A Query Letter Begins With Research

A Query Letter Begins With Research

by Judy Spring Query letters… Dun-dun-duuuuuun. (silence) All serious authors face crafting a query letter at some point in their career, and many come to it with dread and apprehension. Most stress and agonize about summarizing their manuscript succinctly so that it invites a publisher to continue on, reading the first few chapters once the letter is complete. It’s nerve-wracking! We are constantly told, “Be yourself, but in a standard way that sticks out.” It is possible that these conflicting messages meshed together are what cause confusion and anxiety when contemplating query letters. The goal of this article is to alleviate that stress by offering some resources and tips about crafting what could be the most important letter of your career. The first step: research. Everywhere you look, that’s the first suggestion you will find. Nichole Canniff, the Chief Operation Officer here at Spectacle Publishing Media Group, LLC has offered this tidbit of her experience: “One thing I cannot stand is when a query letter comes in that isn’t complete per our directions on the website. I might make an exception for a manuscript that is really good; however, when a publisher asks for the first three chapters, a bio, chapter summary and a synopsis—send them all per their instructions. If you do not know what they require, find out. It is unprofessional to submit a query that is incomplete. Most publishers will reject the query right away.” In other words, make sure to read submission guidelines for the publisher before sending in your query. This can be easily accomplished by doing a search on the Internet with the keywords of the company name followed by ‘submission guidelines.’ For your convenience, here is the link to SPMG’s submissions page: http://www.spectaclepmg.com/submissions/. (We are currently not processing any queries until November 3rd, which gives you just enough time to really polish your manuscript and query letter!) Next, make sure to read different ways to approach writing query letters so you can present your genre, your voice, and your story in the best light it deserves while still following the specific guidelines. Canniff warns, “There are a lot of examples of good query letters on the Internet: the format, what to include in the letter itself, etc. Research it, but at the same time, make sure you are putting your own spin to the letter. If you submit a cookie-cutter query letter that all authors are submitting to publishers, you will be no more impressionable than another author.” Websites and blogs all over the Internet warn of this mistake, and a querying author would be very wise to heed the warning. It is possible to find a balance between the standard requirements...

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Creating and Developing Characters

Creating and Developing Characters

by Ashleigh Galvin When an author is struck by a bolt of inspiration for their next “bestseller,” it’s often accompanied by character ideas. A lot of my story ideas are based around characters I would like to write about, personalities that I want to stick into certain situations just to see how they are going to act. But it’s important to learn as much as possible about a character before you start writing about them. Note that I said “learn,” not “make up.” You can’t tell people how to react. For example, you cannot tell your boss he isn’t going to be annoyed that you just spilled coffee all over his urgent paperwork. It’s the same for characters in your books. How they react is all about how you develop them while they are still budding ideas, barely on paper. This article is a short piece on creating and developing compelling characters. When I have an idea for a new character, I try and name them as soon as possible. A good name is everything. Not only will it endear the character to readers, it will help make them feel “real.” Once you have named your character, they will start to take form in your mind; they won’t be just a thought any more. A name is also important for the character’s impact on the story. If you name your rough and tough biker Ichabod Osmond Nadeir, then he is going to get some strange looks. Perhaps that’s why he always introduces himself as Ion, his nickname. Personally, I like to know what my characters’ names mean. In this instance, Ichabod means, “the glory is gone.” The nadir is the lowest point of an object. However, Osmond means ‘divine protector’ and Ion is an ancient Greek hero born of the Sun god Apollo. This man must have a hard past and an interesting future. Once your character has a name, you’re ready to start fleshing them out. I always start with their past as it’s what makes them who they are now. Look at the character’s life prior to the beginning the story. Look at their parents, their birth, how they were raised, where they were raised. Did anything important happen when they were young? A few years ago I created a profile template, which I use for my characters to this day. It’s about five pages long and it’s a great point of reference if I get stuck. It has the basic questions like “Who is their Best Friend?” But it also has some more interesting questions like, “What is their favourite food?” and, “Their most hated colour?” While these little questions might never be mentioned in your...

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