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Sara Ackerman’s Successful Query Letter
Sara it’s fantastic to welcome you to my blog, and thank you so much for sharing your querying experience with us. Also a very big thanks, for sharing your successful 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!
Thank you! Having been through it all, I love to talk writing and share my experiences.
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?
This is my fourth novel, so I had spent countless hours on previous letters for my other books that did not get me an agent. Honestly, I have no idea. I just know that it was A LOT of time pulling my hair out and going bleary eyed in front of the computer.
- Did you revise your query letter at all during the querying process?
Yes, I did, many times. I also asked friends for feedback to help me figure out what worked. One editor friend told me she had no idea what the book was about after reading my first one, which I had already sent to about five agents. I revised several times after hearing that.
- How long did it take you from when you started querying to when you got your first partial or full manuscript (ms) request?
Again, since this was book number four, a long time. But with this book, right away I got several full requests. Even with the query letter my editor friend said she had no idea what it was about, lol. That was when I knew I was on to something. Also, mid way through, I hired a wonderful editor and it was only after a major developmental edit that I got my agent.
- How many partial and full ms requests did you receive?
I think possibly six to eight? They were all full requests.
- Did you receive any rejections, and if so how did you cope?
Yes, tons. The ones who didn’t pick me had various reasons, but most just said they didn’t love it the way they needed to in order to take me on. Not a lot of constructive feedback and I was about at the giving up point when I got my agent.
- Did you use any particular software, or system for keeping track of the queries you sent out?
I made a Query spreadsheet on Excel.
- How many query letters did you send out at a time?
About five at a time, starting with top tier agents. But one thing I really wish I had done, and I am embarrassed to say, is that I was not on Publisher’s Marketplace. I would have been way better informed if I had looked at this. You should join this for sure if you are querying. Fortunately, my agency is highly ranked.
- How did you choose who you sent your query letter to?
I googled and looked at agents of books I liked. I also followed a lot of agents on Twitter.
- Did you personalize each one?
- Can you tell us a bit about when you received ‘the call’?
I sent the query to one agent at the Knight Agency, but Deidre Knight herself emailed me (she was very fast at getting back) and said that they were reading my manuscript in the office out loud and they loved it. I nearly fainted. She said that she had too much on her plate but another agent at her agency (Elaine Spencer) had been looking for something just like my book and wanted to speak to me about representation. It all felt very surreal and of course I was in tears and overjoyed.
- Did you have multiple offers for either representation or publication, and if so, how did you decide who you were going to accept?
I had a few fulls out and I did notify the other agents, but I had already made up my mind. And Mira was the only publisher in our first round that offered a deal, but they are such a great publisher, I was thrilled. You only need one!
- What questions did you ask when speaking with the agent/acquiring editor that you were considering?
I had already researched the agency, so I was just thrilled that they wanted my book. The whole agency seemed enthusiastic, so that was a big plus.
- What questions do you wish you’d ask, but didn’t?
Can’t think of anything off the top of my head.
- Any advice and top tips for others about the querying process and writing the query letter itself?
Study back cover copy and model yours after successful ones in the same genre. Keep it simple and catchy. Which, obviously, is far easier said than done. And of course, my motto is Patience and Perseverance. I had that posted on my wall throughout the whole process. I still do. The work never ends, but it sure is worth it if you love writing as much as I do.
- Anything else you want to add?
I am a big believer in visioning your life how you want it to be. Dream big and you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks so much Sara 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 Sara’s awesome book ‘Islands of Sweet Pies and Soldiers’, it’s scheduled for release on Feb 13th, 2018. Click on the pic below for more info.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and later earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. Prior to practicing acupuncture, she worked as a high school counselor and teacher on the famed north shore of Oahu, where surf often took precedence over school. She is the author of six novels – Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, Fallen Water, Volcano House, The Ranch at Redwater, Salt and Seaweed, and Honeycreepers – with several more itching to be written. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and see no end to its untapped stories.
A few of her favorite things, in no particular order – hiking, homemade PIZZA, a good thunderstorm, stargazing, BOOKS, craft beer, her wonderful BOYFRIEND, surfing, mountain streams, her friends, and ANIMALS. In fact, animals inhabit all of her novels in some way, shape or form – dogs, donkeys, sea turtles, a featherless chicken, endangered Hawaiian crows, horses, and even a lion. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean, which is where most of her inspiration happens.
Sara can be found on the following platforms: