Sunday, January 25, 2009

Queries (and Pitches and Blurbs) -- OH MY!

posted by Aunty Cindy aka Loucinda McGary

BIG THANX to Mary Margret for her instructive post on Saturday sharing her process of coming up with alternate 50 word (or less) pitches.

Another good source for pitches (especially if you have more than 50 words or 30 seconds in an elevator) is your query letter. In my case, I have usually revised and polished my query letters to within an inch of my life, so I like to use them (in whatever form) at every available opportunity. Below is the query letter I used most often for the book that eventually sold and became The Wild Sight:

Cursed with the Irish clairvoyance known as “The Sight,” Donovan O’Shea fled to America to escape his “gift.” After fifteen years, his father’s illness has forced him to return to the family homestead. Decades earlier, Donovan’s mother disappeared into the encroaching fens and was never seen again. Now the same fens are offering up secrets, both ancient and recent, and restoring a terrible legacy that just may drive him mad. And if this is not trouble enough, a beautiful woman walks into his life, claiming to be his half-sister.

Rylie Powell never knew her real father. Her mother would only say he was a charming Irishman who seduced her, married her, and then abandoned her and his baby daughter. But after her mother’s death, Rylie finds tantalizing clues about her father that send her off to Northern Ireland and an archeological site on Dermot O’Shea’s property, the man listed on her birth certificate as her father.

-Did Dermot O’Shea father both Donovan and Rylie?
-What is Donovan’s connection to the Celtic High King Niall of the Nine Hostages?
-And what secret do the fens hold that invites murder?

I have been writing full-time since 2004. In 2005, I was a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier contest for unpublished writers, and in 2006, I was a Golden Heart finalist in romantic suspense. I have traveled extensively and have relatives in Northern Ireland who helped inspire this story. I would be happy to send you the first three chapters and a synopsis.

If some of this looks vaguely familiar, portions of it have been used on Amazon, in various interviews I've done, and even on my back cover blurb. Oh yes, and I've used it more than once when someone asks, "So what is your book about?"

Hope this has been helpful for all you writers out there who are gearing up for our contest on Thursday! On of the critiques given as a runner-up prize will be from Yours Truly.


  1. I agree: queries are agony to write, but can be infinitely recycled.

    I never delete a draft of a query--even the false starts of no more than a sentence or two. You never know where you'll find just the three words you need to sum up a character or a conflict.

  2. Hi Cindy!
    I agree that it's good to have these things to recycle. MUCH easier to copy and paste than to write it all over again! I wrote one for Rogue not long ago that I plan to use as a template for blogs, etc.
    I don't delete much either, MM. It took me a while to remember what I'd called it, but I found the query letter for Slave, still in my computer, right where I left it two years ago.

  3. Hey MM,
    Glad you are also into "recycling!" :-)

    And sometimes my queries are agony and sometimes they aren't. The longer I've been working with a story line and characters, the easier it seems to get.


  4. Cheryl,
    Glad I'm not the only one who can't remember what I name files! I do tend to use the initial of the working title at the start of the name, but that still means dozens of files to look through. Took me about 10 mins. to find this particular version of the query letter.

    But I totally agree! Why re-invent the wheel?


  5. Ahhh, the art of the query! What a painful part of the writing journey, but once mastered make all the difference. Thanks for sharing yours, AC! Here's the query for LOS (I think I'd write it differently today):

    Susannah Sanderson is ready for some peace. After a tumultuous decade as the wife of one of the NFL’s marquee players, she’s just ten days from her divorce being final and a month from marrying her high school boyfriend. Her life is right where it should have been all along. She’s entertaining her fiancé and his parents when she hears some commotion in her front hall. Excusing herself, she scurries into the foyer to find her soon-to-be ex-husband, Ryan. So begins “Line of Scrimmage,” an 86,000-word sexy contemporary romance.

    “What do you want?” she asks, to which Ryan replies, “In a word? You.” She can’t believe his audacity, but she’s in for a surprise when he adds, “We’ve got ten more days as Mr. and Mrs., and we’re going to spend every one of them together.” When she protests, he threatens to delay the divorce if she doesn’t cede to his wishes. “In light of your engagement,” he drawls, “I’m thinking that might be a little inconvenient for you, darlin’.” Susannah is furious, and her fiancé is ballistic, but Ryan won’t budge. Desperate to stop a divorce he doesn’t want, Ryan, who’s been badly injured in the last game of his career, mounts the Hail Mary play of a lifetime over the next ten days. They talk, they fight, they laugh, they cry, and then they fight some more. But little by little, they right some of the terrible wrongs that drove them apart in the first place, and Susannah begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake.

    “Line of Scrimmage” is a story of reunion, redemption, rejuvenation, and renewal. In the tradition of LaVyrle Spencer, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Catherine Anderson, readers will laugh and cry and hope—that at the end of the day, these two lovers, who clearly belong together, will somehow find their way back to one another.

    For the last twenty years, I’ve worked as a professional editor and writer, including a two-year stint as a newspaper reporter. I’ve been the communications director for a national nonprofit for the last eleven years. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America. I have been married for fourteen years, ten of them as a Navy wife. We brought a daughter and two dogs home from Spain in 1995. A son joined the family in 1998.