I Know How You Feel. I’ve Been There.

In my career as an author, I’ve faced every challenge you’re facing now. Writing a compelling book takes serious work, but the rewards are so worth the effort.

Let me tell you a true story. Years ago, like every new writer trying to break in with their first novel, I sent queries to agents, then waited and hoped. One morning, I got a call from a New York literary agent who said she was so excited by the description of my book, she wanted to see the full manuscript immediately. Ecstatic, I sent it that very afternoon.

Soon after, I got her terse written reply: “Alas, the manuscript did not live up to my expectations.” Those were her exact words. I was devastated. Tears flowed. Then weeks of agonized self-doubt. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a writer. I was ready to give up.

Then, a few days later, that same query attracted legendary agent Albert Zuckerman of Writers House who has shepherded dozens of bestsellers. He, too, asked for the full manuscript. He read it – and loved it! He offered to represent me, I eagerly signed the contract, and within weeks Al sold the book to Audrey LaFehr at Penguin, who said it was the best historical novel she had ever read.

Amazing, isn’t it – from “alas” to “the best.” That book sold 75,000 copies and became the first in my seven-book Thornleigh Saga series. My sales have now topped over half a million books. So, I’m here to tell you that although the journey to write a book and get it published can hit you with heartbreaking moments, it can also bring joyful surprises. If you persevere, success can be yours.

Countdown to Launch!

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I’m excited about this! My “Your Path to a Page-Turner” Program will launch at the end of April. We’re putting the finishing touches to the videos now, and I can’t wait to offer the whole program to you.

·       Be inspired and energized by my 23 new videos that cover the essentials of creating a story that will leave readers saying “I couldn’t put it down!” – and learn how to get it published

·       Take your writing to the next level with my unique “Practice Like a Pro” exercises

·       Join my private Facebook group, a new online community where your program colleagues and I will support you on your writing journey and cheer you on

·       Get my insider tips on how to navigate the world of agents and publishers, so your book can break through and make it to the top

I’ve created the “Your Path to a Page-Turner” Program to help you write a book that will excite agents and publishers and thrill readers. Full details coming here soon!

Grow as a writer. Dare to succeed.

Barbara Kyle

P.S. You’ll find helpful writing tips on my Facebook page “Barbara Kyle, Mentor to Writers.” If you visit it, please “like” it!

Pitch Perfect: 10 Tips for Writing a Successful Query

Finished your book? First, congratulate yourself. Writing a book is a marathon, and only those who’ve made it to “The End” understand the determination it requires.

Now you want to get it published, and that’s your next challenge. In today’s tough marketplace you get only one chance with each literary agent or acquisition editor at a publishing house to interest them in your story. That one chance is the query letter.

It may be the most important piece of writing you’ll ever do.

What is a Query Letter?

It’s a sales pitch, pure and simple. Its sole purpose is to intrigue a publishing industry professional enough to want to read your book. A successful query is one that gets them to ask you to send your manuscript. Like I said, simple.

Well, not quite. As former agent Nathan Bransford says, “A query letter is part business letter, part creative writing exercise, part introduction, part death defying leap through a flaming hoop.”

So here are some tips to help you clear that hoop.

My Ten Tips

  1. Limit your query to one page. Even if it’s an email, stick to the one-page rule. It’s what publishing professionals expect.
  1. Structure your query in five brief sections: introduction, basics, hook, mini-synopsis, bio.
  1. This is your chance to connect with the agent or editor on a human level. If you enjoyed a talk she gave at a conference, say so. If you love his blog, tell him that. If you’re a fan of an author she represents or publishes, gush a little (but just a little). Be real. Build rapport.
  1. State your book’s title (in caps), its genre (e.g. mystery, romance, thriller, YA fantasy), and the word count rounded off to the nearest hundred.
  1. Give one concise and intriguing sentence about the story. For example: “THE KITE RUNNER is a tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that sweeps from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.
  1. Mini-synopsis. Describe your story in two or three short paragraphs. This is hellishly hard, like trying to enclose an ocean inside a bottle. My advice is don’t try to cram in the entire plot; it will make you crazy. Stick to the central character and the story’s central conflict. Don’t get sidetracked into subplots or theme. Read the back covers of books in your genre and note how the publisher has described the story’s protagonist and conflict is in a single, engaging paragraph. That’s the effect to aim for.
  1. Include in #6 one or two comparables. A comparable is a successful book you mention to explain your book’s target audience. Agents and editors need to know where your book fits into the market. A good way to say this is that it “would appeal to fans of [author]'” or is “in the vein of [book].” Keep it recent; publishers aren’t interested in what sold forty years ago. And keep it rational; no boasts about how your book will be a bestseller.
  1. Tell something about yourself, preferably related to writing. For example, mention anything you’ve had published, such as a short story, or any writing contest you’ve won. If you’ve had nothing published, stick to info about yourself that you feel might be of interest.
  1. Finally, close your query with two crucial points: tell them the full manuscript is available, and ask if you may send it to them.
  1. Send as many queries as you like. The rule about not sending multiple submissions applies to manuscripts (once they’ve been requested), not to queries. You can broadcast queries.

All my best,

Barbara Kyle

P.S. You’ll find lots more information and tips about getting published – including truths about the publishing industry – in my book Page-Turner: Your Path to Writing a Novel that Publishers Want and Readers Buy. It’s available from Amazon.