Published Author’s Query for Autism Memoir

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Sounds great, right? Except I, as a published author, am not autistic! However, my 28-year-old Asperger’s client is! Together, we have written her memoir entitled Stumbling Through Asperger’s.  As with my three mystery novels, I paid to have this manuscript professionally edited.  Now comes the fun part of emailing query letters and the first few chapters of the manuscript to literary agents who represent memoirs!

It takes hours to research each literary agent, although Writer’s Digest, Literary Marketplace, and the Internet are veritable ways to start! Yet, a query must include an interest, hobby, geographic location, or another specific reason you chose to query that particular agent — and that’s just in the very first sentence! That first sentence is wherein the research lies!

The second sentence that also takes some real thought before sending out the query is the “hook.”  The hook is a short, direct, attention-grabber. Yeah, well this time around, I completely blasted that hook description with this:  Stumbling Through Asperger’s, a 57,000-word memoir, describes how my life-coaching client, Akira Frankel, diagnosed at age 4 with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, clawed her way out of  a destructive home environment perpetrated by a vindictive sister and a passive father.

Would my hook have been half as exciting had I written “Stumbling Through Aspergers is a memoir about a 28-year-old life-coaching student of mine who has autism” ? I think not, but that’s just my opinion. (No matter your decision, make sure to include your manuscript’s total word count in that first paragraph, along with its genre. My genre was memoir.)

In the second paragraph of my query, I indicated why my  student’s memoir should be published:  Over 1.6 million children — 1 in 45 — in the United States are diagnosed with autism. I added that my readership would provide hope to the millions of parents, educators, and therapists of children and young adults with autism.

In my third and final paragraph, I mentioned why my personal and professional background qualifies me to write this particular memoir:  Special education teacher, life-coach, former journalist, published author.

I made sure my email was divided into three single-spaced paragraphs, with a double space between each paragraph. Then I asked the agent to contact me if this was a project she/he was interested in undertaking.

Finally, I listed my website and contact information.  Then I had three of my family members, as well as my freelance editor, review my query letter. After everybody’s thumbs up, I sent my query out!

I will let you know what happens!

 

Obsessing Over Fatal Reaction!

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FatalReaction- White -hdrI am a perfectionist when self-publishing — okay, maybe not right now at 2:59 a.m. when I can’t sleep, but generally speaking! So before giving birth to my third mystery novel #Fatal Reaction on Valentines Day 2014, I edited and re-edited a hundred times over. Caution: Sleep deprivation causes me to exaggerate.

I drove my developmental/copy editor #Diane Piron-Gelman (wordnrd@earthlink.net) nuts with my formatting changes. And #Gin Kiser, graphic design artist for my book cover (wordsugardesigns@gmail.com) actually went into labor upon completing the final edit of several edits! No, Gin did not choose to go into labor as a less painful alternative!

My drive for perfection didn’t end with the book’s publication. I was going to be doing a speaking gig and planned to distribute post card-sized copies of the front and back book cover of #Fatal Reaction. Off to #Office Max I went! A week later, upon questioning veteran mystery author #Marilyn Meredith, I learned that an author can name the town, but not the authentic location, that a fictional crime took place. Thankfully, #Office Max changed two words on the back-side of the post card. My speaking gig had already come and gone. But when I speak/book sign at #Printers Row Literary Fest in Chicago on June 7, I’ll be distributing the new post card.

My point is that an author must be both diligent and vigilant in managing the final product that goes out into the book world. A self-published book should be written, formatted, and marketed as accurately as that of a big publisher — and sometimes better because the author’s professional reputation is at stake.

 

Love is Murder Writers Conference 2013

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Today was the second day of LIM’s three-day marathon of mystery author panels and seminars featuring everything from writing and producing TV detectives shows +Lee Goldberg  to New Normal: Paranormal! +Honora Finkelstein+Ted Krever, +Susan Smily, and A.J. Hartley.

Usually I can’t sit for more than an hour without getting fidgety, but the speakers at +Love is Murder are so fascinating, I’m sitting at the edge of my seat waiting to hear the next author’s words of wisdom. The Editors and agents I pitched to at the Conference: +Christine Witthohn from +Book Cents Literary Agency, +Marlene Stringer from +Stringer Literary Agency, +Marcia Markland from +St. Martins Press, +Emily Clark from +Allium Press of Chicago, +L.Sue Eggerton from +Weaving Dreams Publishing, and +Deni Dietz from +Fiver Star Mysteries, say Fatal Reaction, my third mystery, is soft-boiled or a cozy. Since this is the first time one of my novels has been described as such, I found the How Many Murders Tip the Scale; Keeping Amateurs Plausible panel with +Helen Osterman, +Maris Soule, +Kent Krueger, and +Judy Knauer to be most helpful.

And when we finally got to Ingredients for Success – a Touch of Humor, I was totally ready for +Abbey Sparkle+Allan Ansorge+Judy Cobb Dailey, et al to share their funniest lines! It was actually a joy to explore how humor could be infused into mysteries. With +Deadly Choices, my award-winning suspense thriller, +Jennie Spallone, I wrongly assumed suspense had to be all serious. Not!

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Query for Award-Winning Suspense Novel

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I’m chagrined to say I can’t locate my original query letter for my award-winning first suspense novel Deadly Choices. It has been six years since that manuscript was accepted for publication. That document must have inadvertently been deleted from an earlier computer’s memory card.
So here’s a reasonable facsimile of my query, to the best of my memory. Hope this helps!

Dear Ms. _____,
It was a delight meeting you at Love is Murder. At your request, I am submitting this query of my first suspense novel, Deadly Choices ((66,000 wds.), for your perusal and possible representation.

One foggy November morning on Chicago’s West Side, paramedic trainee Beth Reilly kidnaps the baby she’s just delivered and gives it to her best friend, a Born-Again Christian, to raise as her own. Friendship, trust, betrayal. (In retrospect, I would have inserted two or three sentences lifted from my two-page synopsis to flesh out the story plot, yet not include the evidence that would solve the mystery. That evidence, however, would be included in the synopsis should it later be requested.)

I was former president of Off-Campus Writer’s Workshop in Winnetka, Illinois; a 250-member group that invites published authors in various genres, as well as literary agents, to conduct weekly workshops for writers of all ability levels. For thirteen years, I worked as a freelance journalist for local and national publications partially including The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago-Sun Times, Chicago Parent Magazine, and Consumer’s Digest Magazine. I belong to Sisters in Crime.
Know that I am open to constructive criticism if it makes my manuscript more marketable. Sales and marketing comes naturally to me. I enjoy speaking in public and would be open to speaking at mystery conferences, bookstores, and libraries when my book gets published. (This was before on-line book tours, etc.)
If you would like to see the synopsis or the first three chapters of Deadly Choices (the agent would have listed in Writer’s Market what to send first, second, etc.), feel free to contact me at _phone number_____. (If I had a website at that point, I would have included it.) Your feedback is appreciated.

Sincerely,
Jennie Spallone

How to Insert Your Platform into a Query Letter

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A mystery novel query letter to a literary agent should include four single-spaced paragraphs in its 250-word entirety. But there’s more that needs to be couched within those paragraphs than meets the eye — the platform, to be exact!

Prior to Paragraph 1, insert a greeting line: Dear Ms. Greenbaum,

Paragraph 1: Two-sentence description of why you are querying that particular agent (met at writers’ conference, researched that agent’s genre interests on Internet, found in Writer’s Market, referred by another author), along with the italicized title of your book and its word count,
Paragraph 2:  Forty to fifty word description of your novel, i.e. introduce your main character and immediately share her/his problem/choice, along with who wants to foil that character’s plan and why.
At the end of that paragraph, include your PLATFORM: list three themes in your novel that will spark interest in your readers, i.e. gardening, dogs, foreclosures, child abuse, terrorist attacks. You can also compare two authors, i.e. Dean Koontz meets Sara Paretsky, or compare two authors’ main characters — can’t help you on that one. I stink at recalling character names. Think of it like Wonder Woman meets Willy Wonka. Of course any comparison you use must flow with the tone of your book.

Paragraph 3: Tell the agent why you are qualified to write this book, i.e. speaking engagements, special interest, career, hobby, volunteer activity, education degree in that particular subject area.
Paragraph 4: Check submission guidelines before e-mailing or mailing your query. If agent only asks for this one document, ask if you may send the first-three chapters or a proposal of your manuscript. Sign off by saying: Looking forward to hearing from you….

Then sign off with:
Sincerely,
Name,

address
telephone number
e-mail address
website address

How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter!

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This month I’m teaching an on-line course for MWA Mystery Writers of America www.mysterywriters.org entitled How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter! The resources we’re using (See below) are thorough in the nuts & bolts of query letter construction, i.e. One single-spaced page of 250-300 words condensed into 3 to 4 paragraphs, a double space between paragraphs, each paragraph with a designated purpose, title and word count mentioned in first paragraph (80,000 to 100,000 wds. for adult, 40,000 to 60,000 for young adult), all typed in Times New Roman 12-pt. font size.

I used these same guidelines in my award-winning first novel Deadly Choices. http://www.jenniespallone.com/ Yet life is not just in the structure of a query letter, but in its overall “personality.” The gusto that inspires a literary agent to ask for the first three chapters of your manuscript rather than toss your letter into the land-fill. Tune in for more on this subject….

Writing a Successful Query Letter, Joe Moore, KILL ZONE blog, 3/11/2009
How to Write a Query, AGENT QUERY

Query Shark Blog, Janet Reid

How to Write a Query Letter for a Mystery Novel, Nancy Curteman blog, 11/4/2010