So you can read my books

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Once again the world is ending.

No, I'm not talking about 2012,

or about that radio evangelist who states Judgement Day is coming May 21st of 2011.

{Last time I checked, the Bible still states no man knows the day or the hour ...

merely the season.}

Assuredly, the season of change is upon us.

Technology is evolving once more.

The Industrial Revolution created chaos and havoc, along with its eventual progress.

All the children maimed and whose lives were cut short by hellish child labor at that time

are sad testimonies that what lies ahead may not be pleasant for many.

Publishers are downsizing. Ebooks are stirring in the gene pool.

Job-protecting purchasing agents for said publishers are only buying what they perceive as the "Big Books,"

ones that can generate high sales from their first day of publication.

Agents are getting editors to listen to their pitch, only to have those purchasing agents refuse to authorize the sale.

What are we as struggling novice writers to do?

The best we can.

Use our skills to present ourselves in the best possible light.

The query is the flare that gets the agent's attention. Sadly, they are viewing a sky filled with them. Our flare must stand out.


1.) In a sky filled with long-tailed flares, the short one stands out :

Brevity. Be one page.

Like having only one suitcase for a trip, wisely pack your one page where a little says a lot.

2.) Hook. {If the world were all vampires, what would they drink?}

{Research what high-sale book this agent has handled that is like yours (don't cheat -- it has to be like yours -- or the agent will feel cheated)}

Mention how your book is cut from the same cloth as that book -- that will slow the reject mantra down. She made money from that particular book. She could possibly make money from yours.

3) stirring sentences boiling down your plot to the basics. At this point, the agent is only considering your query in the broadest sort of way. She is asking herself, "Do I want to see more?" Intrigue her enough to nod yes.

{Ever ask, "How are you?" to an acquaintence and get a three hour, detailed painful answer?} Don't be that in your query. The most effective monster in the movies is the one of whom you only see broad flashes.

4.) Be a bad reporter : don't name names. It jars the agent to have to stop and mentally go,

"How the h___ do you pronounce Sidhe de la Muerte?" The agent is thinking speed and ease of digesting your query.

Give the agent verbal indigestion at your peril. No names. Usually it is unnecessary. Hero. Love interest. Enemy. Arena of conflict.

Fit the above in a three act format, showing the agent you actually have a coherent storyline.

A.) Never trip your agent's attention. Highlight in broad strokes. Don't spotlight in numerous details.

"The man with death in his veins is the reluctant champion of life in post-Katrina New Orleans."

No sub-plots. Your agent will probably make her initial reject at the genre alone. "I don't do military history."

B.) I do the housekeeping as it is called : title, length, and genre in the subject header of my email. Fast and upfront. And this way it doesn't interfere with the flow of the query.

C.) Next will be your basic plot. If your base plot seems weak without your sub-plot. That's because you plot is weak. Time to tweak not query.

The above logline is too general. For once I did that on purpose. How about :

"In post-Katrina New Orleans, there is one dark French Quarter street where the dead are rising. And to stop them? One undead Texas Ranger. The Night of the Hungry Shadows has begun."

D.) Think brief but specific. Also think : "What time is it anyway?" The agent is. Tell her.

As in the logline above. Hurricane Katrina. Two short words but they paint a whole picture of human struggle. I mention the time frame. The Night of the hungry shadows.

It gives an immediate structure to my work for the agent. She knows my book has a structure. She knows a lot from a little.

A novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans will have an entirely different flavor than one set during the six days of the missile crisis in the Kennedy White House.

Location gives a sense of atmosphere, of the culture, and of the people involved. Post-Katrina New Orleans. Three words that tell the agent a great deal.

In one sentence without one word of plot, the agent can see the broad scope of my novel.

Can you see your query a little more clearly now? Hope so.


  1. Wow, Roland! You've said it all in one brief post, everything to do in a query. "The night of the hungry shadows has begun." I'm hooked!!!
    Ann Best, A Long Journey Home

  2. Great post on how to write a query!

    I love the example sentences--it definitely makes me want to read the rest.

  3. Ann : Thanks. I'm glad I got you interested. Now, if I can just do that with an agent! I wish us both luck in our publication dreams.

    Golden Eagle : Oh, if you were only an agent!! Thanks for the kind words and taking time to comment. Have a great Saturday, and you, too, Ann. Me, I'm working ... speaking of which -- I gotta jet!

  4. Excellent tips, Roland. The query for my first book was a short, one pager.
    And you are correct - no one knows the date of judgement day. We just need to be prepared.

  5. Alex : Thanks for letting us know about the query to your first book -- that succeeded. All the posts from rookies means little compared to just one sentence from a selling author. And yes, I believe, like you, the date for the final curtain is unknown to us -- best just to know your lines and act your part well!

  6. At Penumbra publishing the top (Kinlde)sellers are my "America's Galactic Foreign Legion" series, and a vampire book called "Blood and Sunlight: A Maryland Vampire Story."

    I think your books would be a good fit. Query Acquisition Editor Patricia Morrison at

    I sold a over a thousand books (mostly Kindle) in the month ofNovember alone. That's a modest amount for some, but at a small press for a new author, it's a great start. With your marketing skills and this great blog, you should do well at a small press.

    If you can get a big NY publisher, go for it. But with the invention of Kindle, the playing field between the big dogs and small presses is a lot more even.

    Good luck. Keep writing.

  7. Walter : Thanks. It's definitely in the back of my mind. THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH is being looked at my two agents. Perhaps Victor has a chance. And if his adventures are bought, then it might provide another shot for McCord who is his guardian in that book.

    Keep your fingers crossed. And that's great news about your books for November! Roland

  8. Good luck. Rememer that post you made about meeting a big publisher in an elevator: What would you say (or do) to him?

    Skewering would be too good for many.

  9. Great advice. Trying to type with Roo on the puter...

    mention a similar money making book-brilliant!

    Okay, she's shifting...

    Bookmarking this post for future reference. I'm not there yet, but I will be!

  10. Words Crafter : Typing with a royal feline on your laptop I imagine is quite difficult! Gypsy just sits by my side and looks painfully ignored until I feed her or play laser tag! I'm glad you think my post helpful enough to bookmark.

    Kimber : Thanks for dropping by and commenting. It means a lot.

  11. As always, Roland, a treasure trove of deliciousness. Both for the writing and the guidance.

  12. Wendy : Glad I could help in some small way. Wish me luck with those agents that I have sent to recently!

  13. Your 'calling' is always in my thoughts, Roland.

    Lots of luck.

  14. Excellent advice Roland! Thank you so much! :)

  15. Hi Roland .. extremely interesting - I can see the process as you've presented it .. good luck to all authors. Cheers Hilary