QUERY LETTER FORMAT FOR NOVELS

Seems I saw this subject pop up quite a bit on social media this past fall. Right now, we’re in kind of a recognized submission dead zone. (Submissions generally stop between now and the new year. Writers spend their holidays polishing up new books and queries. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this fun fact, though: I did sell my first novel during the holiday season, so there are certainly always exceptions to the rule.) Still, since this is generally the time of the year of pretty intense submission prep, I thought I’d tackle the subject head-on: How to squeeze all your tons of info on your novel into a single page query.

I know when you first start out it just seems completely impossible. You have SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT YOUR BOOK.

The good news is, like everything else in life, that which seems impossible is actually not quite as complicated as you would make it out to be, first glance.

The queries I’ve written generally follow the same format:

  1. A third of the page devoted to the book itself—talking the storyline here. Think in terms of jacket copy.
  2. A third of the page devoted to the importance of the book—how it fits into the market, how you believe it fills a hole. If it’s children’s literature, how the book would be useful in a classroom, etc.
  3. A third of the page devoted to your credentials.

That’s it.

If this is your first book to query, #1 especially sounds easier than done, I’m sure. It’s always so hard to squeeze your book down to a paragraph or two. One tip is to boil the book down to ONE SENTENCE and then build the paragraph(s) up from there. You really should have a one-sentence pitch on hand, anyway, before you start approaching agents or editors. Also, my jacket copy has frequently been pulled from my initial queries, so I can’t stress how really important #1 is.

Don’t be too literal about the division into thirds. Of course each project is different. Each author is different, too—if you don’t have much of a publishing history, that’s fine. Everyone has to start somewhere. But if you don’t have it, you don’t need to dwell on it. Focus on the project instead. Your understanding of where your book fits into and stands out from an already crowded marketplace will be more valuable to a potential publishing house than your background, anyway. (Trust me on that one—I had a master’s in English, teaching experience, and previous publications, and they didn’t help me get in the door any faster. It was all about the project at hand.)

So there you have it: an easy, three-part query letter. Best of luck getting your submissions in order for ’19!

FOLK ART – RUSTIC DEER

I see fantastic–truly, fantastic–pieces of folk art all the time, courtesy of classrooms that have recently read THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY.

I wanted to share a little piece of my own folk art. Well, mine and my brother’s, anyway. A deer made out of fallen limbs from the backyard:

…Just in time for the real deer to come trotting down our street! (We see them every fall.)

It didn’t require the use of a welding torch, but I like to think Auggie and Gus would like this little yard sculpture.

SIGNED EDITIONS

For those of you who start holiday shopping early (like I do), I wanted to let you all know I’ve got signed editions of several of my books available at my Etsy store.

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What have I got in the store, exactly, you wonder?

Children’s Books

Alexander and the Amazing Wide-Awake, How Big Is a Heart?, and Nobody Sang Like Katy Did.

Invent Your Own Superhero and The Adventures of Super Susan come together, as a two-book mini-bundle.

Adult Books

Forever Finley and Miles Left Yet

Poetry

Tangles

Holiday Books

Come December, Christmas at Ruby’s, and I Remember You

Head on over to Etsy to snag a copy. Just let me know in the seller’s note when you purchase who you’d like the book made out to. If you have any questions, you can always contact me via Etsy or hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

WHEN GHOSTS AREN’T SCARY

Something cool happened at Amazon recently. They changed how they show the Amazon Best Sellers Rank, which I’m sure directly affects quite a few books. It also affects my latest release I REMEMBER YOU.

I REMEMBER YOU is the sequel to last year’s CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S. Like last year’s installment, I REMEMBER YOU is a non-horror ghost story.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good creepy tale. In fact, my favorite holiday is Halloween. Right now, my porch is covered in undead clowns that hang on chains. Their voices are on timers, and every two minutes or so, they wail and cackle and beg to be taken down.

But if you asked me what my favorite ghost story is, I’d tell you this:

Actually, THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR is one of my all-time favorite movies–not just ghost stories. I think it’s one of the best love stories ever told.

Is it creepy? Fit for Halloween? Ghoulish? Does it make the hairs stand up on your arms?

Nope.

My RUBY’S PLACE series follows the same romantic-ghost sentiment. And yet, when I listed the books as “ghost” stories, the Best Sellers Rank on Amazon looked something like this: #00000 in Fiction – Horror – Ghost Stories.

Which always made me sigh with disappointment.

Until recently, when I noticed my Best Seller Rank for I REMEMBER YOU:

ghost fiction

 

It’s a small thing, I suppose. But I clapped when I saw it. I’m so glad “Ghost Fiction” is no longer merely a “Horror” sub-genre.

How about you? What’s your favorite non-horror ghost story?

COVER REVEAL: I REMEMBER YOU

Okay, it’s a little more than just a cover reveal. I REMEMBER YOU (my sequel to CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S) is now available at most retailers. It’s a big part of why I haven’t posted much the past few weeks–while CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S was a short read, I REMEMBER YOU turned out to be longer (more novel than novella). I’ve been eyeball-deep in copyedits and uploads, making sure I had the book up in plenty of time for the holiday season.

ChristmasatRuby'sLast year, CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S introduced readers to a magical bar (actually, it’s not really a “bar” in the sense you usually think, not a dank and dark place of escape, but a classy supper club) in which the “spirits” aren’t just the liquors behind the bar. The “ghosts of Christmases past” are still around, showing up at happy hour, just like they once did to celebrate all their life’s accomplishments.

CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S also introduced readers to Angela, who is middle-aged and somewhat aimless, in need of an accomplishment of her own. She accidentally finds herself inside Ruby’s Place, empty by that point for decades, and learns what’s still inside…

WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR:

I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to say Angela did buy the old Ruby’s Place bar. She’s been working the entire year in anticipation of a Christmas Eve opening–and for the magic that she believes will accompany it.

This year, we learn more about Angela’s glamorous Aunt Elizabeth. We’re also introduced to a fairly wide range of characters who all live in Sullivan, Missouri–and who have all had some experience with Ruby’s Place. The central story of this year’s installment focuses on a message that had been scrawled into the sidewalk just outside of Ruby’s when the cement was still wet:

Rob & Geena 4Ever 1987

We meet Rob and Geena during the course of I REMEMBER YOU. We relive their “Jack and Diane”-style ’80s love story. As Christmas grows closer, the potential for a first-love reunion grows increasingly stronger…

Think last year’s CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S was magical and uplifting and heartwarming? I promise it’s got nothin’ on this year’s I REMEMBER YOU:

The Ultimate Christmas Wish

i remember you border2

To see that special someone once more. Tell them everything you didn’t get to say while they were alive. Right wrongs. Mend disagreements. Or simply relive special moments spent together. Fall in love for the first time all over again.

At Ruby’s Place, where “spirits” are more than the dusty liquors in bottles behind the bar, where voices from the past celebrate yet another Christmas Eve, your ultimate Christmas wish might just be granted.

AVAILABLE NOW AT:

Kindle

Amazon Paperback

Kobo

B&N

The book will also soon be available through iBooks, available for library purchase through Overdrive and Bibliotheca, and the paperback will have a wide release through Ingram.

A Superhero Back to School Special!

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Happy New Year!

Fall always feels like the start of a new year to me. The air smells like freshly-sharpened pencils, and it buzzes with the excitement of new beginnings.

To celebrate, you can snag my superhero ebooks for $0.99!

superbooks

A guide to get students excited about writing + a fun new superhero whose “power” will set a great tone for the classroom.

The INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO journal offers kids a chance to get their creative juices flowing–to come up with their own superhero and begin to understand what makes a great can’t-put-it-down story. Conflict, rising action, backstory, motivation, supporting characters are all elements addressed in INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO. (Another benefit of learning to be a great writer means you’re an even better reader! You can see what an author’s doing within a text when you understand the basics character and story construction.)

Super Susan is a character I invented when I was about eight or nine–I even incorporated my original artwork into the cover. (Susan was colored in crayon, and has glue-and-glitter letters and yarn braids.) I discovered her in some of my archives, and thought her power (super kindness!) was just really timely. The story is also short, making it a great classroom read-aloud.

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPER SUSAN recently got a nice write-up as a new release in the Petersburg Library. You can read it here.

Purchase links:

INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO:
Amazon
B&N
iBooks
Kobo

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPER SUSAN:
Amazon
B&N
iBooks
Kobo

Using the Superhero journal? Feel free to use this short trailer in your classrooms to get your kids excited about writing their own superhero story. And feel free to get in touch for a Skype: click the black square in the upper right corner of the site for the contact page.

May this be the best year yet!