How to write a Query Letter

(that won't get thrown in the trash!)

The secret of a good query letter is that there is no magical formula. It is impossible to know with any precision the exact preferences of every single agent. That being said, there are some standards with in the industry that will help your query letter stand out and at the very least not piss off the very people you are trying to impress. 

1. Keep it short

Don't go over a single page. Agents get hundreds of query letters every week, they want to know only want they need to know to determine if your manuscript is right for them. Most people feel a strong emotional attachment to their manuscript and scoff at the idea of keeping the hook and summary to a single paragraph, but most agents will see an overly lengthy synopsis as a fatal flaw. 

2. Structure

The query letter has four basic parts; Introduction, synopsis, audience, and about the author. 

Introduction-Your introduction should be brief and include a polite greeting, any personal connections you have to the agent, why you are sending it to them personally, your genre, title and book length.  

Synopsis-This is where you get to tell the agent about your book. Keep it to a single paragraph that begins with a hook. The tone of your synopsis should reflect a similar tone to your book. In other words, if your book isn’t dry, then your synopsis shouldn’t be either. The point of the synopsis is two fold. First, to give the agent a sense of what the book is about, plot, characters, setting. The second, to give the agent a sense of your writing style and get the excited about your book. Remember this is not back cover copy. You can give away plot points and spoilers as needed to entice the agent to reading more.

Market- Paragraph two should focus on the market for your book. Discuss comparable titles, audience demographics, what you have already done to make a name for yourself, and what you intend to do moving forward.

About the author-This is where you get to brag about yourself! Spend a little bit of time going over your credentials. There is no need to list a lengthy resume here all the way back to that time in high school you worked at the local movie theater scooping popcorn. Focus on the relevant skills and experience that would help you as an author. This includes writing, leadership, and marketing.

Closing- Make sure you include a professional closing that includes ALL the ways the agent can get in touch with you. If the agent requires a sample with submission, it should follow after the closing of your query.

3. Politeness Counts

Believe it or not, I have read many query letters in which the author acts as if they are doing the agent a favor. This kind of hubris never comes of the way you think it does. Remember, this query letter is the only piece of evidence that the agent or publisher has to judge you by, and whats worse, it is in writing (a format all to easy to misinterpret!). Be polite, gracious and humble while still getting across how great your book is!

4. Proofread!

Start the way you mean to finish. If you want to convince this person that your book is worth taking a chance on, then your query letter better be air tight! Read through it for typos of spelling and grammar mistakes. Have someone else read it to make sure it captures the tone of your

4. Follow The Rules

Since agents are getting inundated with query letters and samples all day, every day, they set up guidelines to help stream line their own process. Don’t disregard these!

5. Do Your Research-Know Your Audience

The same agent for the Twilight series is unlikely to take on an author writing a historical biography of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Agents are transparent and up front about what kinds of manuscripts they are looking for. You just have to look. Make sure that your query letter reflects their interests while still accurately representing your book. It is always a good idea to include any personal or professional connection you might have with the agent. Mention why you are querying them specifically. It could be that you met at an event or conference. Or perhaps they have represented a book similar to yours. Regardless of the connection, make your query as personalized as possible-and send it to the agents who are looking for what you have written.

6. Keep Trying!

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You will get a lot of “No’s” some agents will send polite form letters. Others will take the time to send some details as to why they didn’t choose your manuscript. Either way, keep going! It only takes one agent to see the potential of your manuscript. It is important that when you receive these rejections (and you will) that you don’t let it creep in and plant the seeds of doubt. Take the advice that you find relevant and helpful and let go of the advice that doesn’t serve you in anyway.

Don’t reach out demanding answers or trying to convince the agent to take you on. publishing, agents, and writing is a community (all be it a large one), people talk. You don’t want to do anything that might leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth.

In the meantime, keep writing! The more books you have written, the more visibility and connections you gain.

As always follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates and articles!





 

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AuthorAmber Cross

You have just spent months, if not years, perfecting your manuscript, and now you aren't sure what to do next. Regardless of if you are self-publishing or shopping around for a literary agent and a traditional publisher, there are a few key things you should put at the top of your to-do list. 

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Author's Website

Like any other new enterprise, you need to build brand recognition. Your book may be the greatest thoughts ever put to paper, but if no one knows it exists then they can't enjoy it.  Even if you plan on seeking out a traditional publisher, an author's page shows your dedication to your work and the promotion of your book. Luckily, you don't have to be a computer wiz to create a professional looking website these days. I like Wix.com for author sites. You can make a site for free and they provide easy to use templates perfect for showcasing your books. 

Social Media

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The goal of using Social media is to build a following of readers and interact with other authors, publishers, and helpful resources. You do this by a combination of self-promotion of your book and author website, interacting with readers and writers on a genuinely personal level, and sharing other relevant content. Social Media can be overwhelming if it isn't something you are familiar with or if you have never used it in a professional capacity. The biggies to sign up for today are Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. If you feel ambitious, you can explore Linkedin, Pinterest, and Snapchat. There are a lot of different programs and sites out there now designed to help you grow your platform and audience. I suggest crowdfireapp.com and hootsuite.com but there really are so many that it is hard to go wrong! 

Book Cover

Even if you are working on traditional publishing, having artwork for your book helps draw your audience. The cover art is the first interaction readers and potential publishers have with your book. Quality art is great for use on social media and your website. It helps you look established and professional and it is an absolute necessity if you are self-publishing. 

Query Letter

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A Query letter is your introduction to literary agents. Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so your first step is to get representation with a literary agent. Your query letter should be no longer than a page with a brief synopsis of your book, the target audience, genre, word count and a little about you. Remember, you are trying to get the agent interested in reading your book, so it should be well written and engaging. Research agents that have worked with authors within your genre and send it out to a handful of the best ones. Always follow their submission guidelines perfectly. They will not want to read the rest of your manuscript if you waste their time by not following directions. 

Paid Book Promotion (optional)

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This one is by no means necessary, but I wanted to throw it on here as an optional tool to explore. There are a few different types of companies out there that will promote your book. The fees and results range wildly.  There are lots of companies that will tweet your book or advertise on Facebook for you such as wizzbuzzbooks.com. When researching these options, look at their social media. They may have thousands of followers, but how often do those followers interact with their posts? Are their posts re-tweeted, liked, shared etc? If not, then you want to keep looking. Other agencies are more full services and may even run your social media for you. These are more like traditional ad agencies and their price is reflective of that. 

Regardless of your progress in writing or publishing your book, it is never too late to get started with promoting and netwroking! 

If you are ready to get started with a ghostwriter, visit my CONTACT page and reach out to me today.

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin for more tips and tricks for writing and publishing. 

Posted
AuthorAmber Cross

Memoirs are one of my most popular requests that I get. People reach out to me with amazing experiences and life stories that they want to write down and share with the world. Whether using a ghostwriter or writing it on your own, here are some quick tips for how to write your memoir. 

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1. Keep a diary:

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I can't count how many times I had a great idea only to forget it when I sit down at my computer to type. Writing down the events of the day prevents memory lapse later while also being a good way to write down old memories that resurface unexpectedly.

2. Narrow your focus:

Don't fall into the trap of feeling like you have to write every event from your entire life. Think about the message you want people to gain from reading about your life. Do you simply want to share your hardships? Do you want people to learn from your choices? Have you come to some epiphany that you want others to experience? Regardless of your goals, use it to keep you focused while looking at the events of your life. What events are vital to getting that message across and which events would distract? Sometimes it is helpful to create a timeline, so you can visualize the various key events. 

4. Pull your reader in with the details:

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When I was a teacher, I used to tell my students to show not tell. It was a simple reminder that using sensory detail has significantly more impacts than simply telling the audience your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. When it is your own life, it is all too easy to forget the reader's perspective. Your reader doesn't know you. The details help the experiences become real. 

5. Write and write and write, but also read:

Writing is a skill that takes time and practice. The more you write, the more you will get a feel for your own style and voice. Good writers always read too. You would not expect to pick up a sport without first studying technique. While it may not explicitly teach things like grammar, punctuation, and syntax, you will instinctively get a sense of storytelling, flow and word choice as you read.

6. Get help:

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So often authors who want to write their story, find that they are just too close to it to write it objectively. They will get bogged down in the emotional elements and struggle to see the big picture of their book. Don't be too hard on yourself, and don't let the setbacks keep you from realizing your dream of becoming an author. There is nothing wrong with getting help from either a ghostwriter or even an objective reader. 

If you are ready to get started with a ghostwriter, visit my CONTACT page and reach out to me today.

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin for more tips and tricks for writing and publishing. 

 

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This is one of the most common questions people ask me when they are starting to think about becoming an author and writing their book. They have been told by ghostwriting companies and other writers that they should show up with an outline of their ideas, notes, research and maybe even a rough draft. 

I am here to tell you that you don't need ANY of that! A quality ghostwriter should be able to work with whatever you have or don't have. If all you have is an idea or life experiences, then it is my job to organize them, outline them and help you get them down on paper.

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Without the experience of being a professional writer for years, it can be overwhelming to even start taking notes on your ideas. I have found that the closer an author is to their own experiences or ideas, the harder it is for them to begin. 

It is my job as your ghostwriter to help you through the entire process from the very beginning while you are still defining the parameters of your project to organizing your ideas to the very end when you have a finished manuscript and are starting to publish. A good ghostwriter will help you feel comfortable with sharing your unorganized ideas and ask relevant questions to pull out the information that they need to create your book. 

The unreasonable preasure of being "ready" before you get started turns many potential authors away from their dream. Don't let anyone else put the breaks on your ambitions. All you need to do is start! 

There is no magical formula that makes a writer. If you write you are a writer. 

Posted
AuthorAmber Cross
Photo by Thinkstock/Stockbyte / Getty Images

Photo by Thinkstock/Stockbyte / Getty Images

So you have made the decision that hiring a ghostwriter is the right step for you and your project--now what? For someone who is new to the process, it can be very overwhelming.  After all this is someone you are trusting with your ideas, creativity, life's work or business.  Despite my obviously biased high praise for ghostwriters, it is important to note that not all ghostwriters are the right fit for every project.  Some ghostwriters are highly specialized in a small niche of writing such as memoirs or technical writing. Regardless of your individual needs or the specialization of the ghostwriter, there are a few key qualities you should look for.


Photo by Phil Ashley/Digital Vision / Getty Images

Photo by Phil Ashley/Digital Vision / Getty Images

1. Individual vs. Company:

This may be my own personal bias, but avoiding large companies is always your safest guarantee to knowing exactly who you are working with. With larger ghostwriting factories, your work is often shuffled from writer to writer and are often a front to make money. Many different individuals may be working on a single clients works and some of those "writers" are low payed college students. Your project is important to you and it should be equally important to whom ever you choose to work on it. 

2. Professional Associations:

While finding an independent ghostwriter is ideal, you also do not want someone who is not connected to other writers in anyway. Anyone can throw together a website and insist that they are a ghostwriter, being a member of a professional association demonstrates their commitment to their craft as well as their willingness to improve by being part of a community.

Photo by Michaela Stejskalovß/Hemera / Getty Images

Photo by Michaela Stejskalovß/Hemera / Getty Images

3. Samples:

Any ghostwriter worth their salt will have samples ready for you to browse. These are generally the pieces they are using with client permission or pieces they have written using their own byline. If a writer is stingy with samples, that should be a red flag. The caveat to this, however, is that ghostwriters work under strict confidentiality agreements, so don't expect a lengthy list of past clients. They can only divulge clients who have waived their confidentiality. 

4. Personal Connection:

This is probably the most important thing to look for in a ghostwriter.  A ghostwriter could be the most highly acclaimed writer ever to live, if you have misgivings about them for any reason, your project will probably be doomed.   Your relationship with your ghostwriter is an important one and despite what some companies want to convince you of, it is a very personal one. Speak to your potential writers on the phone.  A quick phone call will tell you if they share your enthusiasm for your ideas, if they have a style and personality that works well with your own, and if you are comfortable working with them. You will quickly be able to tell their level of professionalism from your conversation.

 

5. Reasonable Cost:

Ghostwriters are professional writers who have perfected their craft over many years of education and practice, and they expect to be compensated for using their skill for your gain without any acknowledgement. Be wary of a ghostwriter who will write an entire book for very little money. This typically means they are either inexperienced or have little skills. Writing is a highly skilled profession, so do not expect to pay your writer minimum wage or less. Although it is cliche, you always get what you pay for. 

Photo by aydinynr/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by aydinynr/iStock / Getty Images

If you front load all of your effort into finding the right ghostwriter, working with them should be not only easy, but rewarding as well. A trusted ghostwriter can help  the creative and technical process of writing run more smoothly and efficiently.  

 

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AuthorAmber Cross

Often businesses and individuals have a need for high quality written material.  As such, they often turn to cheap pre-packaged help such as o-desk or e-lance only to find the writing is subpar.  Ghostwriters are an overlooked and often little known resource that can provide individualized attention to your project.  When most people think of ghostwriters they either think of the cheesy 1990s TV show or they think of popular young adult series that are churned out of factories.  Yet ghostwriters are highly skilled writers who specialize in wide varieties of formats, genres and topics.  They spend their days adopting the voice and passions of others in order to create the vision of their client.  


When To Hire a Ghostwriter?

Clients seek out ghostwriters for a wide variety of reasons and writing needs.  Sometimes they need a critical eye for the start to a piece and need someone to help see their vision through to completion.  Other times people need a writer because their lives are simply to busy. Whatever the need for a writer, you know when the time is right when you have come to a stand still mentally or with the physical words no longer getting to the page in a way that does justice to your idea. 

Do not look at getting help as defeat, but rather as reinvigorating yourself. Breathing new life into your dreams of seeing your ideas in writing should only be viewed positively. A good ghostwriter will be the support you so desperately need. Finding someone with the necessary skills can prove to be a much needed relief and bring professionalism and focus to your writing.

 

Some Key Reasons for Hiring a Ghostwriter:

 

Professionalism:

Unlike other types of freelance writers who are interested in your needs only so far as it will get them recognition for their byline,  ghostwriters make your goals, visions and agenda their top priority.  Hiring an experienced ghostwriter brings with it a degree of trust.  Clients can trust their ghostwriters to maintain professionalism throughout the process as well as in the finished product. In order to have a finished product that you are proud to put your name or your companies name on, it may be time to hire a ghostwriter.

Insider Information:

Ghostwriters are well versed in the world of professional writing.  They have worked inside the writing community at crafting words in such a way that readily fits your market audience.  Regardless of if you are seeking out a ghostwriter for SEO web content or the fiction novel that you have been dreaming of, ghostwriters can guide you through the process as a solid support and advocate for your vision without pushing their own agenda like a freelance writer or larger company may. Rather then floundering through the sometimes complicated world of research, SEO, publishing and writing, it may be time to hire a ghostwriter.

Expertise: 

While you may have far reaching and in depth expertise in a particular area, getting that expert knowledge on paper can be arduous.  Ghostwriters provide the expertise in writing professional and high quality content.  It is their job to translate your knowledge, experiences or ideas into writing for whatever audience or format meets your needs.  If you are not interested in going back to school, it may be time to hire a ghostwriter.

Time is Money:

One of the most common reason that people seek out a ghostwriter is to save themselves time.  If you are like most people, your job and home life are demanding your attention on a number of tasks at any given moment.  These constant needs allow for very little time to dedicate to writing.  Ghostwriters commit themselves to your project. What might  take you weeks or months or even years can be accomplished efficiently and expertly. If your writing has been sitting on a shelf collecting dust, it may be time to hire a ghostwriter.


There is a ghostwriter working in almost every niche of writing that you can think of.  Some ghostwriters  have preferred genres or formats they work in while others are more flexible to your needs.  If you are not sure if your project would benefit from a ghostwriter your best bet is to reach out to a few to see if they work within your area need.


Posted
AuthorAmber Cross

The business of young adult fiction has become very lucrative to those individuals and companies who have adeptly tapped into it. Series books fill the shelves at Barnes and Nobel from Beast Quest to The Hunger Games to Magic Tree House. All vying for the fickle attention of an ever growing population of children. My own children bring home the scholastic catalogue each month and circle their choices with reckless abandon. While normally I would not condone such wanton and obvious consumerism marketed towards my children, in this case it is more complicated. Do the positive outcomes of enthusiasm for reading out weigh the buying culture?  While young adult fiction and tweenager fiction is often predictable and mass produced, there is a quality and charm that is unique to the genre. It also fills a void that was so lacking until writers and publishers started acknowledging the importance and validity of young readers. Being engaged in a book is the first step towards become a reader, and young adult serialized fiction does this so well. 

As a teacher, engaging children in a book was always one of my biggest challenges. How do I get children and teenagers to love reading as much as I do? I found that the literature I choose to teach could make or break their interest. Some of my favorites to read out loud with my class where The Giver, Walk Two Moons, Flowers for Algernon, the Invention of Hugo Cabret and a lot more of course. Opening up the door for children to discover the power of a good book was the most rewarding part of being a teacher.  I loved igniting a passion in the kids and watching them on the edge of their seats anticipating the next chapter. Teaching them that a good book is more then just words on a page.  There are layers of meaning with far reaching relevance to themselves and the world.  

The range of young adult and teen fiction has exploded over the last ten to twenty years. When I was young, there were two series that I consumed ravenously; the Baby sitters club (famously ghost written) and Nancy Drew. I remember in elementary school the teachers regarded me as a mediocre reader at best. Yet at home, I spent the majority of my time reading. I lived for my two favorite series, and to this day, I can recall in vivid detail the characters and plots that had once been my companions. Their adventures became my own as I escaped my mundane existence to another, more exciting, life. While many condemn such light fare as page turning nonsense that does not encourage thinking, I disagree. Such series were pivotal in my development as a reader and a person. I was able to learn about myself and my own values through the struggles of others. They informed my growing identity, encouraged my unique voice, and gave me an outlet in which to think more critically about problems larger than my own immediate experiences allowed for. 

Beyond developing young minds, young adult fiction works wonders in the classroom. Predictable plots, age appropriate vocabulary and familiar characters all help a child who is brand new to reading develop a sense of what a book is while allowing them to build comprehension strategies because they are not overwhelmed by an overload of newness each time they pick up a book. Since as we all know, adolescents are inherently self centered, the familiarity of series fiction helps them relate to characters and thereby gives them an ability to think more deeply about themselves. 

 

We can never underestimate the value of the love of reading. A love of reading is something that will take children through their entire lives and has been shown to significantly increase vocabulary and the ability to assimilate new information. Young adult fiction plays to all of the needs of a young reader and often reaches the adult readers as well.  I feel there is a level of reckless abandon in young adult fiction that is not always present in adult fiction. The suspension of disbelief is more readily accepted. The audience jumps in for the ride with out doubt or question.    I am lucky enough to have children, so I can enjoy young adult literature on an almost daily basis.  If you are not so lucky you should consider checking some out of the library.

People have asked me; “Amber, why don't you write your own novel?" or "Why do you ghost write?" While these are reasonable and expected questions, the answer is self evident, at least to me anyway. I enjoy the comfort of other people's ideas. I take solace in the space and time to choose just the right word, to play with meanings and truly craft in a way that is not always available when the ideas are your own, and you are weighed down by your own personal baggage or bias to a piece.  I have come across many people who have aspirations of writing who struggle to get ideas down because they are so caught up in the end result that they cannot enjoy the process its self.

 

The craft of writing has become devalued in a time when anyone can string words together to create a thought. There was a time in the history of our culture when writing was highly valued. Few could read and even fewer could write. You did not waste paper by merely stringing words together to form a thought. The thought had to have meaning and the words had to have elegance and beauty. Ghostwriting for me likens back to a time when writing was valued. 

 

Hiring a ghostwriter shows a level of respect. You have these ideas and thoughts that you value, to the point, that a professional writer is required to lend credibility, value and sophistication in order to realize the full magnitude of the project. When clients come to me they are burning with passion to see their ideas realized. My own excitement for writing is renewed again every time I listen to a new client discuss their vision. 

 

In the Novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, he compares people to the cogs and inner workings of a clock saying that everyone has their place and purpose in making the world function.  Much like Hugo’s place was a magician my place is a ghostwriter. I get to have a different voice each time I take on a new client. I get to learn about topics and worlds that few others have the time or dedication to do.  I get to breath life into ideas that had lain dormant in someone else’s mind through. Being a ghostwriter is not for someone who enjoys the spotlight or desires recognition, but rather it is for someone who sees the weight and presence of a word well chosen. 

 

In my past life as a teacher, I used to develop lesson after lesson on choosing words wisely.  I would discuss connotation versus denotation and the importance of knowing both.  These were some of may favorite lessons because English speakers and writers are lucky enough to have a language that allows us room to interpret, play, infer, and mislead in a way that not all languages can boast.  I count myself extremely lucky to have the opportunity to play with words everyday. 

 

And that is why I ghost write.  The power and satisfaction of delivering someone’s ideas to the world, to be read and shared, is beyond measure. A colleague of mine used to say, “The purpose of writing is to get what is in my brain into yours.”  That is exactly what I try to do for my clients who do not have the time or ability to convey what is in their head accurately enough.

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AuthorAmber Cross
Categorieswriting craft