My Query Letter

So here’s the point where I’m supposed to sit back and provide great advice about how to write a query letter to get your book into the hands of an editor or agent so that you can fulfill your lifelong dream.

Unfortunately for you, I skipped that step. I can’t tell you how to draft a query letter. I can tell you how to best craft an elevator pitch, and I’m getting a fair idea about how to sell a synopsis, but query letters — it just didn’t work out that way for me.

It was my friend Scott Oden, already a writer with St. Martin’s Thomas Dunne Books imprint, who introduced me directly to his editor, and then the manuscript got sent in. So my contract wasn’t the result of query letter at all.

Before you gnash your teeth, tear out your hair and curse me for being one of those lucky men who just happened to grow up living next to somebody famous, or have an old family friend who was a publisher, the only reason I knew Scott is because I’d been part of this industry for a few decades. Scott and I happened to be friends because of our mutual love of historical fiction, and I happened to be a fan of his because our joint friend Morgan Holmes had passed me a copy of Scott’s book. I loved Scott’s Men of Bronze, and, learning that he was a big fan of Harold Lamb’s writing, I asked him to draft an introduction for one of Lamb’s historical collections (Swords from the Desert). We’ve been friends ever since.

So, yes, a friend opened the door, but I would never have known Scott if I hadn’t been working away on the Harold Lamb collections for Bison Books, or known sword-and-sorcery scholar Morgan Holmes. That’s one of the reasons why, whenever people for advice from me about publishing, I tell them to get active in the industry.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. There’s a great recent query letter example from up-and-comer Jay Kristoff. Those of you wanting to know how to write a query letter should go check it out, now, and then ready yourself for reading Jay’s book, Stormdancer, which has already gotten a starred review from both PW AND Kirkus. So, wow. Lucky, talented sod.

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