Writing Queries That Get Read

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My guest today is managing and acquiring editor Jennifer Slattery. Jennifer gives us insights into the query letters writers must construct to sell their works. At the end of her post, check out her new book Healing Love.

Jennifer: Most of us spend months if not years writing then perfecting a novel then pop off a query, our stories first introduction to professionals, in ten or so minutes. For some reason many of us have come to believe this is a skill we inherently lack and will never quite master, but I disagree. We’re communicators—that’s what we do. And like with any other element of the craft, we can learn to write strong, effective queries that get read—and perhaps even warrant an invitation to submit a manuscript.

Make it personal.

In other words, let the agent or editor know why you chose to query them and they’d be interested in your project.

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No one likes to be a part of mass emails or to feel like they’re simply one of several dozen professionals you’ve contacted. This has nothing to do with pride. Rather, it’s an issue of effective time management. More often than not, mass email queries are sent by writers who didn’t take time to research recipients. Therefore, they usually miss the mark. These authors pitch memoirs to editors of romance. They send high fantasy projects to those looking for marriage and family pieces.

Often, such queries provide a strong and lasting impression—a negative one. The better option: take time to find out who wants what you’re writing. If you’re not sure, ask. I would much rather spend my time responding to someone looking for writer’s guidelines than trudging through an inbox full of irrelevant material.

Keep it concise.

Let the agent or editor know, right up from, your genre, word count, if it’s complete, and if you have or are submitting it elsewhere. You can do all that in one sentence, two tops. Here’s an example from a query I sent out years ago for what became my fourth release:

I’m writing to introduce you to my 91,600 word, multiple submission, women’s inspirational fiction, Breaking Free. 

Up your queries “bam-grab-me” component.

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Yes, a query is an email, in essence, a letter. And yes, it’s important to tell the editor or agent all the pertinent details regarding our projects, but we don’t want to bore them in the process. As with almost anything we write, our story premise must grab our reader and shake the cobwebs from their brain. (This is exponentially true for agents and editors who may have already spent hours-upon-hours sifting through gunk before getting to your gem.)

This is where you’ll want to practice writing 75-to-150 word back cover blurbs. Strong blurbs (or pitch paragraphs) set up the tension for your novel, tell us what’s at stake, and reveal genre, tone and the author’s voice.

In other words, it’s not something one can pop off in an afternoon. It’s always a good idea to sift one’s blurbs through a handful of critique partners before sending them out to industry professionals.

Sound daunting? I hear you. I haven’t met a writer yet who enjoys writing back cover copy. But if we’re going to spend months perfecting that novel, it only makes sense that we’ll also invest the necessary time to make sure it gets read.

Querying can be intimidating and stressful. Not only must one embrace risk by sending their work out, but they also must present the hook of their story in less than a page, and present themselves well. But like with anything else, this is a skill we can learn, if we’ll but invest the time. Plus, with each query, the writing becomes that much stronger and the process that much easier.

What would you add to my list?

Strong book queries tell what’s at stake and reveal genre, tone & author’s voice. Click to tweet.

Author, speaker, and ministry leader Jennifer Slattery writes for Crosswalk.com and is the managing and acquiring editor for Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She believes fiction has the power to transform lives and change the culture. Healing Love is her sixth novel, and it was birthed during a trip she and her family took to El Salvador that opened her eyes to the reality of generational poverty and sparked a love for orphans and all who’ve experienced loss.

Her deepest passion is to help women experience God’s love and discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she travels with her team to various churches to speak to women and help them experience the love and freedom only Christ can offer. When not writing, editing, or speaking, you’ll likely find her chatting with her friends or husband in a quiet, cozy coffeehouse. Visit her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her and her Wholly Loved team at WhollyLoved.com

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above.

When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?


Buy Link 

Goodreads link 

A Quick Guide: The Type of Edit You Need for Your Novel

There’s never been a text written that didn’t need editing.” —David Kudler

by WorkinghamLibraries
by WorkinghamLibraries

You’ve finished your manuscript. Wonderful. It needs to be edited. Below are four kinds of edits and what each most commonly accomplishes.

Ask prospective editors what they include in their edits. Some will combine editing types. Others will perform edits beyond their type when they see problems. Editors love books and want to help authors produce the best novel.

Developmental Edit

(Other terms: substantive edit, comprehensive edit, macro edit)

by DarkSinistar
by DarkSinistar

Developmental editors work with the author. They address high-level structural issues. They may address:

  • Plot, plot holes, subplots, and scope of story
  • Characterization, character arc, character believability, point of view problems
  • Voice, tone, style, and tension
  • Pacing, amount of backstory, and sagging middles
  • Lack of conflict, too much telling, information dumps, areas of confusion, inconsistencies,
  • Scene goals and whether a particular scene is necessary
  • Setting
  • Research

Line Edit

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by PatternPictures

Line editors are concerned with readability, clarity, fluidity, writing style, and language use. They review the manuscript line by line and paragraph by paragraph. While preserving the author’s voice, they point out problems or make changes (through a “track changes” feature). They may:

  • Reorder, delete, add, or rewrite sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters
  • Improve paragraph and sentence flow, smooth out awkward or wordy sentences, and change run-on sentences
  • Improve word choices, catch clichés and generalizations, enhance weak transitions, adjust pacing, and eliminate repetition
  • Tighten sentences, paragraphs, and dialogue
  • Point out inconsistent character behavior, confusing actions, passive voice, over-used words, too flowery writing, overuse of adverbs, and shifts in tone
  • Ensure language fits the author’s audience and dialogue is believable and consistent


Copy Edit

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by PublicDomainPictures

Copy editors perform technical work on manuscripts that are close to their final form. They make sure the details are correct. They’re concerned that the writing conforms to a style, such as the Chicago Manual of Style. They may do the following:



  • Correct errors in spelling, syntax, punctuation, and grammar
  • Ensure consistency in style throughout manuscript, e.g. in numerals, spelling (OK or okay), and capitalization
  • Point out nonfactual assertions, inconsistencies in character traits, and implausible statements
  • Look for possible problems with the use of brand names
  • Ensure proper manuscript format


by geralt
by geralt

Proofreaders make the last technical check of the novel. This is where the galley proof or electronic copy come in. Proofreaders may do the following:

  • Search for typos
  • Look for mistakes in spelling, punctuation, spacing, pagination, capitalization, use of numerals, and verb tense
  • Ensure earlier changes were made correctly

The order in which edits should be performed:

Developmental Edit ⇒ Line Edit ⇒ Copy Edit ⇒ Proofreading


Often, authors themselves, critique partners, and beta readers can perform Copy and Proofreading tasks. Critique partners and beta readers may also help with some Line editing.

So, authors with limited funds may need to put their money first into Developmental editing and then into Line editing.

Novelists need editing. Here are lists of tasks each type of edit performs. Click to tweet.

What are other tasks your editors perform?

25 Questions Writing Experts Challenge You to Answer

“Good questions out rank easy answers.” — Paul Samuelson

by geralt

 I’ve studied the craft of writing for a while now. Sometimes all the questions experts say I need to ask myself gets overwhelming.

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by geralt

But the more I write, the less often I need to ask myself some of the questions. I finally know a grammar rule. Or I’ve gained a scene-enhancing habit. But some questions I’ll always need to ask myself.

For me, the most important question is: Have I consulted God, my Co-Author, today on what I am to write?

25 Common Questions From the Experts

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. Why would someone care about this story or character?
  3. Will my opening sentence or two hook my reader?
  4. What’s the event or incident that sends my character on her journey?
  5. What can my character do at the end that she couldn’t do in the beginning?
  6. Is my main character likeable?woman-241330_1280
  7. What are my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts for the story or for this scene?
  8. Are my secondary characters doing their jobs; are some unnecessary?
  9. Have I grounded my reader in the scene opening?
  10. Have I shown my character using her 5 senses?
  11. Is this sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter, or backstory necessary?
  12. Can I come up with a better phrase than this overused cliché?
  13. Is this the best word for what I’m saying?
  14. Is this sentence too complicated, verbose, or confusing?
  15. Have I ended my chapter with a hook to keep my reader reading?
  16. Does my character’s dialog sound fresh, seem consistent with his character, and move the story along?
  17. Have I cut out phrases that distance the reader from my character?
  18. Have I told the reader something I could have shown?
  19. Did this word exist during the time period of my story?
  20. Have I used too many words my readers will need to look up?
  21. Should I reconsider what my critique partner or editor suggested?
  22. Will this 15- or 25-word synopsis hook a potential editor or reader?
  23. Which plot points, sentences, or words should I cut out of my synopsis to meet the page requirement?
  24. Does my synopsis read enough like a story?
  25. Which editor should I employ to edit my manuscript?

Ask these questions as you write and up your chances of interesting an editor. Click to tweet.

by johnhain
by johnhain

Which of these questions do you need to ask yourself as you write?