Showing posts with label query letters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label query letters. Show all posts

Book Marketing and the Query Letter

If you are contemplating writing a book or you’ve already written one and intend on going the traditional publishing path, you’ll need a query letter and a cover letter.

This is true whether you’re an author, a writer, or a business owner who wants to build his authority with a book.

Wondering what a query letter has to do with book marketing?

The query is part of the second step in your book marketing journey. Think of it as the beginning of a hopefully rewarding relationship with a publisher or agent.

The first step is writing a great story. The second is getting a contract – this is where the query comes in.

If you’re not sure what a query letter is, Jane Friedman notes that it’s a stand-alone letter and has only one purpose. Its sole purpose is “to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.” (1)

The query letter is your foot in the publishing door. So, you can see how much rides on this one or two page letter (preferably one page).

The query letter usually has 8 elements to be aware of:

1. Do your research. Have you gone to the publisher’s or agent’s website to make sure your manuscript topic is something s/he handles?

You can do an online search for publishers or agents that will be a fit for your story. Or, you can use an online service, like

2. Know what you need to do. At the site, did you carefully go over the submission guidelines? I mean really, really, really, carefully!

3. Is your opening (in the query) grabbing? Will it get the reader’s attention?

4. Edit, edit, edit. Have you checked for grammar errors? Have you checked for redundancy? How about spelling? Don’t rely on a word processors speck check feature alone. Edit your letter manually.

5. Keep it short and sweet. Eliminate non-essential personal information.

6. Include credentials, and/or pertinent background information that is relevant to the story you’ve written, if any.

7. Include your book marketing strategy for promoting your book. In this section, include your social media following, only if significant: 500 followers, 1000 followers, 5000, 10,000. Obviously, the more the better. And, it’s essential that you have an author website and include the link in your heading.

8. Have you studied the query letter format?

The format consists of several paragraphs?

a. Your introduction, mentioning that you’ve visited the website and why you’re querying.
b. A very brief gist of what the manuscript is about and the intended age group.
c. A very brief synopsis of the story.
e. Your background, if pertinent. Include your marketing intentions.
f. Thank the editor/agent for her time. Mention that you included XXX pages (the number the guidelines said to send), if applicable.

Taking the time to do it right and write an optimized query letter may make the difference between the slush pile and a contract.

The query letter is the portal to a contract. If the reader says NO at the letter, your manuscript may be great, but it won’t have a chance.

(1) The Complete Guide to Query Letters
How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning author, successful children’s ghostwriter who welcomes working with new clients, and an author/writer online platform marketing instructor.

For more on children’s writing tips and writing help, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
Be sure to sign up for her newsletter and check out the DIY Page.

Karen is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

This article was originally published at: 


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Turning Jealousy into Success: Did Someone Beat You to It?

Turning Jealousy into Success
Or What You Can Do To Be the Featured Expert

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Someone Beat You To It, Huh?

Maybe we all have a tendency to feel disgruntled when our local newspaper quotes an expert who isn’t (really, he isn't!) as expert as we are! 

We feel even worse when when CNN features a talking head on the subject of their book and they disagree with us! 

Seems we have some choices. We can grumble to ourselves and lose sleep. We can write to whoever was remiss and complain. Or we can take positive action.

Here are your dos and don'ts: 

·     Whatever you do, do not complain on a social network or to the producer/talk show host or other media person about their lack of foresight (and appreciation of your brilliance).
·     Use your Googling skills to contact whoever was in charge (or to blame!) for this lack of foresight. Give yourself enough time to cool off and put your tactful hat on. Then, and only then, do you approach them. And you use a tactful approach: Something like, "Perhaps next time [subject x] comes up, you would like a different perspective on the topic. I also can offer expertise on related topics like xx and xx." 
·     Now it's time to use your query letter skills. Introduce yourself. Be very clear about your credentials. Unless you are famous, use your credential upfront--before your name per the advice of master PR Person Raleigh Pinsky. She gave me permission to use her script/template for how to approach reporters and others responsible for stories to put in the Appendix of The Frugal Book Promoter, second edition.  She explains that name-after-credentials plan. 
·       Send a product sample or a copy of your book with your media kit along with your query letter.
·      Repeat the process again when something similar hits the news. Your goal is to be remembered--or, better yet, be there when your editor or contact needs you.  Expand your campaign to include others who might cover the same kind of story.

Here's the number one biggest mistake you can make:
Don’t assume that because you write fiction, you can’t be an expert. Or because you are self-published, your expertise doesn't count. 
Of course your voice counts!  I am an expert on tolerance, polygamy, and a host of related subjects based on the theme and setting of my novel This Is the Place (  And yes, an author's expertise may rely at least in part on her profession outside the publishing industry.   All you have to do is examine the subjects of your fiction and see how it relates to what’s in the news. And be ready next time that subject come up in the news.  
Not all missed opportunities are missed forever. They can inspire us to do better next time around. 
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of #HowToDoItFrugally books for writers including USA Book News’ winner for The Frugal Book Promoter. An instructor for UCLA Extension's renowned Writers Program for nearly a decade, she believes in entering (and winning!) contests and anthologies as an excellent way to separate our writing from the hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year. Two of her favorite awards are Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment given by members of the California Legislature and Women Who Make Life Happen, given by the Pasadena Weekly newspaper. She is also an award-winning poet and novelist and she loves passing along the tricks of the trade she learned from marketing those so-called hard-to-promote genres.

The "Small Big" Tactics for Writing Pitches and Selling Books

Writing Pitches (and About Everything Else) That Influence
I read and reread The Small Big: Small changes that spark big influence by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein, and Robert B. Cialdini. It’s not that it tells me anything new about marketing, writing copy, or putting together great pitches. It’s that it inspires me anew, and reminds me of what a tough job those tasks are and how so many other disciplines are involved, two of my favorites. Words matter. And Psychology. And, yes, capital letters because they are so important.

For instance, here’s a quote that beautifully distills the six principles of marketing for any field you are in:
  •    “. . . reciprocity (people feel obligated to return favors performed for them),
  •     authority people look to experts to show them the way)
  •     scarcity (the less available the resource, the more people want it)
  •           liking (the more that people like others, the more they want to say yes to them)
  •     consistency (people want to act consistently with their commitments and values)
  •     and social proof (people look to what other do in order to guide their own behavior).”

This book includes studies that show people in any industry (including my favorites, those associated with writing of any kind) how to frame what they have to say right down to what to put first, what to stress, and words to choose that influence people in different ways.

This is a book you’ll want to read—and reread—as I do. 

Reread? Well, it is so jam packed you’ll need to go back to it time again to get it all and keep utilizing what it teaches you in everything from your blogging, to your query letters where a great pitch is essential, to writing your synopses. Here’s the link again—in bright red so you you’ll have not trouble finding it and using it:

Contributed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books--one for writers and one for retailers. She is now working on the third in the seires (after The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor), Getting Great Reviews Frugally and Ethically. All her books, including her fiction and poetry,  are available as paperbacks and e-books on Amazon. 

Query Letters: An Essential Writing Skill For Now and the Future

As I was working with my husband on the promotion for his book What Foreigners Need to Know About America From A To Z ( I realized how much I’d forgotten about my American history, but it also made me aware I should be reminding you all of the format to use for your query letters.
I noticed that many authors believe query letters are only necessary when they're trying to interest an agent or publisher, but learning to write and edit an effective one is a skill that you will continue to use all during the marketing campaign or your book--and the one after that.
Query letters are the introductory letters you use for every kind of request you make. When you request a review of your book. When you ask to partner with a retailer for and event, workshop, or book signing. When you pitch a feature story to an editor of your local newspaper. Or guest spot on a radio station. The list is endless.
Yep, it may be time to review the section on writing and editing query letters (page 27 in your paperback edition) in The Frugal Editor ( It starts on page 27 of your paperback edition.
It includes query letter pet peeves direct from the mouths of famous agents and sample letters in the Appendix like avoiding making judgements of your own work. For agents "awesome" is a four-letter word!
If you have The Frugal Book Promoter (, jump back to the Index and look up “query letters” to learn everything you’ll need to know about them.
Here's tip number one to get you started. A query letter asks something of the person it's addressed to. Don't avoid that question. Nike says "just do it." The query letter rule is "just ask." Your contact needs to know what you want from them. They may wear more than one hat, but in any case, you'll want to be clear just because that's what professionals aim for.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

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