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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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…

Just as a reminder…

Alright people, I think it’s time to refresh your memory about the purpose of this blog:

This blog is for the Editors of Leucrota Press to discuss facets of the publishing business, tips for writers, and to blow off some steam. If any writers have questions regarding our press, the publishing industry, or about submitting and manuscripts in general, please view our “Ask the Editors” tab above.

By doing this, we hope to create more writer/editor communication and understanding. Please don’t feel threatened, skittish, or reserved about asking questions, making comments, or saying things that might offend the editors – hell, we won’t hold our tongues. Come on, jump in the conversation, get involved, and help us improve by letting us know what you, the writers, need.

Note: All articles, posts, and comments are opinions of that posting editor, and may or may not be the opinion of the entire staff. These opinions are by no way meant to cover every editor at every publishing house, merely ours.

Why am I bringing this up?

I’ve gotten several emails over the weekend, regarding our wants and likes concerning our submission guidelines. Several of the most common complaints are:

“Your concerns are different than other publishers….”
“You are a lot pickier than some of the larger houses I’ve submitted to….”
“Your rejection letters are mean….”
“Your example of query letters don’t match the ‘good’ ones that I read about in this book….”

Well, sorry. What else do you want me to say?

We are NOT every other publisher, and therefore we have our own likes and dislikes, and concern ourselves with different things than the small press down the road. We care about detail, character development, plot, and style. Not saying that other houses don’t; but as far as our press, we would rather turn out less books and make sure those books are of the highest quality than just accept and print something just to raise our catalogue numbers.

As far as us being mean…welcome to the publishing world. As editors, it’s our job to be critical, to be picky, and to say it like it is. As we’ve stated on both our blog and our website, every submission will be told WHY it was rejected. None of that “not at this time” bullshit. So if you didn’t like the fact that we said your plot had no substance, that you lack detail, or that the writing itself needed a million-dollar makeover, get over it. At least we tried to be a bit helpful and give a reason your book didn’t make it, so maybe you could actually think about that reason, and maybe do something about it to improve your work, either to resubmit to us or to another publisher. To make it in this profession you need to build up a thick skin to get over the pile of rejection slips you’re going to get in your lifetime. Be more like the faithful Lotto players – they buy tickets every week, hoping for that big one but knowing their chances are slim. But they don’t cry at each drawing when their numbers don’t show up, do they? No. They go out the next day and buy another ticket. Try it….

Lastly, to those who said we don’t conform to what they read in a book….

….Maybe I’m just deranged, or simply “out of the loop,” but that book was written by an author (or two). Just like every other book out in the rotating world has been written by an author. Does that mean that whatever is in print is the final law? If someone came out with a self-help book telling readers they can clear acne by swimming to the bottom of the Dead Sea, does that mean it’s absolutely and undoubtedly true? …I’m sure there are a few readers out there that…

The point I’m trying to make is that there is NO absolute law when it comes to publishing. There is NO absolute law when it comes to editing fiction. Granted, there are laws when it comes to universal things like grammar and spelling, but how does one define the laws of “fiction?” Well, truth is you can’t. Experts can set guidelines and boundaries, just as experts can give out “perfect” examples of query letters on how to “hook” editors. Let me tell you something – it’s THEIR opinion on what works, or at least what has worked for them. But it’s not a steadfast rule and obviously does not work all the time. Otherwise, all those people that have supposedly read that book that doesn’t coincide with the examples and guidelines I’ve set for Leucrota Press would have been grabbed by an editor by now and wouldn’t be submitting for the umpteenth time… right?

So, back to my original point.

What is read and posted on this blog DOES pertain to Leucrota Press and it’s editors, and MIGHT pertain to a lot of other smaller publishers – especially when it comes to style, submission reports, wants and needs. So when I say the editors here hate the SAW movies and anything to do with teen angst stories, you might get another editor at another house that stays up late after the kids are in bed to read fan-fiction stories online written by bored and unbalanced 15-year olds…

It’s OUR/THEIR choice. That’s one of the beauties of having so many smaller presses, because each one has a different eye for the thousands of books out there. You just need to make sure you find and submit to the right one.

Sample query letter

Some of you have asked for examples of good query letters as a follow up to my query guidelines. Below is the original query letter from author T.J. Vargo, whose book Low Man will be released later this summer. **Note: contact info has been deleted, but generic spacing left in to let you know where the required info belongs.

T.J. Vargo
Street Address
City, State Zip
Phone #
Email address

Dear Mr. Ishitani,

I recently completed a novel, THE BULLET MANIFESTO, and am interested in knowing if you would consider reading it with an eye toward publication. The synopsis is as follows:

Robbed at gunpoint while working the nightshift at a convenience store, Benny Assissi takes stock of his life. His good-paying factory job is gone – outsourced overseas. His wife sits in a hospital emergency room with his dying son. And there’s a gun under the counter, one he never saw until now. Determined to gain control over his life, he grabs the gun and runs after the thief. One bullet later, he finds out how precious life is and how far he must go to keep it, even if it means walking straight through Hell. In the fog of death, he discovers that life isn’t about what you have, but how much you love – and how far you’ll go to see your love again.

I have been fortunate to have PEN/Faulkner finalist, Karen Joy Fowler, and National Book Award finalist, Dan Chaon read this novel while it was a work-in-progress. Both authors commented on the excellent writing and the engaging storyline.

My novel UNBOUND was published by Willowgate Press in 2003. In response to a poor review by Publishers Weekly, I committed myself to improving my writing and joined a writing group led by Professor Neal Chandler at Cleveland State University.

I’ve included chapters one through three for your review. The manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

T.J. Vargo

This is a good example of a simple cover letter/query that could be sent alone, or with your submission packet. The letter includes just enough information about the book to want an editor to read more, gives plenty of background experience on the writer and lists publishing credits. It is well written, clear, flows, and has all of the required contact information.

While you really could do without the first paragraph and just jump into the novel summary, as it doesn’t do anything for the letter, it doesn’t exactly hurt it either.

Leucrota Press holiday closure

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Leucrota Press will be closed from December 24, 2007 to January 2, 2008 for the holidays.

During this time, submissions and queries will not be answered or read. Nor will emails be opened or responded to. So if you have a submission on file or plan to submit, please do not count on getting a response, or count that week and a half as part of your submission dates. It doesn’t count. I know you’d like it to, but by our calendars it doesn’t.

So if anyone has pressing questions, concerns, or fan mail they’d like to send us, please be sure to do so before the break. If not, it will have to wait until the new year.

Regular press operations will resume on January 3, 2008.

In response to our rejections…

Lately we have been getting several responses on our rejection letters by email from writers asking us to elaborate on our comments or suggestions to their story in our rejection letters.

Sorry guys, but we don’t have the time or the man power to do so. Besides, it’s not economically efficient for us to take more time assessing and writing out a two page response on a manuscript that we said no to. We’re not making any money off of it, and a few extra minutes on your synopsis is not going to change our minds about your book.

Now, while we do pride ourselves on giving a personal rejection letter to every manuscript we choose not to take on, there are some that will get more attention than others. Why? Well, because we choose to. No other reason, really. If we get a manuscript that really stands out, is well written, or pisses us off so much that we chew threw our desk lamp cord, then we might take a few extra minutes to write out a paragraph or two or mark up/edit the first few pages of the manuscript so that the writer can either better themselves, get an idea on where to submit their story, or give up writing entirely.

And no, not all rejection letters are equal. There are some manuscripts that come through and we can’t get past the first few pages. So we’ll say just that.

“…we’ll have to pass. We just weren’t interested in the plot, and couldn’t get past the first few pages.”

Mean? Maybe a little. But it’s better than the “traditional form” response of many publishers of “Sorry, but not at this time.”

So don’t get upset if we don’t respond to your response to our rejection letter of your manuscript. We just don’t have the time, and frankly, even if we did, unless the story was one we’d consider with a few rewrites, we wouldn’t respond anyway. If you wanted to resubmit your manuscript that would be fine – we’ll either reject it again or realize that this is one persistant sonofabitch and read a little further this time.

But sending an email with

“can you go on about what you meant about my story being slow? How can I better round out my characters to grab an editor’s attention? Could you please maybe explain your comments a little more?”

doesn’t work.

Not following submission guidelines

Ok, so here’s the deal. Leucrota Press has explicit guidelines 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, they’ve been ignoring the “how we want it” when it comes to electronic submissions.

Electronic Submissions

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, a pain in the ass to try to copy and paste it into Word so that we can read it later, and we’re tired of doing it.

So, we’ve decided to stop.

Not only will your submission be immediately rejected, it won’t even be read. You will get a polite (well, polite by our standards) response saying “You failed to follow directions. Sorry.” And then we’ll hit send, then delete your previous email, and forget about you.

Sound harsh? Well, maybe a little. But you have to understand that it’s not anything different than what the “big guys” do. In fact, they might not even bother responding at all. So no, we’re not being mean. We’re being practical – it’s a waste of our times 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.

I recevied a submission last week with no SASE, and no email address. So, guess what, that means no response. Sorry dude.