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Lissa Linden’s Successful Query Letter
Lissa it’s wonderful to welcome you to my blog, and thank you for taking part in sharing your querying experience with us. It’s so helpful to be able to actually read the query letter that got you that coveted YES. I know many aspiring authors out there will be supremely grateful for your generosity in sharing, because let’s face it, for most of us the querying process is daunting, and the more successful examples out there, the better!
Thanks for having me! Querying can feel like such a slog, so I’m happy to share some of my experience. I hope it makes the journey a little smoother for some of your readers!
So let’s begin with your query letter itself and then we’ll get into the questions:
- How long did you spend writing your query letter?
Oh gosh, I’m not even sure. I probably wrote it over the course of a few days. I tend to be way too general when I first draft a query, so I do like to sit on it for a bit before revising to clarify the conflict and stakes.
- Did you revise your query letter at all during the querying process?
I didn’t, but I would have if I hadn’t had any bites from the requests in the initial query round. One of my requests was from a publisher’s Twitter pitch contest and I held off on querying further until I’d heard back from that submission.
- How long did it take you from when you started querying to when you got your first partial or full manuscript (ms) request?
I sent the queries at the end of May and received the first partial request at the start of July, but I’d entered #CarinaPitch in June and received a full request from that, too. The submission was sent with the same query letter, but it was originally requested from a 140 character pitch. There are so many paths in publishing, but I have yet to encounter one that didn’t require a solid query letter!
- How many partial and full ms requests did you receive?
I received two partial requests – both of which eventually upgraded to fulls – and one full request from the Twitter pitch party.
- Did you receive any rejections, and if so how did you cope?
Oh, yes. Many. This was the third manuscript I’d queried, and it might sound odd, but I was grateful for rejections. To me, the worst part of querying was always the waiting – the lack of response and never knowing if that meant that it was a rejection, or if my email was still in the queue somewhere. So, I supposed you could say I coped by crossing agents off my list and deciding who to add for the next round of queries.
- Did you use any particular software, or system for keeping track of the queries you sent out?
I used an Excel spreadsheet to track queries. I would make note of the agent and agency, what I sent and the date, and whether any further materials were requested. I also had a column for rejections. It was a well-used column.
- How many query letters did you send out at a time?
With this book, I started with an initial list of eleven agents. The idea was that I would sent a new query out whenever I received a pass on one.
- How did you choose who you sent your query letter to?
I used resources like Manuscriptwishlist.com and checked the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter, but supplemented this with my previous query experience. I may not have landed an agent with my other manuscripts, but I did gain some insight into agents I would be particularly interested in working with, so they were priority queries this time around.
- Did you personalize each one?
Honestly, I didn’t personalize this query to the same extent I had with previous manuscripts. I did, however, make sure each query was personally addressed, and that I’d spelled the names right.
- Can you tell us a bit about when you received ‘the call’?
This is where things get a little less linear in my query journey. Remember that #CarinaPitch Twitter event I mentioned? Well, I spoke with my editor before my agent. I received an offer of publication on ONE MATCH FIRE while I was contemplating an R&R for one agent, and before my agent requested the full. This was a week of calls that I can sum up as, “Way more stressful than I’d anticipated.”
- Did you have multiple offers for either representation or publication, and if so, how did you decide who you were going to accept?
I did. In one week, I spoke to an agent about doing an R&R, an editor who wanted to acquire the manuscript, and an agent who offered representation when nudged about the publication offer. Oh, and yes, the R&R agent offered representation at that point, too.
There was a lot of balancing and weighing of thoughts and emotions.
Ultimately, though, my decision came down to who seemed to “get” my book the most. When I spoke with Laura, she zeroed in on the things I loved most about the manuscript as the things she loved most about it. Her view of romance as an empowering genre really echoed my own feelings, too, not to mention she was so well-versed on the genre and had worked with the offering publisher before. I ended the call feeling more grounded than I had during that entire whirlwind week, and I took that as a good sign!
- What questions did you ask when speaking with the agent/acquiring editor that you were considering?
I asked about representing subsequent works, as well as other genres. I also asked to speak with/email existing clients, as well as how she would assist me given that I already had an offer on the manuscript, but the last question I asked was the most pertinent for me: what was her ideal outcome from this phone call? I wanted to be sure we were on the same page moving forward.
- What questions do you wish you’d ask, but didn’t?
Honestly, I probably should have asked a lot more questions about the submission process when it comes to selling future projects, but it wasn’t on my mind at the time.
- Any advice and top tips for others about the querying process and writing the query letter itself?
Be specific with regard to stakes for your characters. You want your query to be clear about why your manuscript is special – what makes it different from the one before yours in the slush, and how it stands apart from the query that will come next.
- Anything else you want to add?
I honestly wasn’t sure that this query letter worked. I’d sent out so few queries, and had a reasonably small return rate. But then much of it ended up as my back cover copy. So, I’m going to take that to mean it was indeed as effective as I’d hoped it would be!
- What does your Agent, Laura Zats, have to say about what exactly was it in your query letter that got her attention?
Here’s what my agent, Laura Zats had to say:
“When it comes to romance, voice is, to me, the most important thing. Since it’s a genre with tropes, pacing and plot often feels like a vehicle for the characters and the feeling of the book. So the problem with a romance query is this: how, without quoting my own book, can I show an agent/editor that this book is sexy and voice-y, while still following the rule of The Three Questions (who’s your MC, what do they want, and what’s standing in their way/how are they going to get it?) The key, which Lissa perfectly executed, is in keeping it simple. First paragraph is about the heroine (with a little nod at the end to her meeting the hero), the second paragraph is for the hero (with a little nod to the heroine), and the third is about the Problem–now that they’ve found one another, what are they going to do? Keeping this formula standard allowed Lissa to add little hints that pointed towards the voice without getting lost in it, which means I could read in-between the lines to figure out exactly what this book is beyond the simple facts of the plot. We feel that Amy is interested in being in charge, that she has something to prove, but is also running from what she told herself she wanted. We know that Paul, because he can’t believe his luck, is less interested in being in control, but we also know he’s on a ticking clock. Telling us this right before we hear about celibacy tells us exactly what’s going to happen–this book is going to be full of sexual tension and unspoken words. Adding in the fire/combustion imagery means that when these two give in, it’ll be intense. And intense is exactly what I’m looking for in a book that has a quiet setting. That dichotomy is my weakness, and so I was SOLD.”
Lissa, thanks so much for sharing your Successful Query Letter with us, as well as your road on the querying journey!! It was wonderful to read and I’m sure will inspire many other authors out there, who are about to embark on the querying path 🙂
And for those of you who want to have a read of Lissa’s debut novel ‘One Match Fire’, which is available now, click on the pic below for more info.
ONE MATCH FIRE:
A sexy, summer camp-set reunion romance from debut author Lissa Linden
When Amy left her beloved summer camp, heartbroken and ashamed, she swore she’d never return. Twelve years later, she’s desperate to unearth the person she was before turning into a workaholic. When her old camp advertises for a new director, Amy leaps at the chance to start over—only to find herself face-to-face with the very guy who broke her heart.
Paul hasn’t forgotten kissing Amy beneath a shooting star, or how she bolted from camp without saying goodbye. When she shows up to take the job he never thought he’d leave, Paul can hardly believe his luck. Amy is now a woman with killer curves and a sexual appetite to match. With serious vibes between them, and him nearly dead from the celibacy of life at camp, they strike a deal for a few days of sexy fun in the wilderness.
But when feelings that started long ago enter the mix and it becomes clear Amy will only trust him with her body—not her heart—Paul desperately wants to break through the armor she’s built to protect herself. And although Amy knows there’s something special about the way she reacts to Paul, something beyond skin on skin, the stakes are high enough to scare her.
With a past like theirs, they’ll either ignite a future…or burn out for good.
Lissa Linden writes contemporary romance about women she’d like to hang out with, and the men who can keep up with them. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading, traveling, or reading about traveling. Luckily, her husband is completely on board with spontaneously booking trips to say, eastern Europe. A proud history and languages nerd, Lissa is fluent in Shakespearean insults and dirty jokes through the ages.
Lisa can be found on the following platforms:
|Buy link for your latest or soon to be released book:||https://www.carinapress.com/shop/books/9781488097041_one-match-fire.html|