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Samantha Heuwagen’s Successful Query Letter
Samantha I’m so excited 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 so much for having me! If I can help in anyway, I’m more than happy to do it! I know the process was extremely soul crushing for me. If someone can learn a new way to go about the query process, that’s great!
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?
I’ve been known to be a very quick writer (thanks grad school!). So the process took about a few hours and then I let it sit so I could come back to edit––so maybe a few days? I knew what I wanted to say and what agents/editors look for, so it wasn’t hard to put the pieces together … or so I thought.
- Did you revise your query letter at all during the querying process?
I went through a few drafts of it––I think about three different versions. As I learned about the process, by failing miserably, it grew. In the end I wasn’t seeing any movement. I would get a partial request and some full, but they always ended in rejection. It wasn’t until I hired my editor, Hannah Bauman (https://btleditorial.com/), to help me sort it out that I got a little more feedback and along with that, some hope.
- How long did it take you from when you started querying to when you got your first partial or full manuscript (ms) request?
My first partial was pretty quick, maybe a month? A few months later, I was given two full requests, but nothing happened with any of those.
- How many partial and full ms requests did you receive?
I want to say 5 partial requests and 3 full requests throughout the process.
- Did you receive any rejections, and if so how did you cope?
If you could see me right now, I’m laughing. Not just, ha ha ha, but a big belly laugh with tears. Of course I was rejected. I want to say I was rejected almost 200 times, maybe even more. After the first 50, I stopped counting. It happens and it’s a part of the deal. You want to be a creative and write? You’re going to have to face the pain of rejection, no matter how bitter it tastes.
- Did you use any particular software, or system for keeping track of the queries you sent out?
I used excel mostly. I wasn’t very good at tracking it at first because it never crossed my mind to do it––sad now that I think about it. But in the end I got smart and started tracking. You should do it, because you want those records, even if it’s to burn it all later.
- How many query letters did you send out at a time?
My goal in every sitting was ten, but that doesn’t mean I found ten people to query. Sometimes it was one, others more. I went after the agents and editors I knew I wanted to work with and would be a good fit.
- How did you choose who you sent your query letter to?
I wanted to be represented by someone who was as passionate about changing stereotypes of mental health and women, especially women of color. I looked for individuals who had that quality and wanted to change the world through writing.
- Did you personalize each one?
I did to the best of my ability. I’ll be honest, sometimes I got lazy, but if I connected with an agent online or at a conference, I’d make sure you say hi and make sure they knew it was me.
- Can you tell us a bit about when you received ‘the call’?
I got an email from Trifecta, actually. I never check my email between teaching and heading to the office to do therapy, but something about that time and day, I checked. I sat in my car, still parked mind you, and looked around asking if this was real life. I then called my mom and partner who didn’t pick up their phones. Luckily, I was able to get ahold of dear friends who facetimed me to celebrate. It was surreal.
- What questions did you ask when speaking with the agent/acquiring editor that you were considering?
I had a lot and I won’t bore you with the details, but I made sure it was legit by running it by my lawyer and team. You have to be smart, even if it’s your dream come true, you never know.
- What questions do you wish you’d ask, but didn’t?
I wish I focused more on the marketing part of life. I understand a lot of that is my responsibility no matter if you’re working with a big press or small, but I wish I would have asked for a business plan or something to get a better idea of what they could offer me. Though I’ll admit, I like the freedom to do it alone, but again, it’s hard work and sometimes I just want to be the writer! I like to think I’m learning valuable skills no matter what happens with the book or beyond.
- Any advice and top tips for others about the querying process and writing the query letter itself?
Self care. Take care of yourself during this process and get ready to work. If you feel like burn out is around the corner, stop and take a step back. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
- Anything else you want to add?
Thank you so much and good luck to everyone in the trenches. It’s not easy, but it does get better no matter what the outcome. Believe in yourself and you’re half way there!
Samantha’s editor at Trifecta Publishing, Diana Ballew, has kindly offered her perspective on what it was about Samantha’s query that got her attention, and ultimately led to her publishing deal. Here’s what she had to say:
Samantha did an excellent job with her query letter. The first paragraph contained the information I was looking for: Given your interest in multicultural fiction, the “own voices” theme, and strong female characters, I think my novel is a great fit for your list.
Indeed, I was looking for multicultural fiction with an especially strong female character in a futuristic setting. Reading further, I knew that no matter how good her attached manuscript pages might be, there was an issue with her word count—over 120,000 words, and we didn’t publish books over 100,000 words. Still, I began reading, and I really like her attached pages. I asked Samantha to consider revising and resubmitting her manuscript. She was very professional about it and took the job to task. She completed the revisions and resubmitted the manuscript within a timely manner, and I was delighted to see the book fell right under that 100,000-word mark, and that Dawn Among the Stars was now considerably tighter, a much better read, and a perfect fit for Trifecta Publishing House.
Director of Acquisitions
Thank you so much Samantha (and Diana too) 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 Samantha’s fabulous debut novel ‘Dawn Among the Stars’, it’s scheduled for release on May 21st, 2018. Click on the pic below for more info.
Dawn Among The Stars Blurb:
Set against the backdrop of intergalactic politics and war, Dawn Among the Stars follows the stories of three Humans as they struggle to understand the universe on a cosmic scale.
Kayin has a rough start when the Shielders, a potential alien ally for Earth, come out of hiding and into the public consciousness. Not only does their very existence cause her trouble, her panic attacks threaten to derail her everyday life. Can she overcome her mental health issues or will she be swallowed up in a political mess?
As for Henry Rickner, he wishes he could take back all of his mistakes in life, starting with his choice to leave Kayin. Yet he finds himself within the chaos of war as he tries to reunite with those he holds dear.
Melissa Pebbles only has one goal: to keep her family safe during the attack. She will do anything to make sure she and her family make it through whatever challenges are thrown their way. While Melissa fights to keep her family alive, she learns that family is more than just blood.
Can these three work with the Shielders to save Earth or will they lose the only home they’ve ever known?
** Dawn Among The Stars is NOW available for pre-order – just visit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CSDC77N/ref **
Samantha Heuwagen works as a Marriage and Family Therapist and specializes in Sex.
Therapy in Atlanta, GA. She is a graduate of Mercer University School of Medicine where she earned her second Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her first Master’s degree is in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of South Florida where she first realized her passion for sex education. She is a certified sexologist with the American College of Sexologists. When she isn’t working with clients, she teaches at Kennesaw State University sharing her knowledge about sex and feminism. Her debut novel, Dawn Among the Stars, the first in a multi-part series, releases May 21st, 2018 through Trifecta Publishing.
Samantha can be found on the following platforms: