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Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth  "Nestled into the hillsides above Nice, France where for two years, we helped plant Crossroads International Church of the Cote d'Azur. We've since returned to Dallas, to pine over French hills from the many Dallas overpasses. "It's been my heart to translate what God is doing in my life onto the page in a way that is redemptive and invitational. It's my prayer that the words that spill from my heart to the page touch readers in eternal ways."
 

Favorite Verse:  2 Corinthians 12: 9,10 -And He has said to me ,'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with difficulties for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Visit Mary DeMuth in our Writers' Corner


 

Let's Start At the Very Beginning . . . What is a query?


 

* It rhymes with scary!

* Seriously though, a query is a business letter sent to a magazine, newspaper, or publishing entity that pitches your story or book idea to an acquisition or managing editor or a literary agent. You send a query instead of a manuscript.

Why Query?

* Most editors will not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

* You have the opportunity (privilege!) to show an editor your unique writing style, to illuminate your credentials, and to demonstrate your professionalism and reliability.

Should I write the novel first and then query?

* Yes, unless you are a well-established novelist, you will have to write the manuscript first.

* However, don't disobey an agency's or publisher's unsolicited query rule. Just say NO. Don't do it. Go to a conference, meet with agents and publishers, but don't send in unsolicited queries to places that don't accept them. It's a waste of time, effort and money.

Ways to Write Wimpy Queries:

* Be chatty and overly personal. "Hi my name is Mary DeMuth and I really love to write."

* Confess your lack of familiarity with a publishing house or agency. "I don't know much about Harvest House, but I'd sure love to write for you."

* Have a crabby tone. Some have said we write because we are angry, but an angry tone doesn't work well for attracting an agent. If you have to rage against the machine, take it out on your critique group first!

* Be lazy and say, "Dear Editor: or Dear Agent: or Dear Wrong Name:" Find out the exact acquisition's editor's name. Spell an agent's name correctly.

* Ramble on and on, without a point. (You don't want to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher, do you? "Blah blah blah blah-blah blah.") A query letter should be one page long, single spaced, and convey your point succinctly.

* Use the shotgun approach, attempting to sell coming of age novels to romance houses. Or women's fiction to a literary line. Do your homework.

* Sing a sob song. "I have never ever been published before, and you would be my first ever publishing house. My children are starving, and I need the money."

* Sing a self-aggrandizing song. "I am expertly experienced to write this novel. I am God's gift to print media. My book Hamsters on Vacation is perfect for your enlightened book buyers."

* Bring in quotes from family members or friends. "My mother keeps bugging me to get published; she says I write like C. S. Lewis." or "My pastor said I write with insight." or "My children read my short stories with interest and always ask for more."

* Have a query that looks like a seventh grader wrote it, with amateur language and spelling errors.

* Have True Confessions of A Rejected Writer be your mantra. "This poor book has been rejected 7 times. I am hoping number 8 will be my lucky number."

The Power Query Way. Training Tip #1: Follow format.

* One-inch margins all around. Classic font like Times New Roman or Garamond. 11-point font.

* Only one space after a period.

* Italicize magazine and book titles. "Quotes" around article titles.

* One page. Single-spaced. Double spaced between paragraphs. This is not a hard and fast rule. Some editors prefer no spaces between paragraphs with indented (using the tab key) paragraphs.

* Include SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) Make it as professional as possible, printing it on your computer. I usually place the publisher's name in the upper left corner and a date.

* Send letter in a number ten business envelope. (Again, print it on your computer)

* Don't skimp on format if you are e-querying. The same format applies whether you send the query in an envelope or through cyber-space. Nothing is more unprofessional than a familiar email-ish tone in a query.

Training Tip #2. Keep the correct elements in order.

Date

Your name,
Title,
Address,
Phone,
Fax, & Email address.

Editor's name
Editor's title
Publisher Name (Or Agency Name)
Address

Dear Correctly Spelled Name of Editor/Agent:

Lead paragraph. Catch the editor's attention in a lead. This should sound like the well-honed pitch you've developed, the kind you can say quickly in an elevator. The first sentence should be POW! Work on that first sentence until your mind cramps. It's the first impression you'll make. Though you are a novelist and are gifted writing stories, this is the time to put on your non-fiction hat. Ask your critique group to help you craft an excellent first paragraph.

Body.

The body can be one to two paragraphs long. Be succinct and to the point. Use bullets. One way to garner attention is to do a brief marketing analysis paragraph, showing how your book is similar to others that are doing well, and yet how it fills a unique niche in the market you are writing for. If you know other well-known authors who have read your manuscript and agreed to endorse it, mention it here.

Qualification Paragraph.

List your publications, memberships, awards, etc. Try to list only those accomplishments that relate to your book. Don't exaggerate.

Closing request.

Would Name of Publisher be interested in publishing Amazing Name of Your Book? I can have a copy ready for you at your convenience.

Thanks

Closing. I like "Warmly." Type your name under the closing, leaving room for you to sign the query.

Place for listing enclosures (typically a novel query includes a bio (with picture), 2-3 page synopsis of the book and the first three chapters).

Training Tip #3. Exude Professionalism

* Query, even if you've met with an editor at a writer's conference.

* Use high quality paper, but not pink or flowered or rose-smelling.

* Don't include gimmicks or cutesy gifts with the query.

* Do not forget to include all your contact information. Instead of typing this over and over, develop a professional-looking letterhead. If you have letterhead, start with the date and then type the editor's name. Writing your contact information again is redundant in that case.

* Present it beautifully in a professional folder (if you are sending a proposal with the query).

* If you have met the acquisition's editor or agent, be sure to note that before the first major paragraph of the query. "It was so nice talking to you at ACFW last week..."

* If you are querying an agent, be SURE that you have done your research and that your book is a good match to the agent. You should detail this in the first part of your query with something like, "I am interested in you representing my book because my topic or style is similar to (title) by (author)." This shows you've done your research. It will save you postage too if you query only agents that "fit."

* If you are submitting to agencies or publishing houses simultaneously, mention it in your query. Because of how long it takes to get a response, it's generally felt wise to simultaneously submit.

Power Query Example (that resulted in a sale):

What about rejection?

* Ask the Lord to teach you through this.
* Keep a file of rejections AND successes. Rejections can say a lot and show you where to improve.

* Always keep a copy of the query on your computer. If one agent rejects your proposal, reprint it and try for another one. (Be sure to change the names!)

* Don't assume you are a bad writer because you have been rejected. There are a lot of reasons for rejection: wrong market; they've already done this type of book, they simply aren't interested in the idea; they just had a fight with his/her boss or spouse; they just used up the budget this year.

Queries are always important
"Our agency receives approximately 500 queries a week; we're looking for writers who stand out above the pack...The journey starts with the query, and therefore the importance of that document cannot be over-emphasized. It's a first impression; it's a handshake; it's the agent's glimpse of a potential career in one page. Make it the very best it can be." Deirdre Knight, The Knight Agency

Mary E. DeMuth
Christ Follower. Freelance Writer. Novelist
Author: Building the Christian Family You Never Had Blog. Website.


 

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Web Resources for Writers

There are many web sites with great information for Christian writers. Below are some that you might find helpful.

 

  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Christian Writers Fellowship International

  • The Christian Writer's Manual of Style
  • Writer's Digest
  • Writer's Market
  • The Writer's Magazine
  • Christian Writer's Market Guide
  • ACW Press
  • Writer's Edge (Manuscript Service)

  • More Author Tips

     • Words of Advice: Chris Fabry

     • Writing Advice: Maureen Lang