Writing Query Letters and Book Proposals
Our published writers and professional book editors help write or revise query letters and nonfiction or fiction book proposals
First Contact With Acquisitions Editors
In today's tough book business, you can't just write a manuscript, mail it off, and expect a bidding war to start. Chances are that the manuscript will be returned to you without being read. A query letter provides first contact between the author and literary agents or acquisitions editors.
Query letters are an entire "subspecialty" in the process of trying to sell a fiction or nonfiction manuscript. This sales aid is an aspiring author's most important tool as it means the difference between agents and editors taking time to look at your work or ignoring it.
Whether you work on magazine articles, nonfiction, or novels, you must be able to write query letters to literary agents or acquisitions editors that generate excitement and result in an invitation to submit your work.
"Work as hard on your query letter as you do on your manuscript. The query letter is your one shot to be noticed. Make it perfect. Make it businesslike and avoid cuteness. . . . Personalize the letter by including a line regarding books the agent has handled. Include only information that is relevant to your book. Be able to categorize your book without equivocation." E. L. Wyrick - Power in the Blood
Today's fiction market is tighter than it has ever been. Consolidation within the publishing and book distribution industries has meant that far fewer major houses take submissions. Where dozens of different houses once looked for books to publish, now only three or four remain, all with subsidiaries under them that originally were individual houses. A strikeout at one of the subsidiaries may limit your opportunities to submit that work to others under the same corporate publishing umbrella.
A query letter tells the acquisitions editor many things, including whether the manuscript is suitable for the publisher's lines, whether the writer has researched both what the house publishes and what line/genre that particular editor handles, whether the writer has any previous writing experience, whether the writer has a grasp of language and grammar, and whether the manuscript fits that house's present needs.
To make the most of your first contact with any agent or editor, you want a strong sales letter to set you and your work apart from stacks of mail reaching editors every day. Your query letter sells the acquisitions editor on your story idea and your ability to write it, making this initial contact extremely important.
Your well-written book proposal may sell your fiction or nonfiction book. Even after an editor wants to buy your book, your synopsis helps sell it to the buying committee and may be used by artists and copywriters to create the cover.
Because your book proposal is often the first sample of your work that an agent or editor sees, and must represent and sell the part of your book not included, it should be a showcase for your writing abilities. Our published writers will read your manuscript, or work from a synopsis/summary that you provide, to help you write or revise a synopsis to represent your work at its best.
Our experienced, published writers (many of whom were, at one time, acquisitions editors) can help you present the best overview of your book idea and confirm your ability to write it. We can help you decide what features of your written work and experience are most likely to convince an acquisitions editor that this is a manuscript worth reading. With proper format and accuracy of style, your query letter can impress an agent or editor with your professional approach to writing.
You want your first contact with literary agents or acquisitions editors to do the best possible
job of convincing them to read your manuscript, and we can help.
Query Letters and Book Proposals
Judge: Indie Book Awards
Developmental Content Editing, Writing Assistance, Query Letters, Book Proposals, Submissions to Literary Agents and Publishers
BETH BRUNO is a columnist, author, and book editor. Hundreds of her articles have been published in print and online, and her first book, Wild Tulips, came out in 2001 and went into a second printing in 2002. Beth's proximity to New York and her position as President of the CT Authors and Publishers Association give her unique access to literary agents and publishers in and around New York City. Several of the authors whose manuscripts she has edited have been published in the mainstream, thanks to her referrals on their behalf.
Beth’s editing interests are eclectic and include a delicious mix of fiction, nonfiction, young adult, and children’s works. Among the 350+ manuscripts she has edited, she has a special affinity for: mystery/suspense, women’s fiction, memoir, psychology topics, romance, self-help, how-to, and both fiction and nonfiction for young adult (YA) readers.
In addition to editing, Beth serves as a judge for the Indie Book Awards, an excellent contest for authors who self-publish. Winners receive cash prizes, publicity, and introduction to literary agents and publishers.
"I want to thank Beth for the spectacular job she did editing my book, which has just been published. When Beth first*** received the manuscript, she understood what was missing and recognized the changes needed to improve the flow, characterization, plot, etc., of my novel. She had a keen eye for small details. Beth was also always very available to discuss suggestions, and she quickly came up with alternatives to solve the problems we encountered along the way. She guided me through the particulars of my novel to the final polished product. The result: A published book." Oscar Medina
THEODORA BRYANT focuses on mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, adventure, and horror titles. She has considerable experience with trade non-fiction. As Editorial Director of her own publishing house, Theodora published almost 100 titles, garnering several awards in "Best Of" categories. Almost half of the titles were bought for paperback reprints, and two were optioned for TV/movies. She has invaluable knowledge about the industry, the type of people who run it, how to work within it, and tips for getting your foot in the door. She's reviewed, evaluated, and edited thousands of manuscripts through the years, and uses that knowledge to help her clients produce results-driven manuscripts, query letters, and synopses. She works particularly hard at staying in the author's "voice," making sure the facts and dialogue match the time period in which the book is set, and "losing" excess verbiage. She's a good mentor, hard worker, and in many cases, has ultimately become a good friend.
Owner, award-winning publishing company, 1994-2001
Freelance editor (with this network only) since 2002
Critiqued and edited hundreds of manuscripts
Dozens of authors now happily selling their books
Detailed written critique/evaluation of your manuscript that asks questions, points out conflicts, confused timelines, characterization difficulties, etc., in the manuscript itself so the guide is always there for you to follow as you rework it.
Mentor you with creative ideas, and guide you through the whole gamut of what’s what in the publishing industry (i.e.: whether traditional or self-publishing is best for you).
Hands on content edit (aka copy-edit, aka line edit), structural/stylistic edit of your manuscript, doing everything to get your manuscript ready for a traditional agent, a traditional editor, a self-publishing company, or ready for submission to an e-publisher.
Work with you on a query and/or synopsis when the manuscript is ready for publication, should you want that.
Manuscript Evaluations, Critiques, Organizational and Developmental Editing, Line Editing, Writing Assistance, Ghostwriting
CARLY CANTOR is a publishing industry veteran who has worked in-house at a New York publisher as an acquisitions editor and is a two-time published author (history books). Most recently, she has worked as an independent consultant and project editor for Random House and Prentice Hall. She also represents authors as an agent with a well-established NYC agency. Her extensive experience includes critiquing, organizational and development editing, and line editing of fiction and nonfiction projects. She is a meticulous hands-on editor who "becomes one" with every project, paying close attention to both the big picture and the small details.
She has often worked with academics, psychologists, and medical doctors on high-level material in the social or life sciences and has helped them make their writing more accessible to a trade audience. One thrilled client, a doctor, said of her, "She is a consummate wordsmith, with the facility of not only understanding and integrating scientific and technical material but also illuminating arcane and otherwise opaque descriptions. She expertly shapes the structure of a presentation for better narrative flow, simplifying complex material to make it reader-friendly."
Carly also edits fiction, with an understanding of the importance of subtlety and nuance. She approaches fiction with an appreciation for how the brain works and for the idea that a reader likes to pick up clues and figure some things out for himself rather than be told everything directly about how characters are thinking and feeling. One novelist client said, "I have been guided by a number of different editors throughout my career. Without any hesitation, I can say that [she] is the best editor I have ever worked with."
Before STACEY DONOVAN became a professional editor more than 20 years ago, she worked in a literary agency where she learned how to say no more often than yes, and include reasons why. A stint in advertising followed, teaching her to tell it short and sweet, meet deadlines, and most important: never give up.
Donovan is a ten-time published book author of both fiction and non-fiction. She has edited or ghostwritten dozens of published books for her clients. Two became New York Times Bestsellers, and another nominated for Best First Novel by International Thriller Writers. She is experienced in many genres: Contemporary/Mainstream; Caper/Detective; Erotica; Gay/Lesbian; Literary Fiction; Mystery; Psychological Thriller; Suspense; Women's Fiction; Young Adult; Memoir/Autobiography; Creative Nonfiction.
- Detailed critique/evaluation of your manuscript
- Developmental/structural/stylistic edit of your manuscript
- Complete revision of your manuscript
- Collaborate with you in a mentoring capacity as you edit your manuscript
- Collaborate with you on a query and/or synopsis when the manuscript is ready for publication
- Determine with you which literary agent would be suitable for representation
- Determine with you whether to pursue mainstream, small, or self-publishing
- Consultation on your initial and/or ongoing Social Media strategy
Donovan is a writing coach, mentor, collaborator and ghostwriter. She has published dozens of non-fiction articles on design and art, and specialized in celebrity interviews with experts in their field. She is also a Publishing and Social Media strategist.
ANA HOWARD is the author of seven well-reviewed and award-winning children’s novels and has helped many others with their manuscripts, including picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels. After working in public schools for many years, she has now been a part of the publishing industry for fifteen years and provides a creative and supportive environment. She is passionate about children’s literature and offers the following services:
• Developmental, substantive and content editing
• Formatting and guidance on the submission process
• Query letters and synopses
• Advice for self-publishing authors
Publishing Credits Include:
- Water at the Blue Earth, young adult historical fiction (Roberts Rinehart)
- A Ceiling of Stars, middle grade contemporary fiction (American Girl)
- Nowhere, Now Here, middle grade contemporary fiction (American Girl)
- The Magic of Ordinary Days, adult historical fiction (Viking Penguin)
- Under a Stand Still Moon, young adult historical fiction (Brown Barn Books)
- Call Me the Canyon, young adult historical fiction (Brown Barn Books)
- Nicki, contemporary middle grade fiction (American Girl)
- Thanks to Nicki, contemporary middle grade fiction (American Girl)
She has seen one of her novels made into film (for Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions on CBS) and has won numerous literary awards. She believes that even in today’s tough publishing climate, it is still possible for new writers to enter the business and succeed. Second to writing her own novels, she loves to mentor others to help them achieve their goals. She knows firsthand how writers benefit from the help and support of other writers and/or editors.
"My novel had lingered in the offices of editors at the Big Six for years. Ana’s editing was timely and skillful and showed an understanding of my work. I used 95% of her suggestions and cut 200 pages from a 600 page manuscript. End result is a book with a clean, compelling narrative that has been called 'a gripping read'. Reader reviews of my book at Amazon and Goodreads have been very gratifying and allowed me to enter the top 100 for science-fiction/fantasy. Kirkus Reviews selected Prophets of the Ghost Ants as one of their Best of 2011. I would recommend Ana Howard's services to any author whose work needs an edit. Cost of the service was more than fair and the end result was priceless." —Clark T. Carlton
FLOYD LARGENT specializes in history, natural history, anthropology and the sciences on the non-fiction front, and speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and allied fields) otherwise. He's published his own e-book on fiction marketing (100 Great Places to Sell Your Short Stories, Both On and Off the Web), and is intimately familiar with technical writing, having worked as a technical writer and editor for ten years. He's also been published in most of the popular American history magazines, including American History, America's Civil War, Old West, and True West.
Mr. Largent can provide publishing assistance (especially with short stories and journal articles), content development, manuscript evaluation, and mentoring services, supplemented with advice concerning manuscript mechanics, query letters, book synopses, and proposals.
- Developmental editing
- Book proposals
"I handed Floyd my 65,000 word manuscript on June 6th and got it back, polished to within an inch of its life, on July 25th. Floyd did a fantastic job."
"I've been going through the story and I'm about halfway through the review.... So far, the work is incredible. I really like what you've done with it to say the least. Satisfaction would be an understatement."
"Floyd Largent did an outstanding job with my manuscript. [H]is attention to detail, knowledge, and professionalism surpassed my expectations. I could not have been happier with the final product, or picked a more qualified editor to work with."
FICTION AND NONFICTION BOOKS, MEMOIRS, THESES, DISSERTATIONS (APA Format)
“James Powell examines the symbols of language the way a biologist examines cells.” New York Times Review of Books
“James Powell assures us that the universe is a silent partner in a dialogue that goes on all the time.” New York Times Review of Books
JAMES N. POWELL is "a good literary surgeon," as one of his accomplished clients noted. As an editor of fiction and non-fiction, he views manuscripts with comprehensive vision and an eye for detail. He will read your fiction with an eye to making it believable and your non-fiction with a knack for making it both convincing and engaging.
His books and short stories have been translated into many languages and are known throughout the world. His list of publications includes The Tao of Symbols (Morrow 1982), Energy and Eros (Morrow 1985), The Prentice Hall Global Employment Guide (Prentice Hall 1983), Mandalas: The Dynamics of Vedic Symbolism (Sterling 1980), Derrida for Beginners (Writers and Readers 1996), Postmodernism for Beginners (Writers and Readers 1998), Eastern Philosophy for Beginners (2000), Deconstruction for Beginners (2005), and Slow Love: A Polynesian Pillow Book (2008).
His short story "The Silence of the Hummingbird" was published in Spanish in Revista Katharsis, in Malaga, Spain, and his journalism has appeared in Spirituality & Health, Tahiti Beach Press, the Santa Barbara Independent, and Montecito Journal.