Editor Lisa Ann Sandell on query letters
Revision update: On chapter 16 of 30. Still on track for end of February finish.
If you missed my first report from the conference, Balzer & Bray editor Ruta Rimas talked about what makes a great book.
10-year Scholastic editor Lisa said she mainly works on middle-grade and young adult fiction, rarely non-fiction and even more rarely picture books. Among the books she has edited are the Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo, The Fire Eternal by Chris d’Lacey, Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah and the upcoming Shadow from Houston-area author Jenny Moss.
Lisa said that YA paranormal and fantasy have a bit of a glut, and she’s hearing that mysteries might be about to make a comeback.
She prefers character-driven books to plot-driven, and looks for strong character and voice.
“It’s about the words and how they come together on the page,” she said.
She said that when a writer is looking to submit to editors, they should find an individual editor who has the right sensibilities for the manuscript, rather than submitting to a general imprint. But, she also urged writers to get an agent, as the agent will be on the writer’s side.
She also admitted that manuscripts that she receives from an agent go to the top of the pile.
A query letter, she said, is like meeting someone at a cocktail party and having 30 seconds to make them excited about your book.
She suggested writers construct a description of their book that can fit on one side of an index card. Then, condense it further so it will fit on a Post It.
It should be a concise summary of the plot, with characters, conflict and theme.
The writing style also should come through.
Include a brief intro that says who you are as is relevant to the book, keep it short and hit the right tone — respectful and professional, but not too casual.
What not to do:
- no marketing info. The book is the priority.
- no adjectives.
- no comparisons.
Check back tomorrow for notes from Simon & Schuster‘s Alexander Cooper on submitting to editors.