I’m in the process of sending out query letters as I pursue more traditional publication. I have done this before, but with no success. This time I decided to revise my pitch. Now, my chances of getting a nibble from a publisher/editor/agent are a little under 2% according to a quick Google search. So I’m setting my expectations very low. But logically, my chances should get better if I can manage to write a compelling pitch. Success is TBD. Here’s how I went about it:
Starting Point & Research:
I started with the blurb I already have that’s up on Amazon. Then I researched. I found an awesome section on Writer’s Digest
with examples of successful query letters with comments from the agent/publisher about what they liked. I also found several of my favorite authors have posted their successful letters. In addition, a few of the editors/agents I’m querying have workshops or samples of what they like to see.
Blue Violet Blurb:
When Ellie Aubrey leaves her only remaining family and moves to Colorado, she knows she’s risking her life. But she can’t ignore the possibility of what she might find there. What she didn’t expect to encounter was a bewildering connection to one smolderingly sexy Alex Jenner. But when Ellie’s worst nightmare comes true and threatens to destroy everything she holds dear, she must fight to save those she loves most. Even if it means sacrificing herself by revealing a terrible truth… sometimes not all monsters are make believe.
Adding Unique Details:
Based on the results of my research. My next step was to take my starting point of the blurb and try to put in more detail so that it’s more obvious to the person I’m sending the letter to what the book is about. In an online workshop, Rosemary Clement-Moore talked about including the following.
- character name: Ellie Aubrey (at least this was easy)
- hook: gypsy princes, dragon shifter
- goal: protect Jenners from the Vyusher who killed her entire family
- conflict: Ellie hides who she is from the Jenners they think she’s a normal girl, the Vyusher do attack, Ellie can’t use her dragon shift (bad for her, bad for everyone)
- motivation: a new family, love
Believe it or not, narrowing down my focuses was harder than I expected. The tricky part is making it interesting and unique. I initially decided to try to call out the gypsy/Roma aspects in my book since I haven’t seen that approach in much of my genre. And because the editor I’m particularly targeting is interested in authors who incorporate mythology from other cultures. Since I mention that Ellie’s a princess, I decided to incorporate some princess/fairytale wording. My first whack at the revision also involved more focus on Alex than my blurb has. Here’s what (after probably 20 revisions) I came up with:
As a centuries-old gypsy princess with extraordinary abilities that once inspired her Roma ancestors’ fairytales, Ellie Aubrey should be in the middle of her own happily-ever-after. Instead, she’s spent most of her life hiding from the Vyusher, a rival tribe who wiped out her entire family. But when she discovers the existence of a group of powerful Svatura like her, she risks her own life to secretly find them.
Alex Jenner has come home to protect his family. His adopted mother can sense a threat coming, but not who or when. He gets more than he bargains for when he meets new-girl-in-town, Ellie. She challenges him in ways that no woman ever has, but she’s just an ordinary girl, and he could never expose her to his world. Besides, he has bigger dragons to slay. Family must come first. Always.
Before Ellie can reveal everything to Alex, her worst nightmare comes true, and the Vyusher once again threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. She must fight to save those she loves most, even if it means sacrificing herself by revealing a terrible truth … sometimes not all monsters are make believe.
Cut & Refocus:
The result of my first try ended up in a pitch that is a little too long at 192 words (based on my research, most of the successful pitches were 150 words or under). So I started cutting it down. Part of that was rewording how I introduced the Jenners and Vyusher. Also, I decided I needed to focus on the dragon aspect of the book a little more as it’s also unique (sorry for the spoiler). I managed to drop it to 154 words. I moved the original last sentence to the beginning and came up with a new hook for the last sentence that worked well with both the fairtale/princess and dragon concepts. But I still wasn’t satisfied. I felt like the romance aspect needed better highlighting.
Sometimes, not all monsters are make believe. Ellie Aubrey is a centuries-old gypsy princess whose extraordinary abilities once inspired her Roma ancestors’ fairytales (or nightmares). After spending most of her life hiding from the rival tribe who destroyed her entire powerful family, Ellie risks everything in order to find and watch over the Jenners, another group of similarly gifted people. Although Ellie tries to keep her distance and her secrets, Alex Jenner has other ideas. Alex challenges Ellie in ways that threaten to bring out the one power Ellie has always been too terrified to use.
When her old enemies attack, Ellie has no choice but to reveal who she is. And in the end, Ellie must sacrifice her dreams of love and family and face her worst fear, and Alex must face an impossible decision. Sometimes, the dragon the prince has to slay is also the princess who holds his heart.
Reword & Revise:
Here’s what I finally ended up with. More around the romance, sticking to the dragon theme with some fire references. Could I keep revising ad nauseum? Absolutely. And I would do the same with my books if I didn’t announce publication dates to force myself to a deadline. Lol.
I almost took the mention of Griffin out as it upped my word count. I was tempted to put some humor in the pitch. Maybe something about Alex finding out about who Ellie is when she turns into a jaguar. I was also tempted to add a line at the end of the second paragraph about “either way they’ll go up in flames” but it seemed heavy handed. I keep debating putting the “not all monsters are make believe” line up front which I removed. But at 178 words I’m already on the long side.
Ellie Aubrey is a centuries-old gypsy princess whose extraordinary abilities once inspired her Roma ancestors’ fairytales (or nightmares). Along with her twin-brother, Griffin, Ellie has spent most of her life hiding from the Vyusher, a rival tribe who destroyed their entire powerful family. But after a mysterious dream, Ellie risks discovery in order to find and watch over the Jenners, another group of similarly gifted people. She refuses to let them suffer the same fate.
Alex Jenner has come home to protect his family. His adopted mother can sense danger coming, but not who or when. Suspicious of the new girl in town, Alex challenges Ellie in ways that will spark one of two possible outcomes: they’ll spontaneously combust, or she’ll lose control of the one power she’s fought so hard to contain.
When the Vyusher once again threaten everything she holds dear, Ellie will have to face her worst fear, and Alex will have to face an impossible decision. In this fairytale, the dragon that the prince must slay is also the princess who holds his heart.
So what do you think? Successful? Would you consider signing me? I’ll admit that I’m happy enough with it that I’m actually tempted to change my Amazon book blurb to this, but it might be too much of a spoiler. You never realize how many decisions go into writing and selling a book until you’re the one making ALL of those decisions.