A query letter is a short piece of writing with a single purpose: to pique an agent’s attention enough that they will be interested in reading more—whether that’s the opening pages of your manuscript or your book proposal.
An agent should be able to skim your query to quickly answer these key 5 questions:
Here’s one of my early query letter attempts:
Dear Ms. …
[Personalize letter for recipient]
Imagine the book Glennon Doyle might have written had she ignored the inner voice that whispered, “There she is” when she first encountered Abby Wambach. Imagine Glennon, a married, mid-fifties empty nester, hearing that voice again. Wondering if it’s too late to listen...
I love talking books, and I’m always happy to share the ones that move me or teach me something. I'll be highlighting books that speak to me and pulling quotes that resonate. I hope you find value in these snippets and that they open your eyes to authors you haven’t read before.
So while I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you, I'd love to hear how these quotes resonate with you too.
My first Readers Corner book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This book helped me understand why I was having trouble getting traction on my writing, and it offered me a simple solution. I hope you’ll find it useful too.
“Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance.”
~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Resistance is an invisible and insidious force that keeps us from doing the creative work we were put on this earth to do.
It presents itself in many forms: fear, distraction, self-doubt, and procrastination.
Maybe you beat yourself up for when you’re...
You want to write, but you aren’t writing. You say tomorrow will be different, but it’s the same story, different day. There’s a battle going on inside you, and the wrong side is winning. There’s a crucial mindset shift that every writer needs to make to end up on the right side of this battle.
Practically every writer has experienced this problem.
As a book coach, I see this struggle every day.
As a writer, I battled this problem for years.
The desire to take my writing seriously started in my late thirties after I emerged from the fog of early motherhood. You know, when I wasn’t getting up every few hours to nurse a baby. I’d left the practice of law and yearned for a professional purpose, a creative outlet, something that was my own besides my identity and role as a mother and wife.
Now, I wasn’t one of those kids who had written her first novel when she was in second grade—I have never been drawn to write fiction. But I have...
I’ve made a few big leaps in midlife, and one of the best is becoming a “dog person.” Meet Lucy, my first ever pet (if you don’t count goldfish, guppies, or turtles). I was severely allergic to cats and dogs as a child so we didn’t have any in our home. Truth be told, I didn’t “get” people who talked about their “fur babies.” Now I get it. Lucy’s the best, even though I’m way below Wendy, aka Mommy #1, in Lucy’s pecking order. It’s never too late to take the leap.
During the pandemic, I’ve been putting in long hours revising my memoir, and I’ve made an amazing discovery: you really only need 3 pairs of pants. Preferably with elastic waists. My new capsule wardrobe. Ha!
Taking a break from the madness and trying to watch The Handmaid’s Tale .... so intense! I want to keep watching but after one episode, my body forces me to switch to lighter fare like Schitt’s Creek....
Bravery means doing something scary—Elizabeth Gilbert
Writing is an act of bravery. Putting your thoughts, ideas, your story, your choices—your life!—onto the page for the world to see is scary. And it’s also exhilarating.
>> We do it because the work matters to us.
>> We are not hobbyists. We’re creators.
>> We’re scared, and we write anyway.
Ask yourself: When does fear show up in your writing life? What are your strategies for handling it when it does?
How to write: Stop not writing. Get and keep your butt in chair—Anne Lamott
Distractions, procrastination, self-doubt, and fear: all forms of resistance that keep us from putting our butts in the chair and writing.
Resistance is universal and insidious—all writers experience it so don’t beat yourself up when you do.
TIP: Find out what works for you and stick with it. My personal plan for getting my work includes non-negotiable time blocks...
A few weeks ago, my whole body was shaking as my right index finger was poised to press SEND. The email on my laptop screen was a request for a “blurb,” aka a testimonial, for Graveyard of Safe Choices, my memoir about weighing the costs of authenticity and becoming brave at any age. I had a list of authors—some famous, some less than famous—with whom I had some personal connection.
Their testimonials would help elevate my manuscript as I pitched it to agents and editors—the gatekeepers in the book publishing industry.
That rush coursing through my body? I recognized it. It was fear. What if no one said yes to my request? What if no one even deemed my request worthy of a response?
I thought of the hours—truly the years—I had put into this book project. My story, my life, my choices, AND my ability to effectively communicate all of that on the page—were about to be put on display for the world to judge …
FEAR. It shows up for...
Choosing a working title is a clarifying exercise that helps you define your book idea before you’ve even written a single word of your manuscript.
Some quick dos and don’ts:
Jacket copy is exactly what it sounds like—it’s the copy you find on the inside flaps of jacket of a hardback book. On a paperback—where there’s no jacket—you find it on the backcover.
Remember when we used to roam around bookstores and pull out a book? Jacket copy is what you’d read to discover whether you want to buy the book.
Jacket copy is sales copy. It lets the reader know what the book is about, why they should care, and ultimately why they should buy it.
As an aspiring author, there are at least three reasons you should care:
#1: Jacket copy forces you to describe your book in a very succinct fashion. If you can’t do that, chances are you are still fuzzy about your book idea—the main point. It’s a sign you still have work to do.
#2: Whatever you choose for your publication path, YOU will ultimately be number one marketer of...
The Elevator Pitch is an important step in building the foundation for your nonfiction book. Your Elevator pitch—or your logline (what they call it in the movie biz) is the 1-2 sentences you want to glide easily off your tongue when someone asks you what your book is about.
If you do the hard work now, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and embarrassment and the uhh … my book is kind of about this … and it’s about ... Trust me, I know all about fumbling when it comes to describing your book.
An elevator ride is about the amount of time you have to capture someone’s attention. If you stammer and hesitate, that elevator door is going to open and your audience is going to walk out … you will have missed your chance to tell them about your book.
Let's talk about WHY it’s important to have an elevator pitch.
Once you decide to write a book—you should...
There's value in building your book’s foundation first, even if your preferred style is to just “get the words out on the page.” Planning doesn't have to squelch creativity.
Pantsers comes from “fly by seat of pants”—just getting your words onto the page.Freewriting: the proverbial "shitty first draft," memorialized by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird . Some writers do find their story, their message by writing first.
Plotters plan out the PLOT or the trajectory of their book. Some like to plan out every detail in advance. They like to know exactly where going before they write a single word so then they just have to execute.
In my experience, the style of writer usually mimics their personality style. If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, take a look at the fourth set of personality pairs: “Js” & Ps—judging and...