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Writing a Query Letter to Hook the Editor ©
by Juliet Burns

The Query Letter, like most of us, must multi-task.

First, your Query should be informative. Always start your letter with the basics so the editor knows what she’s dealing with. Is your manuscript completed? What’s the word count? What are the subgenre and the setting? What line are you targeting?

So, your first paragraph should look something like this:

HIGH-STAKES PASSION is a completed, 55,000-words contemporary romance set on an East Texas ranch, targeted for Silhouette Desire.

The second part must pique the editor’s interest. But why just pique her interest when you can wow her and leave her panting to hear more? Hooks, action verbs, and powerful character descriptors can all make your Query stand out from the crowd and show the editor you’ve done your homework.

After your initial sentences with the basic info, write 2 descriptive paragraphs. I recommend one for the hero, and one for the heroine similar to a back cover blurb. A powerful character descriptor can tell the editor everything she needs to know about your hero and heroine in one or two words. The Harlequin/Silhouette art department asks the author to choose from a long list for their cover art. Words like ADVENTUROUS, BUBBLY, ACADEMIC, BILLIONAIRE, DREAMER, DISILLUSIONED, JILTED, ON THE RUN, GRIEVING, REBEL, SUSPICIOUS, and WORKAHOLIC. Sometimes, you only need their job. PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR, HOMICIDE DETECTIVE, RODEO CHAMPION, or CEO.

The query helps your editor sell this book to her Sr. editor and the marketing department. In my opinion, the key to this is: know your basic conflict. Boil down your conflict to its most succinct components. To paraphrase Sandra Brown; “If you have a firefighter hero, your heroine should be a pyromaniac.” What is the conflict and WHY? One sentence can tell a tiny bit of backstory to explain your hero’s mistrust of women, or your heroine’s grief. Study the back cover blurb of all your favorite books. They are wonderful examples of boiling the basic conflict down into a few sentences. And don’t forget those action verbs and hook words!

The third part should be short, and professional. Nothing needs to be said here except thanks for your time and MAYBE something of your writing credentials IF they pertain to THIS book. If it won or finaled in a contest or you’re an RN and the heroine is a nurse also. You can mention if you’re a member of RWA®, and if you’ve done an extensive amount of research on a subject. But that’s it. Here’s a sample query letter: Hooks and action words in bold letters

Dear Ms Editor: (check the spelling twice!)

FINDING JILLIAN is a completed 50,000 word contemporary romance targeted for Desire and set on the Ridley Turtle preserve on Padre Island National Seashore.

She would never go back

Heiress [descriptor] Jillian Cavanaugh escaped a brutal marriage, changed her name and tried to start over. [backstory] But now her ex has hired a private detective to find their son and the investigator is determined to reunite the boy with his father. He doesn’t know by finding her, he’s put her into the power of an obsessive madman who wants her back at any cost.[conflict] But can she trust the dark stranger whose touch makes her long for the kind of love she thought never to have?[hook]

From pursuer to protector

Ex-Army Ranger[descriptor] Sherman Stone lives by a code of honor. [descriptor] Deprived of his own father by his manipulative mother, [backstory] he sees Jillian Cavanaugh as the worst sort of woman. [conflict] But when he discovers her secret, [HOOK] he realizes he must now protect [hook] the woman he thought he despised. But guarding her day and night brings a hunger to his soul. He’ll save her, and then make her his own. [hook]

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America® and involved in my local chapter. I have researched XXX, and actively participate in both a local and an on-line critique group. XXX won first place in the short contemporary category of the 2005 xxx Contest.

Enclosed are the synopsis and a SASE for your reply. Thank you for your time and consideration.


[4 spaces]

Juliet Burns

Enclosed: Partial Manuscript, synopsis, SASE

Now here’s some more articles on query letters:

Fiction Writer's Connection
Writing A Good Query Letter: By Rosalyn Alsobrook
ROMANCE NOVEL SYNOPSIS by Dixie L. Gaspard and Victoria Dark

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