4/12/10

Query Critique: Romantic Suspense

Dear Editor,

Last Resort [italicize or all caps book titles**] is a complete [of course it is], 85,000 word, contemporary novel targeted for the LDS market. [What age? What genre?] The exact setting of the book is never revealed, though much of the inspiration comes from the small communities of rural Northern Arizona. [Why not reveal the setting? This is an odd statement to make.]

Meg Connolly is stuck. It has always been her plan to follow in her deceased father’s footsteps and attend law school at Stanford University. Unfortunately, upon her graduation from Arizona State University her application has been rejected. Left with no other options, she ends up taking a job teaching high school history in the small town of Green Hills [Isn't this the setting?] as a way to pad her resume and reapply to Stanford the next year. [Watch out for passive voice. If it's in your query, it's probably all through your book. Not good.]

Fully expecting to tediously bide her time, Meg is surprised that her new situation is not as bad as she imagined. As the months pass, she finds herself becoming increasingly attached to her job, new friends and, especially, a landscaper she begins to date named Sean Taylor. Finally, her long awaited acceptance letter arrives and she must decide between the life she has always had planned, or the one that has fallen into her lap.

More complications arise when she must come to terms with tension in her family life and she stumbles onto a stolen cache of money from a string of bank robberies in the area. The criminals responsible for the heists remain at large and a few months later, the same ruthless men take the Green Hills High School hostage. When the dust settles, it becomes apparent that someone on the school’s staff has helped the crooks, and Meg is the FBI’s number one suspect. [THIS is the main part of the story, or it should be, with the romance, teaching and life changes secondary. Lead with this. It's the best paragraph of the letter.]

I am a graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. I completed my student teaching in 8th grade Language Arts and I taught 8th grade Social Studies. I was also a writing tutor in college and have been a substitute teacher. [None of this matters.]

If you are interested, I would be glad to send you a manuscript to be considered for publication. I have enclosed a SASE [I probably see it. You don't need you to tell me it's there. Save your words for more info on the book.] and eagerly await your response. Thank you for your time.

Based on the description, I'm guessing this is a romantic suspense. You need to know your genres and be able to tell me which one it falls in. It would also help if you could tell me what it's similar to—is your style more like Betsy Brannon Green's Murder by the Book, sort of light-hearted and fun; or Stephanie Black with lots of twists and turns to the plot; or Traci Hunter Abramson's Royal Target where the romance is as strong (or stronger) than the suspense; or like Julie Coulter Bellon with heavier FBI-type intrigue? This is going to help me place it. As it is, I can't really tell.

At this point, I'd probably pass. Punch up the description of your book. Make it more exciting, like what would go on the back cover. While lacking some plot details (because I don't know your book) the letter below would be adequate.


Meg Connolly's dream is to follow her deceased father's footsteps and attend law school at Stanford University. Rejected once, she takes a job teaching history at the high school in Green Hills, Arizona to pad her resume and waits to reapply to Stanford the next year.

Fully expecting to tediously bide her time in this small town, Meg stumbles onto a stolen cache of money from a string of bank robberies in the area. The criminals responsible for the heists remain at large and a few months later, the same ruthless men take the Green Hills High School hostage. When the dust settles, it becomes apparent that someone on the school’s staff has helped the crooks, and Meg is the FBI’s number one suspect.

If that's not enough complication, Meg must come to terms with tension in her family life. She also finds herself increasingly attached to her job and to her new friends, especially Sean Taylor, landscaper extraordinaire.

Finally, Meg's long awaited acceptance letter arrives and she must decide between the life she had planned and the one that has fallen into her lap—assuming she doesn't end up in prison!

I've based Meg's classroom scenes upon my own experience as an 8th grade Social Studies teacher and modeled the fictional town of Green Hills, AZ after several small rural towns near Arizona State, where I received my Bachelor's degree.

At 85,000 words, Last Resort is a contemporary romantic suspense for LDS adults, particularly women. Readers who enjoyed Traci Hunter Abramson's Royal Target will also enjoy Last Resort, which has a similar mix of romance and suspense (or whatever is true about your book).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Updated 12:15 P.M.
**Whether you use initial caps, all caps, italics or quotes is NOT a deal breaker in a query letter. I prefer italics (on print submissions) or all caps (electronic submissions). (Actually, now that I really think about it, the trend seems to be going to all caps—and I'm totally fine with that.)

But don't take my word for it. Go to Pub Rants, a blog by Kristen Nelson (agent), and you can read several successful query letters with her comments about them. Some of them used initial caps, some used all caps. (BTW, she sold Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. You can read his query HERE.)

5 comments:

Jordan said...

Definitely agree with the advice here, except that every other professional query critique I've seen (probably hundreds) says not to italicize (or capitalize) the title of your unpublished book. It looks pretentious and/or unprofessional, they say.

LDS_Publisher said...

Jordan, it's not a make or break. Personally, I like to see the title italicized or in all caps because it's easy to find when I'm logging the query. But whatever.

Susan said...

Hm. I was just checking this morning and saw on Writing on the Wall, that you should put it in quotes. What do you think, LDSP?

LDS_Publisher said...

Susan, Again, not a deal breaker. I don't like quotes.

Charlie said...

This says to me you really need to know the recipient of your query. Sounds like each agent/editor has different tastes. Of course, certain elements of a great query must be there. Writing fiction is something I favor, but the query letter is the devil. I absolutely hate them.

Charlie