Query Letters for a Book Series

When you propose a book that’s number one in a series, it helps to have blurbs for the next couple of titles ready to go. You can send this along with your query or later with your full manuscript. Create a tagline for your series title, and check online to make sure this title hasn’t been taken. Then craft a query letter and mention this is the first book in a series.

Query Series

My route to selling the Bad Hair Day mystery series was a circuitous one. When I first presented a proposal for Permed to Death, book #1, I sent out the first three chapters and a synopsis in a multiple submission to various agents. Here is my original query letter.

As we’ve mentioned before in a post on Tips for Query Letters, your one-page letter should include three paragraphs. The first one introduces you, gives the word count and the story genre. Next comes a catchy story blurb, followed by your writing credits. A marketing hook can also be included or suggestions for possible markets. In this case, that extra paragraph is where I mention a series.

Dear Ms. P.:

I’m a published author seeking a new agent to represent me for a mystery book proposal.  PERMED TO DEATH is a 75,000 word novel featuring beauty salon owner Marla Shore.

When one of her clients is poisoned while getting a perm, Marla becomes a prime suspect. She attends the woman’s funeral and meets her relatives and business associates, all of whom have logical motives for murder. But so does Marla, as Homicide Detective Dalton Vail learns during his investigation. Desperately seeking to salvage her reputation, Marla tries to identify the killer before the next “permanent” solution is her own.

PERMED TO DEATH is the first book in a proposed series. Also available is a synopsis for the next story, HAIR RAISER. The title for the third installment is MURDER BY MANICURE.

I have four futuristic romance novels in print and am the winner of the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award in the paranormal category.  PERMED TO DEATH is my first mystery.  Would you be interested in seeing the complete proposal? An SASE is included for your reply. Please note this is a multiple submission. Thank you for your consideration.

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I received rejections from all ten plus agents. (See my earlier post on this topic.) Some of them gave insightful comments as to what needed fixing.  I decided to put this book aside to focus on romance again. I’d met an agent at a Florida Romance Writers conference who recommended me to a colleague of hers. I sent this person a query for Phantom Bride, a contemporary romance I’d written. Here is a copy of that letter:

Dear Agent L.:

I’m a published author seeking a new agent.  This past weekend, I had a delightful conversation with Agent R. at the FRW Conference in Ft. Lauderdale. She is familiar with my four published futuristic romance novels for Leisure Love Spell Books and urged me to send you my new proposal.

Enclosed are the first three chapters and synopsis for Phantom Bride, a 60,000 word contemporary romance novel. I’ve already sent this proposal to Brenda Chin at Harlequin Temptation and am working to finish the book within the next couple of months.  I’m seeking representation for this and other works in progress.

Included are my bio, one of my books, and an SASE for your convenience. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Agent L. took me on in Feb. 1997. While she was trying to sell my romance novel, I rewrote the first three chapters of Permed to Death as per the suggestions in those earlier rejection letters and completed the manuscript. In June 1997, I sent this agent a query for Permed to Death mentioning the series title.

Dear Agent L.:

Enclosed are the manuscript and synopsis for Permed to Death, a 75,000 word mystery novel and first book in my proposed series called The Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

I’ve already spoken to RC, Senior Mystery Editor at St. Martins Press, whom I met at SleuthFest in Fort Lauderdale this past spring. I told her about this story and she expressed interest in looking at it.

If you like the story and think JS at Avon might be interested, please feel free to send it along. GB is on my list as a mystery editor at Berkley Prime Crime, and I may have more marketing ideas in my files. As always, I’m open to suggestions for revisions.

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At this point, I didn’t follow my own advice and had merely a completed manuscript for Permed to Death, a synopsis for Hair Raiser, and a title for Murder by Manicure. And that’s how I sold the series in a three-book deal to Kensington. Then and Now book covers:

Permed to Death Original    Permed to Death

Below is how I would write this proposal now: 

Series Proposal for The Bad Hair Day Mysteries

Hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore solves crimes with wit and style in sultry South Florida.

PERMED TO DEATH – Book 1 

Sassy hairstylist Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a Bad Hair Day, handsome Detective Dalton Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer.

HAIR RAISER – Book 2 

Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Shore volunteers for Ocean Guard, a coastal preservation society. When someone sabotages their gala fundraiser, she must comb through a knot of suspects to unmask a killer. 

MURDER BY MANICURE – Book 3 

Hairstylist Marla Shore joins a fitness club to get in shape, but she finds a murder instead of an exercise program. To complicate matters, handsome Detective Dalton Vail disapproves of the charade she’s playing to help a friend.

My First Mystery Sale

Permed to Death sold to Kensington and appeared in hardcover in December 1999. The sale was a 3-book contract, and the series took off from there.

The Lesson – If you’re presenting a book that is part of a series, have blurbs on books 2 and 3 available along with the overall series title and a tagline. The same goes when you are pitching your book in person. Mention that it’s part of a series. See my post on Tips for the Hot Pitch for more details.

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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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