Louisa Bacio’s Luscious New Haircut and Her Query Letter Workshop

December 19, 2011

No, I haven’t mastered my new computer yet, but I DO love this keyboard! I promised that I’d tell you about the December OCCRWA meeting, which was fabulous as usual.

Author Louisa Bacio was the morning speaker. Dressed in an almost 50’s style strapless black and white dress with a fluffy pink scarf around her neck and a luscious new haircut, Louisa could have been a heroine in a romance novel. Her topic was query letters and first lines. The meeting was a “hands on” workshop, and Louisa is an outstanding presenter/instructor, perhaps because in addition to being an author, she teaches college journalism.

Query letters are something I know a little about. I wrote freelance for magazines and newspapers for about fifteen years, so I’ve written numerous query letters over the years, all of them for non-fiction articles. What I learned at the meeting is that all of that experience will transfer perfectly to writing query letters for my fiction.

If you’re new to this and unsure what a query letter is, as Louisa said, it’s basically a one page letter of introduction to your book and to you as an author. It’s meant to capture the reader’s (editor or agent) interest. Get them to read your story. There are at least a couple of successful formats for query letters. Louisa shared a couple similar to those that I’ve used in non-fiction.

My favorite format starts with a good hook, a well-crafted opening line to entice the reader to go on. Louisa recommends a three paragraph summary of the plot. In the plot summary you will introduce the main character, her love interest and the conflict of the story.

Follow your three paragraph summary with a brief personal biography. Keep the biography relevant to your story. If you have writing credits, put them here. Have you won any writing contests? If your heroine is an artist, are you an artist? Do you teach art? Or is art a hobby of yours? Also, if you belong to professional organizations such as RWA, list those affiliations here.

Your final paragraph is your closing hook. Tie everything up neatly, professionally and courteously.

Then, when you think it’s ready, make sure you’ve included all of your contact information, and proofread, proofread, proofread. A spelling, punctuation or grammatical error here is a fast way to land your manuscript in the circular file.

Also, make sure you address your query letter to a specific editor and spell the name correctly.  I made the embarrassing mistake of addressing a letter to Ms. Editor’s Name, when it should have been addressed Mr. Editor’s Name, a mistake that I’m still blushing over and hope never to make again! But always address your work to a specific editor or editorial assistant rather than a generic “Dear Sir or Madame.”

There is a lot of help with query letters on the internet. Book Ends Literary Agency does a Wednesday Workshop on Query Letters that’s worth checking out. If you get a chance to take a workshop with Louisa Bacio, do it! She’s a great instructor and really knows what she’s talking about. She occasionally does online workshops as well.

I actually enjoy writing query letters. Don’t get me wrong. They’re challenging, but I like the opportunity to write something brief, clean and creative. Even if your book isn’t finished, stop from time to time and practice writing your query letter. It’s a good exercise in describing your story, and when people ask you what your story is about, you’ll be prepared with an answer.

Maybe you’ve already written a query letter or twenty. Do you like writing them? What is your favorite format? What tips do you have to share? Normally this is the point where I leave you all and I’m off to write, but this week, I’m off to bake cookies…and more cookies. Anyone want to share a recipe?

Tari

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2 Responses to “Louisa Bacio’s Luscious New Haircut and Her Query Letter Workshop”

  1. Louisa Bacio Says:

    Tari,

    You are a doll. Thanks so much for your kind words and I’m glad you found it all insightful. I know you’ve got the skills, but I’m always happy to read something for you!

  2. taristhread Says:

    Louise, you’ll be sorry you said that!! I’ll take you up on it.

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