Thursday, September 19, 2013

Actual Query Letter that Got Results: Anna Small, Historical Romance

As part of my Writers Paying it Forward Friday, I'm thrilled to welcome historical romance writer, Anna Small, who is sharing her Actual Query Letter that Got Results and some tips helpful for any writer.

I'm fortunate enough to know Anna personally, and can tell you first-hand her new book, "In the Arms of An Earl" is outstanding! If you liked Jane Austen's books, but wished there was a little more...well, steam, then Anna's book is for you! You can read my review of it on Goodreads here, or follow Anna's links below to her website and Amazon page for more information.

Welcome, Anna! So glad to have you! Let's get right down to your Query Letter that Got Results first--I think it's a great example of How To Sell Yourself in a Query Letter (see my post on that topic here) Would you share your letter here, and tell us what you think made it so successful?

This is my query for the new book that I sent to the agent. I was fortunate to have already built a relationship
with this agent through a different book. She told me she enjoyed my writing and wanted to see my next project, so I had an almost guaranteed audience! I researched this agent and discovered we had both grown up in England and loved Jane Austen. Since this book is a Regency historical romance, I was barking up the right tree! It's important to not just spam every agent and editor out there, but know who you are sending to. A few minutes of reading biographies really makes a difference.
Dear Becky,
Last year I queried you about my historical romance, "Miss Bennet in Love." While you didn't think a Mary Bennet story would sell, you said you enjoyed my writing and would like to see something else. 
I am pleased to submit to you a new Regency historical romance, How To Marry A Rogue. At 97k words, it's set in England and the Bordeaux region of France and involves a rogue who doesn't trust love and an impetuous miss who intends to set him straight.
Independent and spirited Georgiana Lockewood has promised her brother she will consider marriage if he allows her to travel abroad with their aunt. When he asks his best and most trustworthy friend, Jack Waverley, to escort them, Georgiana is delighted to renew their friendship. Jack keeps her at a distance, which confuses her, as they used to be close.
Jack has seen what passionate love can do to a man. His father killed himself when his wife deserted him, and his widowed grandfather is bitter and depressed. So when Jack sees Georgiana all grown up, he knows he has to resist her. When she is accidentally compromised, he steps in to save her reputation. After all, what harm can come from pretending to be in love?
I would be happy to send you the full at your request. I will miss Atlanta this year, but wish you a happy conference if you are going. Thank you for your time.
I write my queries based on a very simple model - 5 short paragraphs with the first one showing a personal connection of some kind, the next paragraph describes the heroine's issue, the third is for the hero, and the fourth is the plot hook. I tend to end with a question, as I did here. The last paragraph would be my writing credentials and published books, but since I already knew her, I mentioned the conference, as she might have gone.

Great advice, Anna--and I love how you end with the hook. 
What is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market?
When critique partners, reading groups, editors, beta readers, etc., tell you to work on or change something, do it! Don't let your ego or dream get in the way. I think a lot of writers are in such a hurry to be published that they don't see the big picture. The other obvious answer is "write a great book!" but that is in itself subjective. What one editor considers great another will consider trash! As far as finding the perfect editor or agent, a writer needs to research the best fit for their project and career. I've seen so many postings from writers saying, "Help! such and such agency requested my book. Does anyone know anything about them?" Worse than that is settling for the first publisher who offers a contract. The biggest hurdle we all have to overcome is patience. A successful career is not made overnight.

If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be?
Following my own advice from the above question! <g>  Seriously, my issue was follow up. Early on in my writing career (probably 20 years ago) I went to my first small conference and met an editor who was extremely interested in my work in progress and requested I send it. Life got in the way and I never did, and always wonder if I would have been published in my 20s, instead of now. By the way, the novel from many years ago ended up being my first published novel, "Tame the Wild Wind."

Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you?
Let's see - I admire the novelists who paved the way for us romance authors today, such as Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, the Brontes, and numerous others. It was harder being a female author then, and their persistence in their art gave us the timeless classics we love today. As an English major in college, I enjoyed reading all the classic British and American lit as I could. My favorites (big surprise here!) are the Romantic poets and authors. As far as contemporary authors, J.K. Rowling's story of how she was a single mom writing in cafes makes me think I have no hardship or struggle in comparison, and no excuse not to write!

I just read your new book, "In the Arms of an Earl" and it was outstanding (link for my review on Goodreads is here)! As a Brit Lit major in college, when I read your Jane Brooke, she felt like a modern take on an Austen or Bronte heroine--a heroine who had the opportunity to experience some steamy romance! ;) Can you tell me your inspiration for the book? 
I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! Jane's character is loosely based on Mary Bennett, the middle sister from Pride and Prejudice. I always wanted to see Mary have her own story, and wrote her one. Obviously, her name is Jane to honor Jane Austen, and Brooke for the B in Bennett. Frederick, however, is completely of my own imagination, although I'll share that I pictured Hugh Jackman in a white shirt and breeches the entire time I was writing!

Yummm...Hugh Jackman...oh, erm, last question:  What's one fact about you that most people don't know? 
I love to SCUBA dive! It's the only adventurous thing I do. So far, I have dived Grand Cayman, Roatan (Honduras), and the Florida Keys as well as the many beautiful springs and rivers in Florida. I'm always looking for sharks and would love to see one. Not a Jaws cousin, of course, but some sweet little nurse shark. When you're underwater with sea life, everything swims around with you, like you belong. I feel like a mermaid!

What are you currently working on?
I have another Regency historical romance sitting with an agent at the moment - so keep your fingers crossed! In the meantime, I'm starting a few new projects and digging up old ones. The best advice I can give anyone is to keep writing and try a variety of genres or plot themes until you find your niche. I love Western romance, and want to finish my followup stories to Tame the Wild Wind. And contemporary romance also has a hold on me. And there's that medieval time travel I started a few years back....

I'm looking forward to your next one(s)!! :) Thanks for joining me today. I know people will want to check you out online. Can you give us your website links and contact information?
Thanks for having me today, Dylan! I hope readers enjoy my books as much I love writing them.
Twitter - @annasmallbooks
FB - anna small books
Anna Small's page on Amazon is here.

Stay tuned for my next Writers Paying it Forward Friday when I will have inspirational romance writer, Jessica Nelson as my guest with her outstanding Query Letter that Got Results.

Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Here is another example of a Query Letter that Worked--it's mine for Despite the Ghosts--here.

P.P.S. Want to get your query letter as spiffy as Anna's? Check out my post on How to Sell Yourself in a Query Letter...and not Sound Like a Jerk here.

P.P.S.S. Want the basics on Query Letter writing? I have a great downloadable cheatsheet on the Anatomy of a Query Letter here, and the Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters here.


  1. Thanks for having me stop by, Dylan! It's great you have been focusing on queries, as just one simple page can make or break a manuscript request. And I'm so glad you enjoyed my book.

    1. My pleasure, Anna! Thanks again for your candid answers and sharing your query letter with me today. :)

  2. Great interview, ladies - and wonderful info! Thank you, Dylan for presenting all this information on query letters. And thank you, Anna for sharing yours! I'm sure I'll be using all these great tips in the near future. :-)
    I didn't know you were into SCUBA, Anna. I used to dive myself, but not much anymore. Loved how you mentioned it made you feel like a mermaid. ;-)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, C.T.! Won't be long, and I'll be featuring YOU as my next query letter success story, eh? ;)