Tips for Query Letters

Do you want to send an agent a query letter but have no idea what it should include? Or perhaps you’ve sent out several queries and you keep getting rejections. What could you be doing wrong? Here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the path to success.
Query Letters
· Check the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. This will tell you what genres the person represents and if they prefer email or snail mail submissions. The guidelines will also state if you should include any sample chapters.
· Make sure the agent does not require an exclusive submission. If so, you’d lose months while waiting for a response. See if the agent mentions their expected response time.
· Write a one-page snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, a catchy story blurb, and your writing credits. If possible, include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This means using keywords such as “paranormal” or “dystopian” or “domestic suspense” or saying your story is “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.” If you can compare your style to similar published authors, do so without bragging about how your book is as wonderful as Ms. Bestselling Author.
· Be careful not to sound as though your writing is all over the board in terms of genres. Be clear about your focus. For example, don’t give the genre as a suspense novel and then mention that it takes place on another planet and your next book will be a vampire story. You’ll want to build your author brand by focusing on one genre as you grow your readership.
· Do not describe your life history or any personal details unless they relate directly to your book. Do include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.
· You can also mention why readers might want to read your book. What is the value in it for them? Again, don’t brag and say it’s the most exciting book they’ll ever read, or it’s a fast-paced thrill ride. This is for readers to determine. But if it helps them appreciate family values or learn about how you can rise above past mistakes, this could be useful to include as a theme.
Basic Structure
First Paragraph – State your book’s title, genre and word count. Here you can put if you’re a published author seeking representation or a new author seeking an agent for your first book.
Second Paragraph – This is your catchy book blurb. Write it like a log line for a TV show or like the back cover copy of your book. You’ll want to engage the reader’s interest.
Third Paragraph – Here offer your biography as it applies to your writing, including works you’ve published, memberships in professional writing organizations, writing workshops you’ve attended, critique group participation. Mention any expertise or work credentials that apply to your book. You can also make marketing suggestions or mention your proposed target audience. Mention if your story is book one of a series.
Last Remarks – Thank the agent for their consideration and offer to send the completed manuscript upon request. Do mention if this is a multiple submission.
Signature Line – Here is where you can add your social media links. Doubtless the agent, if interested, will look you up to see if you have an online platform.
If you hear nothing back from the agent for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if she’s received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the message.
If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Also respect that while the agent might offer suggestions for improvements, this is not an invitation to resubmit your work unless the agent says so in her response.
Resources
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
http://bit.ly/2OuiFX2
http://wp.me/pHSwk-3e3
 
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After Your Book Launch

What should you be doing in the days following your new book release? Promotion doesn’t end when your book launch is over. You’ve tossed the ball into the court. Now you need to keep it rolling. Let’s say you have sent advance reading copies to reviewers and are participating in a blog tour or doing guest posts along the way.
Book Launch
What else can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Start a file for Amazon reviews and copy down each review as it’s posted, along with the date and reviewer. Do the same for Goodreads. Repeat for bloggers and other review sites. If you start getting tons of reviews, skip this step and go to item two.
  • Check these names against your personal reviewer list and mark each one as done. Then you’ll know which reviewers followed through so you can approach them with your next release.
  • Send a thank you email to the reviewers on your personal list who have posted.
  • Send a reminder to the reviewers who have not yet posted.
  • You should have already written a page of tweets and posts for your new book. For each reviewer, note their Twitter and Facebook handles. Now pull relevant quotes from these reviews and add them to your Tweet page. Remember to tag the reviewer.
  • Also write a tweet or post for each stop on your blog tour. Tag your hosts and add a link to their site.
  • Set your Twitter posts to rotate automatically at a site like SocialJukebox.com or schedule them ahead of time at Hootsuite. Space out your Facebook posts between your own pages and your groups.
  • Add quotes from reviews to your website.
  • Check your Amazon book’s page. If you don’t see reviews posted by your reviewers, you can add them as quotes via Amazon Author Central.
  • If you are doing a blog tour, return daily to each site and respond to comments. Leave your own comment thanking the host for having you there.
  • Get the specific URL for each post about your book and update it on your Appearances page. Shorten the link for tweets.
  • If you’re running a contest, don’t forget to mention this to your followers.
  • Remember to promote your friends’ books and retweet their posts so it’s not all about you.
  • If you’re doing concurrent sales on your other books, you’ll need to advertise these as well.
  • Gauge the effectiveness of the newsletter you sent out the day of your book release. Update your mailing list by removing bounces and unsubscribes.
  • If you boosted your Facebook post, was it effective? How many engagements and clicks did you get?
  • Keep meticulous records so that when you have another release, you can contact the reviewers who posted about your book and drop the people who got an advance copy but never responded. Then you can seek new readers to fill in the gaps.

I’m sure you can think of many more activities you’re doing in the couple of weeks following your book release. It’s a busy time when the pace seems relentless, but it will ease off. You’ll have to keep the promotional ball rolling, but at least it’ll be more of a steady pace than a race. What would you add to this list?

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Preparing for a Book Launch

Once you or your publisher sets a date for your new release, you can start planning ahead for the big day. You’ll need to begin months earlier and get your pieces lined up ahead of time. Planning for a new release can be a full-time marketing job, so I’d advise you to set aside a few weeks to get everything done. Here’s a basic countdown schedule to act as a guideline.

Book Launch

4 to 6 months ahead

Prepare your story blurbs and tag lines.

Update the author biography on your website. Have a short and long one along with a separate speaker introduction.

Send out advance reading copies to reviewers and bloggers.

Announce the launch date in your newsletter and on your social media sites.

Schedule a virtual blog tour.

Reserve ad space in trade journals, e-magazines, and online reader sites.

Set up speaking engagements and signings.

Consider doing a Pinterest story board.

2 to 4 months ahead

Send out a press release about the new release and include signing dates.

Do a Cover Reveal once your book is available for pre-order.

Write a page full of tweets and Facebook posts about the new release.

Create your book trailer (optional) and add to social media sites.

Write guest blog articles and interviews for your virtual book tour.

Run contests or giveaways with your ARCs as prizes.

Order print promo materials and swag for conferences.

Consider if you want to put another book in your series on sale during the window of your book launch.

1 to 2 months ahead

Set a book launch party date, time and place. Here’s an example of the online site I share with author Maggie Toussaint: https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/. Other authors might invite their writer friends to participate. Note what appeals to you and use these elements in planning your own book party.

Write the party posts, determine the prizes, and schedule all posts ahead of time.

Create memes for your launch party and the new release.

Send out “Save the Date” notices. Treat the launch as an “event” and broadcast it on your social media sites and to your influential contacts.

Schedule a newsletter and blog to post on the launch date.

Update your website with reviews as they come in. If time permits, thank each reviewer.

Write a book club discussion guide (optional).

Post the first chapter on your website.

Put excerpts on your blog to entice readers to want more.

Do as much of this work in advance as you can. This is simplifying all the effort a book launch entails, but being prepared relieves some of the stress as your book birthday approaches.

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The In-Between Game

What do you do when you’re in between books but you have too much going on to start the next novel? You might be waiting to hear back from your editor or beta readers or cover designer if the book is done.

Between Books

I’m in this situation now. I have four projects pending release but am in a holding pattern until I hear back from various sources. As I write this piece, Body Wave Audiobook is complete and waiting publication by Audible. Trimmed to Death is awaiting feedback from beta readers and a mockup design from my cover artist. Hairball Hijinks, a short story that includes an epilogue to Hair Brained, will include a teaser chapter from Trimmed to Death, so this one has to wait until there’s a pre-order link for that title. And Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition uses examples from Trimmed to Death so is best to come after that title is published.

In the meantime, I don’t want to get involved in plotting the next project. Instead, I am spending time on some of the following activities. Here are suggestions for what you can do when you’re in a similar holding pattern before a new release and you don’t want to work on another book:

· Prepare your book launch announcement

· Write all the blogs for a blog tour

· Do an optional book trailer as a bonus for your readers

· Start a Pinterest storyboard for your new release

· Prepare for speaker engagements with handouts and PowerPoint presentations

· Update your reviewer list by marking which people reviewed your last title

· Review your front and back materials for each indie book project

· Determine if you’ll have an online launch party and plan ahead for this event

· Update your mailing list and work on your next newsletter

· Create memes relating to your new book

· Write a Reader Discussion Guide for book clubs

· Update your bio on all social media sites

If you’d rather engage in brainless activities for a break, you can always clean out old files, update your blog index, rearrange your online photos, or go through the stack of papers in your to-do pile. As soon as your book is ready to go, you’ll be plenty busy. So take advantage of this lull while you can.

What else do you do in between book projects, besides doing preliminary research and jotting down plot ideas for the next story?

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Book Marketing

SleuthFest 2018 was a great conference for mystery writers and fans. One of the first workshops I attended was given by book publicist Maryglenn McCombs. These are the points I took away from this workshop on marketing. Any mistakes are due to my misinterpretation.

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Reasons why readers buy books:

Placement (i.e. in library or on bookstore display or in airport store)
Physical Product
Online Exposure
Direct Email
Advertising
In-Person Appearance
Interest in Topic or Setting
Need for Entertainment
Author Endorsements
Hand Sales by a Bookseller
Reader Recommendations
Media such as blogs, radio, interviews, etc.

Public Relations is only one component in selling books. A publicist’s job is to create awareness of your book. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll get media coverage.

Why your book might not be selling:

You’re not meeting the above requirements
Not wide enough cast of promotional efforts
Trying to do too much at once
No advance planning
Product isn’t professional
Cover isn’t appealing
Too much “buy my book” social media
You’re offensive on social media (i.e. talking politics or using bad language)
Book is overpriced
Not targeting your audience
You get a great review and don’t share or promote it. But make sure you have permission first.
Your book doesn’t have any endorsements.
You aren’t doing signings and appearances. Look for non-traditional outlets.
Writing/editing needs improvement
Bad cover copy

What does not work:

Radio tours, with a few exceptions like Authors on the Air
Lengthy book tours
Purchased editorial ads
Purchased reviews
“Buy my book” social media tactics
Book trailers
Swag
Gimmicks such as dressing in costume for an appearance

These may work or not:

Street teams
Soliciting Amazon reviewers
Facebook ads

What works:

Major media coverage
Attending conferences
Print media
Launch parties
Steady media coverage over time
Personal contact with booksellers
Finding your superfans
BookBub ads/deals
Starred reviews
Winning awards
Big author endorsements
Making the “Best of” lists
Getting into Gift Guides
Writing a Great Book
Having a Professional Product

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Thank You for Following

I want to offer a big Thank You to my blog followers for sticking with me through the years. You have my special gratitude if you’ve left comments, liked a post, tweeted one or shared it on Facebook. I’m especially touched when you come up to me at a conference and mention that you appreciate my blog. I send these messages out into cyberspace without knowing if anyone reads them. So it’s most gratifying to get any kind of feedback.

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As a gift to you in return, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a $15 Fandango gift card, so you can see one of the latest movies. All you have to do is comment below and your name will be entered. The drawing will take place in two days.

In your comment, let me know, if you wish, what you like about this blog, what you dislike, or what kinds of articles you’d like to see more of in the future.

Meanwhile, have a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!

All the best always,

Nancy

FWA Conference Recap – Book Marketing

Besides giving my own talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget” at the Florida Writers Association 2017 conference, I sat in on a couple of other presentations about book marketing. Here are some of the main points I gleaned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.

If your book isn’t selling, you may need to:

Change the cover

Get more reviews
Write a letter to readers asking for reviews.
Continue to acquire reviews for backlist titles.
Aim for 100 reviews on Amazon to make an impact.

Evaluate your Amazon page
Check your keywords and categories.
Keyword strings work better than single keywords.
Note the sales rank of each category.

Examine your social media influence
Do you need to increase your engagement? This matters more than the number of followers.

Put your book out in multiple formats, not ebooks alone. Consider print and audiobooks.

Is your book in the right genre?

How relevant is your backlist title? Does it need an update and a fresh cover?

Are you marketing your book to the right audience?

Practice ebook price rotation. Ideal ebook pricing is $2.99 to $5.99. Shuffle your books in and out of sales promotions.

Plan a promotional campaign that includes Publicity, Online Promotion, Events, and Multimedia.

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Goodreads Tips for Authors

Goodreads has nearly sixty million members and is where readers go to discover new books. In the Goodreads workshop at #RWA17, we learned about different marketing programs for authors and publishers. As an author, you want readers to add your book to their TBR (to-be-read) Shelf. Awareness leads to Shelvings which leads to Sales which leads to Reads. Your goal in doing a Goodreads Giveaway is to raise awareness and get shelvings.
 
Goodreads
Participate in Genre Week when you have the opportunity. Do creative things during this promotion to raise awareness, such as sharing your cover or a book excerpt. Create social media posts to drive readers to your site. Cross-promote with other authors. Run a Goodreads Giveaway during genre week. Offer a newsletter and blog posts to bring people in. Make sure you are subscribed to the Goodreads author newsletter to get notified of these opportunities.
Followers, and not friends, get notified when you have a new release. So tell people to follow you on Goodreads. If you’re doing a Rafflecopter contest, add Follow Me on Goodreads or Add [my book title] to your TBR List on Goodreads. Note what shelves readers are using to categorize your books. You can open a private group where you invite your fans to join and offer them exclusive content.
As for other tools, the Goodreads rep mentioned Kindle ebook giveaways, Daily Deals, Kindle Notes and Highlights, targeted emails and native ads. Some of these are only available to publishers. An ebook giveaway costs money, unlike a print book giveaway.
For my part, I’d recommend signing in as a Goodreads Author (or Librarian), so you can click the Edit Details button on your books and make changes. You can combine editions, choose a default edition, link your series books, or manually enter a new title if it’s available on Amazon. With an Author page, you can list your books and offer excerpts, link to your blog post feed, create events, and more. I’d suggest writing reviews for each book you read so that readers see you as one of their own. Join special interest groups and participate in discussions, but be careful to promote your book only in the sections allowed. Utilize the Ask-the-Author feature. It allows readers to ask you questions in a Q&A format. Do a print book Goodreads Giveaway when you have a new release coming up or to gain attention on a backlist title. So go to Goodreads with a good attitude and get involved.
 
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RWA17 Workshop Recap – Attracting Readers

At the #RWA17 conference, I attended several sessions that told us how to attract more readers. See my post on building Mailing Lists below if you’ve missed that one. Again, these conference notes are subject to my interpretation. So let’s look at some of the suggestions.
Reader
Respond to readers by replying to their emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. Mention their name in your response. Tag them if you want to catch their attention. You want to turn “cold” leads into customers, then fans, then friends, and finally into ambassadors.
Use social media tools to get your message across several platforms. Check out https://meetedgar.com/ for managing social media posts. It allows you to schedule posts across several sites. For limited time posts, you can set expiration dates. Another site is https://www.socialjukebox.com/. This allows you to set automated tweets and also link to Facebook and LinkedIn. I use this one and it’s a great time-saver. Resharing your evergreen content keeps your social profiles active and gives your posts more exposure.
Post regularly and vary the content of your posts. Do #ThrowbackThursday (old photos) and #TGIFriday (plans for weekend). Always include hashtags on your tweets and Instagram posts.
Involve your readers. Bring them into the creative process. Ask for opinions on cover art or book titles. Ask which secondary character they’d like to see in your next book.
Video is popular on social media and so are photos. Try Facebook live video or adding photos to a post. It will have a higher organic reach. Boost your posts. Share to a page or group. Link your Instagram posts to show up on Facebook and Twitter. Establish your brand on Pinterest.
Upselling counts in the book market. Offer new mailing list subscribers a freebie then say that for only $X, they can get the next book. Utilize drip mailing campaigns to this purpose. At each step, you’re offering something new.
Maximize your social media channels. Facebook ads were discussed along with other ways to get newsletter signups using widgets and links to your opt-in form. Use pinned tweets when you want to advertise a new release or giveaway. Invite interactors to Like your page. Participate in Goodreads and join special interest groups on the different sites.
Pricing and Sales. Indie authors can run sales campaigns on more expensive books at other platforms like iBooks. Ninety-nine cents may be better than free in a campaign because you’ll rank in the sales charts, and readers are more likely to read a book they paid for than a freebie. Although, I have to say I’ve found new authors from free books offered on BookBub and at The Fussy Librarian. Then I’ve gone on to buy their entire series. Sales of your backlist titles can carry over to your frontlist (new) titles.
Cutting Edge Technologies like apps and Facebook Messenger ads could become more important. Offer a free book or chapters via Messenger as part of a drip campaign. Build your Messenger subscribers, but your newsletter mailing list should still come first.
Use Multiple Points of Entry. Offer readers full-length novels, short stories, novellas, spinoffs, mini-series within a series, sample chapters.
Diversify your Book Formats with ebooks, print, and audio. Do box sets with your own series. If you do a group promo with other authors, make sure the story you offer relates to your series.
Cross-Promote with other Authors using the sites mentioned in my Mailing List post or with your own “lifeboat” team. Newsletter swaps are becoming more popular. You mention each other’s new releases or sales in your respective newsletters.
Do what you can, and don’t stress over the guilt that you’re a slacker compared to others who are doing a gazillion more promotional activities than you are. Recognize your limits but strive to learn something new. Set business goals each year along with your writing objectives. Do one new thing at a time. Then it won’t seem so overwhelming.
What other techniques would you suggest to gain readers? As readers, how do you find new authors to read?
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