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Negeen Papehn’s Successful Query Letter
Negeen it’s wonderful 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!
Thanks, for having me, Madisson! I hope my answers and my query sample will help authors when they’re stuck in their own query trenches. The entire process is tedious and torturous in my opinion. 🙂
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 put it off for a really long time, because frankly, it terrified me. But when I finally sat down to do it, I spent a week researching successful query letters on-line trying to figure out what the secret was. Once I felt like I had a semi-decent grasp of what it needed to include, I wrote a draft. From there, I edited; took me three versions before I was ready to get some input. I had a few fellow author friends read it for me and give me some feedback. Then I modified again. All in all, I think it was about a month or so until it was submit ready.
- Did you revise your query letter at all during the querying process?
No, I didn’t. I got my fair share of rejections, but I was lucky to have a handful of personalized emails instead of the industry standard ones we usually get. They specified changes that needed to be done on the MS but none referred to the query. I hated writing it so much, I refused to deal with it again unless absolutely necessary. I just focused on working on my MS based on the feedback.
- How long did it take you from when you started querying to when you got your first partial or full manuscript (ms) request?
I received my first full request about four weeks after I sent in my first set of submissions.
- How many partial and full ms requests did you receive?
I had five requests. Two partials and three fulls.
- Did you receive any rejections, and if so how did you cope?
Of course I did! I think we all do. It was hard, I won’t lie. I was new to the writing world and questioning if I even belonged there. So with each rejection, my confidence plummeted. There were times the sting of the most recent rejection left me deflated and ready to give up. I was fortunate to have a strong support system, though, that wouldn’t let me quit. I was reminded that getting requests at all, was an accomplishment. Especially as quickly as I had. They encouraged me to keep going. If it weren’t for them, I may have thrown in the towel.
- Did you use any particular software, or system for keeping track of the queries you sent out?
I just made a word document. It was the easiest way for me to keep track. I’d make a note of the agent/editor’s name, the agency/publisher they were with, the date I sent it in and then I’d follow up with dates of their responses and what, if anything, they’d requested. And when the rejections came, I put those in too.
- How many query letters did you send out at a time?
It varied a bit depending on how much time I had and how long of a list I had made. But on average, 10-15 at a time.
- How did you choose who you sent your query letter to?
I used MS Wish List quite a bit. I’d do searches under my genre and make a list of potential agents/editors that fit the parameters of my novel. I also followed various contests on twitter and saw what was being requested there too. Once I’d compiled a nice size group of potentials, I’d find them on their websites and read up further to make sure the pairing made sense, before I submitted to them.
- Did you personalize each one?
I wasn’t familiar enough with the agents/editors to be able to make a reference that was worthy enough to mention. I felt like making a comment about something I’d researched only made the entire process less personal than it already was. I just addressed it to their name and went right into the query. But that’s my personal preference. I know other’s opinions vary. There’s no right or wrong way to do this.
Now, though, when I’m ready to start submitting on my next novel, I know more people in the industry and have interacted with some enough to personalize some of the submission.
- Can you tell us a bit about when you received ‘the call’?
My ‘call’ was actually an email. My editor lives overseas, so the email came in at some ungodly hour. I think it was like 2AM my time, or something like that. I was obviously asleep being that it was a Thursday J So I saw it pop up on my phone when I went to turn my alarm off. I didn’t immediately look at it, preparing myself for the worse. I’d already gotten a handful of rejections at that point, and was assuming it was just more of the same. I got my kids up and ready for school. When I finally made it to my bathroom to start putting myself together for work, I couldn’t resist any longer. I took a deep breath and opened the email. My eyes scanned the first two lines quickly, bracing myself for the disappointment that I’d become accustomed to. But instead of ‘thanks but no thanks,’ it was ‘thanks and we want you.’ I started screaming, which brought my husband running, thinking something terrible had happened. I was squealing and jumping up and down when I told him the news. Then I sent a text message to my family, spent my forty-minute drive to work on the phone with my sister-in-law, and then blabbed it to my boss and all my co-workers. It was definitely a good day 🙂
- Did you have multiple offers for either representation or publication, and if so, how did you decide who you were going to accept?
Sadly, I only received one offer.
- What questions did you ask when speaking with the agent/acquiring editor that you were considering?
It was all so new to me so I think I asked a million questions and understood very few of the answers, LOL. I asked about the actual process of publishing, the various steps/phases the book would go through. I wanted to know my own roll, what would be expected of me. I also wanted to know how much creative control I would have along the way. With my current publisher, I have quite a bit. I asked about their marketing strategies as well. That part was hard for me to follow, to be honest. Once I reviewed the contract, there were a few questions there and a couple modifications we agreed on together.
- What questions do you wish you’d ask, but didn’t?
I wish I would have known more about what the marketing aspect of the entire process entailed so that I could have asked more detailed questions and understood what I was going to be responsible for. From writing the first draft, to publishing, it’s been a whirlwind for me. Everything has felt like it’s been moving at light speed. I find myself lost and frustrated quite frequently when it comes to all the avenues we as authors, must use to market ourselves. If I had a better understanding in the beginning, I may not feel as overwhelmed about it now.
- Any advice and top tips for others about the querying process and writing the query letter itself?
As far as writing the query letter goes, try and think of it as an in depth back cover blurb. It needs to be enticing enough to grab the reader’s attention, agent/editor included. Do some research. There are a lot of sites that have sample query letters. I tried to find successful ones in my genre to use as a template.
And ultimately, don’t let the rejections get you down. They suck; I get it. The sting is worse with each one that arrives, but hang in there. Your story will light a spark for someone, you just have to keep going.
- Anything else you want to add?
Landing an agent is tough. I wasn’t able to do it with my first book and I don’t know if I will with my other ones. But that doesn’t define us as authors. There’s a whole business model that goes into what an agent picks up. Ultimately, it needs to be mainstream and it needs to sell. Sometimes, the genre we write just isn’t the ‘in’ thing at the moment. But that changes. Don’t give up.
Thanks so much Negeen 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 Negeen’s awesome book ‘Forbidden By Faith’, it’s scheduled for release on Feb 20th, 2018. Click on the pic below for more info.
Negeen Papehn was born and raised in southern California, where she currently lives with her husband and two rambunctious boys. She wasn’t always a writer. A graduate of USC dental school, Negeen spends half of her week with patients and the other half in front of her laptop. In the little time she finds in between, she loves to play with her boys, go wine tasting with her friends, throw parties, and relax with her family.
Her debut novel FORBIDDEN BY FAITH will be out with City Owl Press February of 2018
Negeen can be found on the following platforms:
|Buy link for your latest or soon to be released book:||Amazon: http://smarturl.it/FLove1Amz
Amazon Print: http://smarturl.it/FLove1AmzPrt
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