I say? I work backwards].) I am anxious to send it to them while they can still remember their enthusiasm (and my name!) but don’t want to commit a publishing faux pas by not including the basic requirements. Although I am familiar with what I should do when trying to gain a publisher’s interest, I am not at all knowledgeable as to what to do when it comes unsolicited!

Also, I do not have an agent. The first editor who called said ‘Good luck with choosing your representation’ as if it was a given I would be offered it. I am not so confident and so am waiting to see what happens before making any further attempts to get an agent – I’m being realistic aren’t I? The second publisher has already said she’d like me to come in and ‘meet the team’ soon after I send my m/s in. Is this unusual? I would have thought she’d like to make sure the rest of the manuscript didn’t make her want to throw it in the bin before talking about meetings…it’s all exciting of course but does make me wonder how far I’ve got to fall once they’ve read the full text…Anyway, any advice or comments would be very gratefully received.

Many thanks,

Hmm…well….

Not really sure what to say to that. If it had been comment posted on the blog, then perhaps I might be a little more open to respond. But seeing as this was sent to our submissions, marked as a novel query, and doesn’t really give any indication that this writer is interested in “publishers in general” but rather in a particular two, I’m not sure where to go with this.

First off, I would like to say thank you for thinking of our press; it makes us feel important, and well…smart, that someone would come to us for advice.

Second, I’d like to chastise any writer who ever does this or has thought of doing this. It’s like going to Macy’s and saying “I’m not going to buy anything from your store, but I’d like to know if you could measure me and help me gather gift ideas from this JC Penny brochure so that while I’m shopping there I spend less time in the crowded lines….” I’ll tell you right now that Macy’s clerk will tell you to take a hike.

If you want to ask a question in general about publishing or editors, as far as preferences, industry standards, etc., then go right ahead and post on an editor/publisher blog, or email their information department. But don’t – and I mean a strong don’t – email an editor, to ask about submitting your story to another particular editor so that you don’t have to ask your target editor in order to save face or seem more professional/knowledgable, etc. It’s a waste of the first editor’s – and in this case, my – time and efforts.

But just because it is the holiday season (god, I almost choked on that one) and I’m in a giving mood, I’ll do a short and clipped answer to the question.

1. Always include a full cover letter, synopsis, and any other front material when submitting a manuscript for the first time. It helps refresh the editor’s memory, and you’re better off going overboard then sinking.

2. “Good luck with finding representation” does NOT mean it’s a given you’ve been offered it. That is a polite way of saying “find an agent elsewhere, we’re not taking you on.”

3. I don’t know of any editor or agent that would invite an off-the-street writer to come in to the office and “meet the team.” Personally, I – and, probably many other editors – hate dealing with new writers face to face right off the bat and would prefer it to be completely by email or phone until a relationsip is made. Especially since the editor has not even seen the full manuscript – it does seem a little odd, and it’s possible this agent isn’t very credible, or you just wrote a ****ing damn good anthology piece. Sorry, but chances are I’d be skeptical of the agent. Even a novel with an excellent begining has been rejected after the editor reaches chapter four, and the majority of publishers will not commit to anything until they’ve gotten the full submission packet.

Hope that nicely sums everything up….