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For Writers!

HANDOUTS from Elva's


How to Write a Query Letter Outline (Handout #1)

I. Definition

A query letter is a one-page epistle geared to hook an editor or agent into asking for more of your manuscript (mss). Think of it as a written job interview. It’s your one chance to get a foot in the door.

What follows a successful query letter? The editor or agent will ask for a proposal or a synopsis and perhaps the first 50 pages of your mss, or the full article if you queried for an article.

II. Parts of a Query Letter

Always check the agent’s or publisher’s web site FIRST to target the right one and see what they want in your first contact with them and where/how to send it. It will generally include the following:

(see sample query letter below)

1) The basic info: title, genre, if completed and word count ,your contact info

2) The hook or “elevator pitch

(see handout below)

3) The blurb, back cover copy and/or short synopsis

4) Your brief bio

III. Industry Standards for all Mss Submissions

Font: Times New Roman, 12 point

Double Spaced

Paragraph indent 0.5”

One space after punctuation

Mss Page Header: Title/last name/page number.

IV. Difference between a Query Letter and a Cover Letter

A cover letter is what goes on top of a longer proposal and sample chapters.

A query letter is a stand-alone letter that goes by itself to an editor or agent

V. What Editors/Agents do not wish to see in a query letter

(discussed in class)

VI. Extra Tips !

Do your homework first on their web site and follow their guidelines exactly

Make sure you have a faith thread if you’re targeting an inspirational line.

Be concise. Use words sparingly, but use all your space.

Have your letter proofread by another writer and polish, polish, polish!

It’s okay to submit simultaneously to several but tell them you’re doing so.

Keep a dated submission tracker record. Don’t let rejections discourage you!


Handout #2 QUERY LETTER SAMPLE ---emailed to editor

From: ______________

Date: Nov 7, 2012 7:04:28 PM

To: (Publisher or agent of your choice)

Subject: Fiction Query: Summer of Deception

Title: Summer ofDeception

Contemporary Christian Romantic Suspense

76,000 words (Completed mss )

By debut author Elva Cobb Martin

First book in a planned series, “Winds Over Charleston”

Email: ____________ Web site:

PH (add your phone number)

Pitch: Rachel York determines to unearth the truth about her brother's reported death by taking a position at a historic Carolina tea plantation, only to realize the truth may destroy her new found love and could even cost her life. (see hook/pitch worksheet below)

Back Cover Copy: Is the owner of Barrett Hall a man of integrity or is he part of the secret drug smuggling society that caused her brother's death? 

Brief Synopsis: Rachel York, an orphaned college girl, has no idea that love, adventure, and a shocking revelation await her in Charleston, South Carolina. What can be better than spending summer taking care of a five-year-old girl on a working tea plantation? Most importantly, the location will allow Rachel to learn more about her brother's plane crash and death reported by the Charleston Drug Enforcement Administration. She arrives and discovers a handsome new widower owner, the little girl’s father. Luke Barrett is a wounded hero back from the Gulf War. Unfortunately, he knows nothing about her job offer by his deceased uncle. Even with his eye patch, bitterness, and distrust, Luke threatens to capture Rachel’s heart until the night she discovers evidence he may be involved in drug smuggling. Can Rachel’s faith survive the tests of deception and danger? Can Luke find faith again? After all the deception is unraveled, and Rachel learns the truth about her brother, can she and Luke find a love as strong as the tides renewing Markham Hall’s beaches and as enduring as the Camelis tea bushes planted in its heartland? 

More:Readers will enjoy this exciting romantic suspense where characters of new or tested faith overcome hard thrusts of life and find a new beginning. They will also soak up interesting facts about modern plantation life, tea growing, the afternoon English tea, Arabian horses, and lovable toy dachshunds. This book can stand alone or be Book One in a planned Winds Over Charleston series. 

Short Bio: My husband and I are retired ministers, and I am a former schoolteacher. I have been a contributor to two books and my articles have been published in numerous magazines and periodicals including: Decision, Charisma, Home Life, Pentecostal Evangel, The State Magazine, Sun News, The Christian Writer, and Mature Living . We live in Anderson, South Carolina. I am co-founder and president (2014-2017) of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. We are parents, grandparents and active in a local congregation and an Internet prayer task force. 

Marketing: I plan to be pro-active in marketing Summer of Deception by enlisting a launch team, advertising on various social media, a web site, a blog, a virtual book tour, paid ads, book signings, and magazine and e-line article bylines. This is a simultaneous query, and I will be happy to forward the synopsis and first three chapters or the complete mss.  


Elva Cobb Martin

Anderson, SC PH: (add your phone number)


Hook or Pitch Work Sheet Pattern - Handout 3

(Your protagonist) __________________MUST______________________(critical plot

goal) BY __________________________(conflict with the Antagonist, etc.)

ONLY TO REALIZE ___________________________________(what the character learns about life that helps him change his goal during journey of book or come to a satisfactory ending)

Sample 1

Jacob Marshall must avenge his father’s honor by implicating Serena Jones’ father, only to realize revenge often hurts the innocent.

Sample 2 ---Elva Martin’s pitch for Summer of Deception

Rachel York determines to unearth the truth about her brother’s reported death by taking a position at a historic Carolina tea plantation, only to realize the truth may destroy her new found love and could even cost her life.

YOUR sample:

(Your protagonist) _________________________________

(Must) ______________________________________________________

(critical plot goal)

BY ____________________________________________(conflict with antagonist, etc.)

ONLY TO REALIZE _____________________________________________________

(what character learns about life that helps him change his goal during the journey of the book or come to a satisfactory ending)

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