Harlequin Books/MIRA Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario M3B 3K9
Have I not stomped and screamed and screeched and carried on about this enough? DO NOT put anything in the first line except the salutation when sending your queries by email. DO NOT.
I know where I work. I know my name. Start with what matters: what your book is about.
Dear Ms. Chin:
A sexy, contemporary romance, Music City Seduction, is complete at 60,000 words and written for the Harlequin Blaze line.
Start with what the book is about. Log lines are almost universally NOT helpful. Category and word count are housekeeping: put them at the bottom.
Five years ago, Kit ditched her crappy life and moved to Nashville with $200, her guitar, and a notebook full of songs. But living like a rock star has spiraled Kit lower than the suits at her label are willing to continue financing. She’s ordered to shape up or ship out of the limelight.
You're missing some sort of connection between her moving to Nashville and her success. This makes it sound like living on $200 with a guitar and a notebook is living like a rock star.
This is cause you're starting at the wrong place. How she got to Nashville isn't key. The fact that she's successful and "living like a rock star" is. Start there.
Max Butler, on the other hand, is as far from a celebrity as you can get. A Nashville firefighter, he’s looking forward to settling down with the kids, PTA, and a wife in his bed every night.
I'm seeing a HUGE increase in sentences starting with So. Don't do it. It undercuts the strength of your sentences. It's like "um" when you're speaking. A bad habit you don't notice till you look for it. Go through your manuscript with
Join Max and Kit in Music City, as they learn that love isn’t just a word in a country song.
While never awarded a recording contract, I can boast a lifetime of hairbrush singing in the bathroom and performing as the lead singer in a successful, local band for the past nine years. When I’m not performing cover songs (or devouring a Blaze novel), I am an active member of RWA and the (redacted) Romance Writers chapter.
This is actually the best paragraph in the letter because it shows some zest and humor. That's not good, because you really need that zest and humor in the novel. Right now it's pretty bland.
Pursuant to your submission guidelines, I am enclosing the synopsis of my manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.
This simply doesn't have enough zing to lift it beyond cliche. One of the problems might be that you're trying to write a short query. Don't. Write an eleven page one instead. Then pare it down. Keep only the zesty phrases and descriptions.
It takes MORE to create less. I honestly don't think you can write a concise captivating query letter without writing about triple the word count first.
You've got all the right pieces; they're just not very flavorful right now.
Dear Query Shark:
Granny Landry used to say, “Don’t borrow trouble, you’ll get your own soon enough.”
Kit Landry has her fair share of trouble these days. Five years ago, she ditched her crappy life and moved to Nashville, TN with $200, her guitar, and a notebook full of songs.
Waiting tables paid the bills while she stomped the sidewalk trying to get a break. Kit was one of the lucky ones, and soon she signed with a label and her career took off. For a while, she had it all – right up until her movie star boyfriend dumped her for an Oscar winner that could boost his “Q” factor and Kit decided to have a pity party and invite all the tabloids.
The “suits” at the label weren’t happy (apparently you can only fall apart on the front page if your last name is Spears) and now her contract renewal is based upon one condition – staying out of trouble.
Why is suits in quotes? Aren't they suits? Suits is a perfectly correct use of the word to mean "the guys who run the money side of things" No quotes.
Quotes imply something is NOT what you say it is. Example: Oh yes, Cruella DeVill is a real "dog lover"
Also, unless you live on a different planet with a different Nashville or music industry, this does not ring true to me. Suits care about one thing: money. Publicity and notoriety drive the money machine. No suit in his/her right mind is going to insist a musician be LESS visible.
So, you have a problem. If she needs to stay out of trouble, there has to be a REAL reason. I'd suggest she's either popular in a market that requires correct behaviour (Christian music) or the insurance guys won't bond her for a tour (which is where the money is made) for some reason.
You simply can't say "the suits tell her to stay out trouble or else" cause you need it for a starting point in the book.
I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief for flying dragons...but if you set your book in a world I know, it MUST feel like how that world works.
Max Butler is content to leave the music business alone. Although he loves serving in the Nashville Fire Department, his brush with Music City left him with a bad taste in his mouth – and a divorce decree in hands.
Now, after years of hard work, he’s in line for a coveted promotion and nothing is going to get in his way. Once that block is checked, he can settle down with the life he wants: kids, PTA, and a wife in his bed every night. All he has to do is stay out of trouble.
This is where you really need to start. All the preceding is backstory and set up. You can use a few well-chosen words in the following paragraphs so we understand they both need to stay out of trouble.
Trapped in a burning studio one night, Kit just wanted someone to rescue her – she really didn’t want to die in the bathroom like Elvis.
Elvis died of a drug overdose not a fire. The comparison really doesn't work. You're reaching for humor here, when you don't need to. No one wants to die in a fire.
But, when she got a good look at the handsome firefighter, she wondered if she had died and gone to heaven. She’d love to see more of Max, but her historical bad taste in men, have convinced the label that “hot man” and “trouble” are synonymous for Kit.
When does the fire occur in the book? If it's anytime AFTER chapter 3, you've got too much windup.
Max is a huge fan of Kit – she’s his dream girl and everyone knows it. Two weeks after the fire, he sees her again at a commendation ceremony and his buddies bet that he can’t get her to sleep with him. Kit overhears the wager, but not the terms, and before he knows it, she’s shaking on it and backing the bet. Max would love to fulfill his “Kit Landry” fantasy, but this mess has – you guessed it - trouble written all over it.
They couldn’t be more different. Kit leaves for her summer tour in less than a month and Max just wants a normal life. But, when the sexual sizzle between them is impossible to ignore, they agree on a solution: Three weeks. No strings. Great sex.
Going out on tour is like running a marathon--a marathon a day, every day of the tour. Musicians getting ready to go out on tour in less than a month are in rehearsal daily, working out at the gym, getting costumes fitted. They're WORKING. Hard! It's not the time I'd associate with a fling.
But, Kit has a problem. Someone is leaking information about her to the press and none of it is designed to make her look good. When Max gets dragged into it, suddenly he’s involved in a life he doesn't want, with a girl who’s quickly becoming so much more than a fantasy.
A contemporary romance, Looking for Normal is complete at 60,000 words
Of course it is. You'd read it aloud to me on the subway if I asked but let's save that for the book trailer.
I am active member of RWA and the (redacted) Romance Writers chapter. This is my first novel.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
This is a form rejection: I don't believe the premise. It feels like the characters are where they are cause you need them there, not cause it would actually be like that organically. Of course, this is why reading queries is so subjective. My opinion is based on what I think I know...and maybe I'm wrong. (A shocking idea, but it's happened)
What would make me think I was wrong is if you mention you're a touring musician. The value of a writer's bio in a query letter is for just these moments. As I'm reading along, and I think, "oh this isn't how that stuff works" and then I see you're actually in that industry, I'd give you the benefit of the doubt.
But right now, form rejection.