Monday, May 12, 2008

Cover Letter Query

I received a few follow-up questions from an ACFW/Ohio member who participated in the Barbour tour a couple of weeks ago, and I thought here would be a good place to respond. If you, too, have a burning question you'd like for us to address, please don't hesitate to e-mail us or pose a question in a comment box.

Also, if you are the first person to guess the author of the sample query letter below, as well as the published title of her book, you'll win your very own copy of this fun cozy mystery.

What do you like to see in a cover letter for the proposal? What do you not want to see?

Memorize this fiction-author mantra: STORY REIGNS SUPREME!

Here's a bullet list of items that comprise the cover letter I want to read:

+ Keep it short. You should be able to provide a good overview of everything I need to know in less than a page.
+ Let me know the manuscript's current stage of completion and how much time you anticipate you will need to finish the project.
+ Following your opening paragraph, lead off with a short summary of the story. The more concise you are in your ability to summarize your plot, the more impressed I'll be. Hook me in 75 words or less.
+ Provide a brief author-introduction. I don't need your life history, just a simple overview of your writing credentials. If you are not yet published in full-length fiction, tell me what you're doing to develop your writing skills. Are you a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers organization (ACFW)? Have you taken writing courses? Entered contests?
That's it. Short. Sweet. To the point. Let your sample chapters and the detailed synopsis that follows do the rest of the editor wooing.

Below, I've provided a sample cover letter from a mystery proposal I found impossible to resist. The results are now in published form. A copy of this book is yours if you post the first correct author/title answer in a comment.

Happy proposing,



Dear Mrs. Downs,

I submit for your review a proposal for a cozy mystery tentatively titled (BLOG-READERS, YOU GUESS TITLE FIRST/YOU WIN). Written in first-person point of view, this is a work in progress with a projected word-count length of 61-62,000 words. I anticipate completion of this mystery project within the next two months.

“This murder stuff is killing my bunions,” says LaTisha Barnhart after her first day of walking around and investigating the murder of Marion Peters. When LaTisha becomes a suspect, the ante is upped and she is determined to clear her name and find the real culprit.

She's burping Mark Hamm's bad cooking to investigate his beef with Marion, getting her hair styled at a fancy salon to see what has Regina Rogane in a snarl, and thinks Payton O'Mahney's music-store lease might be the reason he's singing out of tune when discussion of Marion's murder arises. LaTisha’s thinking she just might use the reward money to get her bunions surgically removed, but she's got to catch the crook first.

My writing credits include "Handled with Care" in Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul, and the introductory story in Living Miracles: Stories of Hope from Parent’s of Premature Babies. I am also a member of Penwrights, a very active critique group, a member of the E-loop, The Writer’s View, and a long-standing member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). I am currently Zone Director for ACFW’s MidAtlantic zone.

Thank you for your time and I hope we will be able to work together on this project.


Jane Q Author


Janelle said...
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NancyMehl said...
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Anonymous said...

Yep, my old ACFW conference roommate, Sandra Moore--although I thought she lived in PA, not Ohio.

Patty Hall

Carrie Turansky said...

That must be from Murder on the Old Bunions by Sandra Moore. : )

Carrie T.

Pam Meyers said...

Carrie already answered but I will, too. Sandra Moore's Murder on the Old Bunions! But she's using a different last name as her pen name with an initial for the first. Sorry, can't remember what it is. Maybe S. Dionne Moore?

Susan Sleeman said...

I just had to come out of my normal lurkdom for this post. No need to post the name and author as it appears as if that's been covered, but I do have to say the book is as good as or even better than the letter. I just finished reading Murder on the ol' Bunions and will be raving about it for a long time. This book is everything a good cozy should be. Great voice, unique characters, and a mystery that keeps you guessing until the end. Congrats to Sandra for penning such a wonderful book and I can't wait until LaTisha arrives in book two, Polly Dent Loses Her Grip.

Mary Connealy said...

I see I am beyond to late. I've got the book at home though and am looking forward to it.
I knew S. Dionne back when she was just Sandra, so we go WAY BACK. :)

Karen said...

She had me at "This murder stuff is killing my bunions". Like Mary, I'm beyond late but thankfully, I have my own copy.

Pam Hillman said...

Murder on the ol' Bunions sounds hilariously funny...slightly sympathetic to my poor aching feet!

Mary Connealy said...

I'm in the middle of Gunfight at Grace Gulch now and loving it. Maybe I'll move Murder on the Ol' Bunions up to the top of the stack.

Jessica said...

Cool, thanks for the info on what you like in queries. Earlier you said you're looking for certain states. My historical is set in a state that you're NOT looking for anymore. If I submitted a query, would that be an instant rejection?
Thanks !

LaTisha Barnhart said...

You all let my bunions rest in peace now, you hear? Not everyone has pretty feet, but did that stop Barbour from slapping them on the cover of this book? What I'm wondering is if you all detectives can guess what that is hanging over the arm of the chair I'm sitting in. . .

Susan Downs said...

Patty Hall, you are our contest winner! Could you please e-mail me at: sdowns(at) and let me know the address where you'd like your book sent?

Thanks. . .and hearty congrats! SKD

Ausjenny said...

Oh Litisha, I think you are an amazing lady great at solving crimes and a great friend and Cook,
did you get enough money to have your bunions fixed?