Have you got any good hints for agent query letters, or how to find one? I’ve self-published eight books on Kindle, and with my new series (that isn’t self-published yet), I’d like to try traditional publishing, but all I’m getting are rejections. My self-published books get decent reviews, so I think my quality can’t be that bad…
First, a caveat. I used to belong to a writer email loop, and one time some new authors were sharing their difficulties with submissions. An established author, who had published a break out work a couple of decades ago, immediately informed everyone that this was not how the process worked and that they didn’t understand things. This person hadn’t had to submit their work for a very long time. They simply informed the publisher that their next novel was ready, and the publisher was overjoyed. They completely missed the fact that a debut author’s experience was vastly different and the industry had progressed in the last 20 years.
I haven’t had to hunt for an agent or shop my work for 10 years. Like many established writers, I have only my own frame of reference. My experiences may not be applicable to you.
Now on to the querying process.
Your question is telling me that you are misunderstanding the way this business works. It’s not about your reviews. It’s about your sales. Do you have sales? How many? Get those numbers.
Before you sit down to write your query, let’s gather some data.
- Genre of the work
- Word Count
- Prior sales and experience
- Top 5 choices for your agent
Let’s say that I’m self-published author Lorna Sterling. I have a fantasy romance series of 5 books, which I selfpublished. I chose to not enter it into KU. It sold a total of 30,000 copies.
My new fantasy novel is about a magic military academy focused on creating Pairs. A Pair is a team of two fighters bonded together by magical means which allows them to achieve synergy in battle. The members of a Pair usually consist of a Blade and a Shield, one person who is using offense and one person who defends. Sometimes there are variations, people who can use both offensive and defensive tactics or teams that have two Blades, for example. We are going to have a lot of fights in this book, so we need variety.
At the end of their training, Pairs enter a tournament that determines their placement. The best performing Pairs get cushy jobs like King’s Guard. The worst performing Pairs end up in the city watch or on the border protecting the Kingdom from some terrible threat, we will need to think about it.
I’m building this as we go, so let’s see, I need a hero, let’s name him Ludwig, because I’m feeling German this morning and the name means “famous warrior.” I need a heroine, we will name her Ella in keeping with a German theme.
They need solid motivations for entering this academy. Let’s say Ella’s mother came from a successful merchant family and she married a minor noble. Ella is the oldest of three children, with her sister and brother significantly younger then her, probably about 5 or 6 years. Although Ella has the Pair magic and it is very strong, her plan was never to enter the academy. She was just planning to take over her mother’s business interests, marry for love, and live a comfortable life.
However, Ella’s mother died under suspicious circumstances, and she has a strong feeling that her father might have caused that death. Immediately after her mother’s death, her father assumed control of Ella’s mother’s inheritance. He rapidly remarried and he is very determined to assert his control over his children. Ella needed a place where he couldn’t get to her until she reached majority. The academy provides such a place and if she manages to place in the top three Pairs at the tournament, she will be given a noble title, which will mean she will outrank her father. The title will allows her to wrestle the control of her siblings and the estate away from her malicious parent.
Ella’s challenge in all of this is that she is entering the academy during the final year, meaning she has 12 months instead of the usual 36 to prep for the tournament and find a partner.
We have Ella, so let’s go to Ludwig. Ludwig is hiding his identity. He comes from a prominent Pair family, famous for producing prodigies. Unfortunately, his father was set up by someone he considered a friend. These accusations led to a charge of treason, and when the so-called friend, let’s give him a name… medieval German male name google… Berold. When Berold came to serve the arrest warrant, Ludwig’s parents resisted and were murdered. Ludwig was taken away by his uncle at the last moment and raised far away from the capital, but he vividly remembers that night and watching his parents die.
Berold is now a highly placed lord in the court. Maybe he is the head of some Investigative Bureau or something. Anyhow, he is going to personally award the honors to the winners of the tournament, and Ludwig needs to be among those winners because he is planning to nuke Berold at all costs. Unfortunately, Ludwig’s Pair partner is killed.
Ludwig desperately needs a partner to realize his vengeance, Ella desperately needs a partner to free her siblings, they’re both difficult, their pairing should never work, but somehow it does, and so on. As the fighting synergy and feelings develop, can the two of them survive the steel gauntlet of the academy and put aside their goals to save each other?
Woo, the most predictable plot in the universe. So this is probably a fantasy romance or fantasy with romantic elements. We are going to note this but we won’t be pigeonholing ourselves in the query.
This could be an adult book or it could be a YA. The most common wordcount should be around 90-95K, so we can go about 10K over or 10K under.
Now comps, stories that are similar. So this is a little bit similar to Soul Eater, which is an anime where school children also form pairs, but there one of them literally becomes a weapon that their partner wields. It is also similar to Jayne Castle’s St. Helen series, where one person in a pair is a psychic talent and the other is a prism. I would have to read to see if I could find closer comps that have been published more recently. Ooh, I can reference myself. Reminiscent of Fated Blades. There we go.
Now I need to look at the agents and see if they represent people who write similar things. If the agent represents mysteries, says they only want mysteries on their website, and has no clients in SF/F space, that’s probably a pass. Once you found your agent list, it’s a good idea to do a bit of research. The relationship between the agent and a writer is very personal and requires a lot of trust.
Building the Query
Fair warning, I’m rusty, so this will sound a lot like a book synopsis. It will be slightly cheesier than the tone you want in a query because I’m used to writing for readers rather than agents, and it will also be too long. Ideally you want 1-2 paragraphs for the story summary.
I’m seeking representation for my novel BLACK BLADE, which is complete at 95,000 words. (Very important: you finished it. Here is how long it is.) I very much enjoyed SILVER STAG by Author You Represent. Like SILVER STAG, my novel explores the themes of coming of age, personal sacrifice, and finding love against all odds.
(Note how I didn’t specify the genre of the novel. I know what it is, but I’m not going to categorize my work. It’s not about the label, it’s about the story.)
Like many young noblewomen, Ella Whisper had simple dreams. She’d marry for love, live a quiet happy life, and eventually inherit her mother’s business. But on Ella’s 17th birthday, her mother suddenly dies. Ella’s father assumes control of the business, confines Ella’s siblings, and arranges a marriage for Ella against her wishes.
Ella’s only hope is the Pair Academy, a military school that produces exceptional fighters. Bound by magic into Pairs, the Academy cadets train for their graduation tournament. If Ella’s Pair wins the tournament, she can pry her siblings and her inheritance from her father’s hands. Ella has the magic, but she doesn’t have the training or a partner, and with the tournament coming up in less than one year, the odds are impossible.
Ludwig Blackwood is a prodigy, a standout even in the Pair Academy filled with superior fighters. But he harbors a dangerous secret. He’s the son of a traitor, and if his true identity is revealed, he will be executed. Ludwig spent years honing his martial arts, all for the opportunity to confront the man who had falsely accused his father. To exact his revenge, he must win the Pair Academy’s graduation tournament, and he is well on track until his partner is murdered. Even with his exceptional skills, Ludwig can’t win alone. But his only option is a weak, untrained girl who barely knows which end of the blade to point at the enemy, and if he takes his revenge, she will be implicated by his actions.
To win, Ella and Ludwig must forge a connection that’s deeper than magic. But can they do it in time and will it be worth it at the end?
I’ve previously self-published a fantasy romance series Gemstone Magic, which sold 30,000 copies.
Thank you for your consideration,
Important point to hit: make sure your voice comes through in the query. Don’t go too mechanical or too flowery. Just try to match your narrative the best you can.
And there you have it. One slightly cheesy query for your enjoyment. I very much enjoyed this break from my own writing, so my brain must’ve needed it.
I would buy it if you would write it.
Ms. Kim says
It sounds like a very fun book!
Yeah, I’m in awe. I know you said your brain worked that way, but it’s different seeing it in action, so to speak.
Took me a moment to place Lorna Sterling.
I think you should write this series under that pen name. And then Lorna’s books can be referenced in Kate’s world, in the Innkeeper series… A book-within-a-book joke across worlds. 😉
Caterina Henry says
I believe Lorna Sterling is referenced in Kate’s world. She is the author of Andrea’s favorite books, if I’m not mistaken.
I think Lorna Sterling is married to Luther.
That would be so cool.
Or, Lorna Sterling IS Luther …
Dun, dun, DAAAAA! (insert cheesy dramatic music/sounds here) I love that! 😍
I want to read it. Already emotionally invested. I want to know what happens next …
Thank you for all of your writing!
I just came home from a long day (and week) of being at the hospital with my love,
and came to an empty building,
and didn’t know how to wind down for sleep,
but your writing gave such a relief, and a change of feeling,
that I am very, very grateful.
p.s. Yes, Lorna is the author of Andrea’s favourite books.
What you do is important.
You change our lives in very positive ways. Thank you very much.
Yeah, I had to think about that one.
It sounded so familiar. I may or may not have Googled the name…… 🤣
ANN A says
I was just thinking: did Ilona just write a story for us to obsess about hehehehe.
+1. You have an amazing ability to spin out a captivating story and now the BDH wants more.. always more. Please.
Cris Reads says
I want that!
Yes, I’m sold on Ludwig’s and Ella’s story.
Da**, you are so good you make us thirst for a book idea you made up as you answered a question.
I totally got your voice coming through the summary and how reflects writing style.
Who wouldn’t love this story – lots of opportunity for court and training hi-jinx, Nobel rivalries, hidden intrigues.
Mae Bar says
Yep. But then, we‘d buy everything they‘d write 😁🤷🏻♀️
I had the SAME thought!!
Yes please! You’ve wet my appetite, and now I really want to read this!
Laura Higgins says
Me too, and giving it 5 stars already!
I’m already invested!
Kim D says
Now I want this series bahahahah
This was a great read, thanks for continuing to help other authors find their feet in this confusing business landscape!
Sara T says
🤣 exactly what I was thinking.
Why is your Cheesy so much better than most peoples pepperoni?
Kat Marvel says
Also, the primary comp here is “Resenting the Hero.”
Yessss! Loved that series and then it fell apart on me and was so hard to continue.
That was my thought too! Loved that series!
I never ceased to be amazed at your willingness to help other writers and explain how things work — or at the very least how they work for you. (I understand it’s different for everyone, but stuff like this gives folks a starting place.)
Liv W says
Holy cripes. I’d really love to read the entire Black Blade, should you ever write it.
***Gazes at House Andrews with big puppy dog eyes…🥺 ***
Me – Pretty please with cherry on top?
House Andrews – 🤦🏻♀️
Marcia Sundquist says
I would be interested to see what happens in the story. lol to bad it’s not rezl.
I want to read Ella’s story please! Does she know Ludwig will turn the tables when they win?
Moderator R says
Thanks Gretchen, you just won me a bet 😀
I’m in for the pool on whether this gets turned into a real book or not.
I owe you a dollar, it seems.
Moderator R says
Easiest money I ever made 😂
I’m curious what the bet was. Was the bet how long it would take?
Moderator R says
How many people will ask for it hehe.
And you only bet her $1?
The stakes are low if it’s a sure thing 😂
So true! I’m surprised IA even bet against that… it was my first thought when I started reading this – I bet the comments are full of requests for this book! (I also want to read it 😅)
Business as usual: you sketch a book idea en passant, and the BDH goes wild and wants to throw money at you… just amazing!
PS: You easily fill the top ten of „the best books never (not yet?) written“ with your teasers.
Kat Marvel says
seriously. she even narrates the parts where she’s literally making this up on the fly, and we’re still sitting here going “sounds good. when does it print?”
The narration parts are totally my favorite.
You are amazing! I would happily pre-order this book that you were using as a throw away sample!!!! Talk about a voice coming through!
…And now I kinda want to read this book. sigh.
Dear House Andrews,
You did KNOW that that was going to happen, right?? You’ve met us…
With love and appreciation,
Also, thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions, and make as sure as you can that they are applicable to the asker!
Ms. Kim says
Sandhya Rao says
Ok this was amazing. Not just the overall advice and help in figuring out matters like this, but the awesome ad-lib story as well! As always, I’m in awe of you. And now I want to read Ella Whisper and Ludwig Blackwood’s story.
Megan W says
Me, too! It sounds interesting! And lots of room for growth and cool adventures. I’ll buy it. I’ll buy anything HA writes.
I’m curious as to what is seen as an adequate amount of sales to interest an agent/publisher. My husband self-published his first novel two years ago (just as the pandemic started – not great timing in terms of signings, etc). At this point he’s sold most of the first printing of 1,000 despite having done only a little promotion or advertising. Obviously, it’s not a run-away bestseller. But it’s also sold well more than the average self-published book. So… are these good sales? Poor sales? What’s the threshold?
If he were writing a query, I would reccomend mentioning it. Some sales is better than zero sales, and it is also proof that he can take an idea all the way to the complete book stage.
That was interesting. Thanks! And frankly I’d probably read the little story altho I don’t read a lot of YA. Too damn old to relate to the angst.
If you don’t write Black Blade, I at least want to see a copy of it in Andrea’s hands the next time we run into her!
Love your idea! 💯
Ms. Kim says
Yes, though, I am imagining a young Conlin with a friend sniggering and reading it out loud. “Ew! Kissie stuff!”
I agree with others. You write the book. I will buy and read it then recommend it to everyone.
Courtney Mincy says
Sooo… Black Blade preorder link? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
You knew it was coming!
Waitwaitwait! So this isn’t a new Kinsman book?! 😱
Sooooooo, I would read that story. LOL
Elizabeth Weishaupl says
Thank you so much for your experience and helping new writers. I always find your insights in the business of writing very I teresting. I have a very basic question. How do you go about finding a list of agents?
Identify writers that write in a similar genre. Google to see who represents them. 🙂 Also ta-da! https://www.pw.org/literary_agents
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
ooo, sharing that one with my writing group!
also yeah, I thought the summary sounded like a Kinsman book and I’d read it. Even if you published it under Lorna Sterling (tho why you’d do that I don’t know).
Now I want to read Ludwig and Ella’s story. Predictable plot aside…you do realize what you just did “off the cuff” was incredibly remarkable, right? That’s a bestseller you just came up with on the spot.
Lorna Sterling. Now I remember. Romance author that Andrea likes so much. It took me a very long time to remember why I knew that name. I am not sure how sad it is that I remembered the name of a fictional author barely mentioned in a series but cannot remember phone numbers or the last thing on my shopping list.
I was wondering where I heard that name from too😂😂
Follow up question to the post… When you send the letter, do you send the entire book or just the first few chapters?
Oh, and just out of curiosity… Do agents have a Drop Box for submissions, or just email with an attachment, or still snail mail the pages?
Every agency is different. you have to read their submission guidelines.
Valerie in CA says
Very interesting. I don’t have a book or such, strictly a reader. This was very interesting to read.
Ms. Kim says
Thank you for this! ❤
I have to laugh because I am also one of the BDH salivating for a book that isn’t even real just because you threw an idea out there. If you ever write that idea into a story you know we all would buy it. Also, I love how you guys support other authors.
David D. says
Step 1: Please write this.
Step 2: Please rename it to avoid confusion with Jennifer Estep’s existing Black Blade series. Or not, I’m not the boss of you.
It’s not a real book. 🙂
It’s not a real book YET.
David D. says
Just crush my dreams, why don’t you? ;(
OK, we are totally hilarious.
I bet Ilona hit ‘send’ on her advice shaped as an imaginary query and then thought –
Oh, hang on, I just waved a new series in bright scarlet right in front of the BOOK DEVOURING HORDE… bet anything they’re all going to charge forward asking for it, to read!
And true to form, of course we do… how could we not?
Not interested in Ella and Ludwig.
Very much interested in Hugh and Alara, Roman and unknown person, Luther and his adventures, Kate and Wilmington, Mysterious project, and Innkeeper.
Moderator R says
It’s not a real proposal 🙂
I know. Simply stating my position. 🙂
Totally agree. Sounds too YA. I want Kate! Hugh! Roman! Julie! Derek! Or if we want to switch genres, Arabella! Or a new Edge book! (Yes, yes I know. It’s a dead series. I’ll just cry myself to sleep tonight thi;Ming about it.).
@Dyna – I’m with you on the Edge Series. I wish it weren’t dead. I cherish each mention of George, Jack, Lark & Gaston in the Innkeeper Series.
Leena Garandan says
Thankyou!! Love these stream of consciousness prices of advice. Glad you got a brain break and hope the writing odds are ever….. 🤣
huh, isn’t there a book with a similar premise of a bonded pair (one source & one shield) by Moira J. Moore? Could count as a Comp?
none of the rest of the stuff is similar – academy, traitor etc. but that bit caught my attention! Also I think iirc the girl didn’t like the guy at the beginning.
I haven’t read Moira J. Moore, so it’s highly possible that the premise is similar. 🙂 If it sold well, it can absolutely be used as a comp.
Donna A says
I enjoyed that series lots, they were called Source and Shield, bonded pairs that channel natural disasters. I don’t think the book covers were reflective of the content even though I quite liked them.
Sadly the publisher cancelled the series, but happily Moira J. Moore self-published the last book in eBook format. It was not long after my first kindle, I was browsing smashwords and remember randomly seeing Heroes Reward and being thrilled beyond words! Thank goodness for self-publishing!
Unfortunately I don’t think she’s published anything else since which is a definite shame. But at least I can still read her Heroes series whenever I want.
For your mention I will curse at thee…aaarggggh!
Yes, it is now on my list! lol if I can’t have Black Blade then I will have the comp 🙂
Totally agree on the Heroes-serie of Moira J. Moore, both as a comp and as a very interesting series, enjoy it again every other year just because she is such a snarky heroine
And now I want to read Ludwig and Ella’s story told as only the Ilona Andrews team can write it….. *snicker* we are a hungry, hungry horde.
Ok, if you write this series, I’m absolutely buying.
I would totally buy this book if you would gift us with writing it 😊
Stacy McKnight says
So I would buy that book if you wrote and published it unless it was YA. Ok maybe even if it was YA lol.
I always appreciate the time you take to address these types of questions from fans. I have learned so many useful things from this blog!
Patricia Schlorke says
I’m snickering right now. First don’t bet with Mod R about people asking about an example, made up story. Second, the made up example made me think of a matador cape flapping while the collective BDH is trying to grab it. 🤣🤣🤣🤪🤦♀️
This would be amazing as a tapas series!! Lol think of the snappy uniforms and the visuals!! Lol jk I’d buy it in whatever medium you put out🥺
Tina in NJ says
Isn’t it a little early for April Fools? Reference Warlord’s Choice. Thank you for the synopsis, even if the book isn’t real.
Morgan Harnly says
I would read that story in an instant! Please write this! Haha
I have to admit – I love the clarity of your writing. who knew reading someone else’s cogs turning could be so enjoyable? Fancy writing a manual about tax returns? I’m sure if anyone could make this interesting and a bestseller, you could.
I’d read that book for sure, it it April 1st by chance?
And now I wish Lorna Sterling was real and the book had actually been wrote…
Like others have said if you wrote it I would buy it 🙂 🙂
David Dyar says
I’d seriously buy this in a heartbeat 💓
The writing business posts are fascinating. If no one has asked yet, I’d love to hear about HA’s cover design process. What determines whether you use one of your cover artists and whether Ilona crafts it? What creative process and tools does Ilona use when she creates the cover? What process do you like best (cover artist who uses live models, cover artist who uses database images, creating your own, etc.)?
David Dyar says
This sounds like the kind of book Lorna Sterling would write 🤣
And I’d buy it too! Would she still have Ludwig dressed like a pirate with his hard nipples showing through his silk shirt? I can see Andrea trying to meet Lorna at a book signing like a fan girl!🤦♂️🤣🤦♂️
Wow and thanks you for an Hypothetical glimpse into a new work and advice.
Hee-hee, of course ModR knows the ever hungry BDH would be baying for it to be real! 😀
Welp, Now you need to write this book. 😂
I am beyond impressed that you came up with that idea off the top of your head and a little concerned that you think it’s “the most predictable plot in the universe.” While I’m salivating for more.
I don’t think you could produce predictable if you tried.
Lisa Charlotte says
Ilona and Gordon are sneaky. Some day I expect to read a blog post with a surprise 1st chapter of Black Blade. Just sayin’.
So I’m guessing this book must be underway, or Ilona didn’t learn from the “Hugh has a book coming, ;D lmao” April Fool’s prank incident lol
Debi Majo says
Debi Majo says
Wow! Just WOW! Now I want to read that story!
Okkkkk, now you have to write that story 😂😂😂😂😂
First, thank you for another interesting view into the publishing world (strictly a reader here).
Second, that was seriously easy money for Mod R! 😂
You know better than to wave that red cloth in front of the BDH!
You can’t dangle a plot with all my favorite tropes in front of me like that and expect me not to get excited! I’d buy that for sure (from you) as long as it wasn’t YA.
Ok totally off topic, but a few years ago, on the blog, there was a snippet from one of the kids. I was wondering if they ever finished it? Because it was good.
+100 on the update, if available!
(Kid 2, I think?)
um… can we please have Black Blade at some point down the track?? please and thank you!
I also think Black Blade would be a great series and I would preorder it now. I don’t know how you can be so good that your quickly thought out synopsis is so much better than some stories I’ve purchased.
A Master Class/TED talk on what you need and how to apply to agents for their consideration. There are college and university professors who can’t lecture this precisely to save themselves.
(Sat through some long, dreary winter afternoons in a *previous* lifetime….)
Linda Trainor says
now I want to read the book… please 🙏
*bookmarks this for the next query rounds*
Am I the only one getting Cinderella vibes? 🙂
Okay… so what happened next with Ella and Ludwig? what do you mean their pairing shouldn’t have worked? what’s wrong/what’s right with them? Are they gonna produce Pair babies? Miss Ilona, i need more!!! 😭😂🤍
I know right?!
A short snippet and I’m already so invested!
This sounds so good – would love to read it – or at least know what happens at the end 😬
I remember years ago reading a Jostein Gaarder book where the lead character had a lucrative job selling plots to authors with writer’s block. Would you sell this plot to someone else to write?! Does such a job really exist?
Please Black Blade needs to happen. I am fully invested. 😭😭😭
Jo O says
It amused me that you made this up on the spot and called it cheesy. We all know it you ever decided to write this it wouldn’t be your average cheddar!
Estara Swanberg says
I don’t know about Ella being a particularly German name – if you were going for Brother’s Grimm the girl is Aschenputtel (which isn’t a female name in Germany either, heh). Anyway I was thinking I now want to read this book you outlined as well as I hope you’ve come across Obsidian’s Pentiment as a game! https://pentiment.obsidian.net/
uhm wait… Can I go to this academy? lol wow I am now thinking I need to read this. Once again great advice and thank you for taking the time to answer queries.
P.S. I will be waiting for the black blade book release date now
Meg Duncan says
is your Magic Tides cover of Kate a stock photo? I just saw a book on Amazon from Serena Nova, the full blood series, audio, read by Troy Duran and Kendall Taylor, the cover is Kate, in the same pose, in the same black tee shirt, everything except the sword was replaced by white vapor.
Moderator R says
Yes, it is a stock photo lady at the base 🙂
I’d buy that…
Would you consider writing it if we pestered you enough? 😉
Moderator R says
It is official House Andrews policy to not negotiate with terrorists 😉.
I should know, I pestered about Julie+Derek Kissy Face for a whole year 😂
What’s the policy on bribery? Begging?
Dang! Not even if we add pictures of cute kittens?
There go my hopes…
Yeah can we have this hypothetical book made into an actual book?
Bill Page says
And there you have it, folks. A fully imagined novel, knocked off in an hour on a Tuesday morning. Geniuses walk among us!
We are the BDH hear us roar. +1000 on all the requests for this book to be written (echoing what others have said earlier about buying anything House Andrews wishes to write).
Thank you for sharing your experience – it’s helpful for aspiring writers on what to do to get started. 🙂
nice. fun to write for you, fun to read for me. thanks
… I want to read that book!
Badmama Battillo says
Ilona, don’t you realize that our expectations often become your reality? 🙂
So, hey, I didn’t see the release date for Black Blade?
I’ve got my card out and am ready to pre-order, Lorna aka IA!
[jk but oh I wish it were true]
Well, now I’m invested in Ludwig and Ella. Please write this book
Lorie Jean Barnes says
I agree with so many others that I would definitely read this series if you wrote it, especially if it was under the name Lorna Sterling! To me, that’s the wonderful thing about having authors I, as a reader, love. There’s something magical about the way your imagination works. No matter what you write, I’m guaranteed to love it. As a reader, that’s a priceless gift. 🙂
Angela Knight says
You do realize the BDH now wants this book, right?
I do. /drooooolls
Wow… I think you made a mistake.. Now we all want the story!!!!
Friday night snippet?? Please??
Pretty please!!!??? 🙏🙏🙏🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
This post is lovely. It id entertaining for someone like me, who is not writing a novel but loves anything to do with books, and hopefully enough real information to get someone started on their journey to publishing.
Most predictable plot in the world or not, I would read the hell out of that story. It’s amazing that just tossing off a random story idea that House Andrews already has me skimming Amazon looking for a similar plot
LOL. Now I want to know what happens to Ella and Ludwig. sigh.
Thank you for this detailed, thoughtful, empathic and no-nonsense tour and sample letter. I greatly appreciate the care you (all) demonstrate so often and fully for your readers. grateful…
Johanna J says
I want to read that novel. Please add my name to the list. 😁
*This* is why your books grab the reader and immerse them in the world you’ve just invoked with your writing. You’ve just set the scene so well that everyone wants to know what happens next. *Everything* you write is like this, every time.
That’s the only way fiction works for me – whether the world in question is a military academy in the far future or a sleepy rural village in New Zealand. If I can’t believe the in the surroundings, I never connect with the characters.
(Read DNF – “Important” books seldom manage this, so I don’t bother with them. life’s too short to read what someone else wants me to read.)
It would be a shame to waste the effort. Perhaps this should be an anthology or a series – “Here’s the first few scenes. Where do you go from here?” and see who answers.
You’d have to find an editor. You two have books to write…
Am I the only one who wants to see Ella and Ludwig win the Pairs?
Thank you for so thoughtfully and thoroughly answering the author’s question.
A few short paragraphs and I’m immersed in a new world.
If you wrote it, I would read it.
Diane Hughes says
I’m impressed with how very kind and generous of you it was to respond to this question with so much depth and detail. I’m glad it gave you a break from writing but, what you had to say was beyond the call of duty to your fans and readers. You rock.
If the number of requests doubles or triples, does ModR get additional dollars?
This is great info and wonderfully succinct. It makes what can seem like an absolutely overwhelming process something easier to break into achievable steps. That’s so wonderful and appreciated.
That’s just amazing how you’ve broken that down with a book description that grabs the attention & makes us want to buy it! Respect!
Yes I want to read it! I would read it if you wrote it. The beauty of the “predicable” plot is that it’s actually quite brilliant but not so predictably successful as when YOU write them!!
Please write that book! 😁
Yikes! I want to read that book that you just threw out to the universe off the top of your head.
Joel D says
This article was fantastic! I am just starting out as a writer (have the concept, but am only beginning to get into the meat and potatoes), so learning these intricacies from someone in the industry is invaluable. Thank you!! I would love to hear more about how the literary agent relationship works in the modern world, most sources on the subject seem to be 20+ years old. Thank you, again, for all you do, Ilona.
Sorry, but *sniggering* and *giggling* and *outright laughing*
But “Good Work!” on the Julie and Derek kissing nagging Mod R!
I don’t want to read it ahead of any of the books already in planning (Hugh and Elara! Julie and Derek! Innkeeper! Maggie! Have I left anything out?). However, if you get bored or bogged down with those and want to switch to something else for a break, take my money.
Gloria Magid says
So am I allowed to say that I would like to read Ludwig and Ella’s story? It sounds like I would love it!
I think this is very useful information. Especially, for those that write for personal pleasure and are considering self-publishing or finding an agent and haven’t got a clue where to begin.
Thanks for all of that, Ilona. My feeble attempts at gaining a publisher’s attention was via writing contests in the past. I won a couple and was rejected both times.
Self-pub has been our pathway for the 20ish books we’ve written. Lots of solid critique partners, 3rd party editor, and artist. I admire yours and Gordon’s ability to crank out so many for all the deadlines you deal with.
For us, writing has been a fun, if demanding side hustle.
Mickie T says
I’m laughing because somewhere along the line of comments, Black Blade (not a book, just an example) went from “When is it coming out?” to “I’d read that series!” I’m just sitting and sipping from my BDH mug, still laughing.
On query writing I suggest reading the Query Shark until your eyes rebel and go have a beer without you. https://queryshark.blogspot.com/
I think I read something very similar by Moira Moore. Also a good series with very good humour, although somehow unfinished.
Anyhow, the BDH is waiting patiently (or so we like to pretend) for our favourite authorlords to give us the next book.
Astrid, if you search this blog on ‘Moira’, you will find earlier comments on her: the series WAS finished by selfpublishing an Ebook, which very satisfactorily rounded the series. As said before, I reread them every other year 😀
Lol, now waiting for announcement of when I can get Black Blade.
Maureen Gonzales says
Ilona, you are so generous with your knowledge. I am sure many new writers are taking note.
How does it work out betweens Ella and Ludwig?! even knowing the arc, it’s the character personalities that reel me in. My ride or die authors excel at this. Of course the best characters can’t even save a story line with logic fails, inconsistencies, and “OH look, the villain escaped yet again to continue in the next pointless installment” along with too stupid to live decisions by otherwise lovely characters. But I digress…
I have no interest in writing/publishing, but I still appreciate your efforts in giving complete and very helpful guidance to the person asking for advice.
I would so purchase and read that book…. If you have a spare moment please someone write it LOL
Now I want to read this book/series!’
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s not real. So was House Andrews’ April Fool book blurb making that jerk Hugh d’Ambray a hero. And we ALL know what happened there …
By the way, do you still have a link to that? I would love to see that again and laugh my head off!
And, like many others mentioned above, thank you for your care and help to all those still aspiring authors out there who need a little guidance. Y’all are gold!
Moderator R says
The April Fools post is no more!
Kelly M. says
Um. Ok, so… now I really need to read this fictitious book. 😂 Like, reeeeally. Waaaaaant!
trailing wife says
Hugh April Fool’s Day aside, Ilona can be really disciplined about what she won’t write. I am still in unrequited love from her 2017 Red Riding Hood writing example. Join me in remembering here, if you’d like: https://ilona-andrews.com/2017/on-outlining/.
That was fascinating! Thank you!
Elizabeth Molnar LaFleur says
After reading the latest article on writing, I would like your take on some specific areas in the querying letter process. I do have sales figures on my original book I published in 2003.
The genre is Chinese Silk Embroidery, its ancient developmental history, its spread from the Orient over 5,000 years into different cultures and effects in those cultures, cultural changes coming from other cultures, its influences even into today’s world of commerce, not just clothes.
In reference to the total number of words in one’s text, would a list of details such as number of text pages; number of color pages and of black & white design page; chapters by individual dynasties of China and other countries; economic influence that grew into how today’s business processes work, to select a few substitutions for total word count. my book was just over 320 pages.
Explanation that the entire story of silk developments and influences are drawn from the discoveries of an exceeding large number of world-wide scholars who have published in academic texts and used in their teaching the future scholars. I went to China numerous times to study with a master in Suzhou, China. To put the pieces of individual works together for an entire story for the enjoyment of the public of mankind’s history was my goal. Even embroidery stitchers have an interest in the history of their work.
I have not tried to contact an agent as I think that selling it to a university, a UNESCO department, an art museum with a large leaning to spreading history might be better. From comments I have received when I lectured and demonstrated stitching the art here in the US, Canada, Ireland, England, among the general public there is a large interest outside of only academia. So after my husband’s passing, I have concentrated for more years on the research necessary to update my 2003 book. Any thoughts you both can give me would be greatly appreciated. I hope this posting is not too long, but I tried to be specific as you had written. Thank you dfor your attention to my request.
Moderator R says
An answer to your question was provided in today’s post https://www.ilona-andrews.com/2023/agent-query-and-rejection-follow-up/ 🙂
Very cool. It’s so nice when established professionals take the time to help those up and coming. I enjoyed the lesson. Thanks
I would read the hell out of that book.
Just write the damn thing already :)))))) you have it all plotted out already :))) I would buy it lol
Ok. Now am invested.
#Ella and Ludwig
as everyone already said would buy and read this!
I loved following the processing of your mind to create the story!!! that was amazing!!!
Fascinating. I really enjoy these peeks behind the curtains of the business.
Phil Majors says
When will you begin beta reading of Black Blades? It’s too intriguing to leave it at this level!
*giggles* at the voracity of the BDH over a made up example novel.
thank you for taking the time and explaining so well. i’m not a writer but i do find it interesting how the behind-the-scenes stuff works for authors.
Just going to say that the silhouette up top reminds me of Herge from Marriage and Swords on Tapas. It doesn’t look like her, just reminds me of her fighting style.
Cathy R says
Please write this so I can buy it to read and re-read. I am still wondering about the girl in the snippet who had to go with her aged dragon in her father’s place. How is she faring?
love your mentoring info. thank you very much
Amanda Tinsley says
I need to learn to stfu 😅😅😅
TY for sharing the information!!!
i like the idea of this book, just don’t make it a YA, can’t stand them, i’ll read it if You write it
Ok, now I want to read the book!
When will you learn putting even throw away plots like this out will garner tonnes of interest and have us all on fire for it. We’re invested now and you’ll probably get queries for the next few years along the lines “When is that Black Blade book going to be released, I’m sure I saw it on the roster…” Gotta say, sounds pretty good start to a plot (in your skilled hands, it wouldn’t ever hit cheesy).
Aminah Cherry says
obviously we all want this book now
Remember the snippet you posted about the girl and her family on the family farm, and a man in ObiWan robes appears at the door and calls in a debt and the girl has to leave with him? I think about that book concept a lot! Maybe you have worked more on that?
I’m late to the party, but I’m like everyone else in the BDH: 100% would read this. Haha.
It should be a charge of treason and piracy. I’m fairly certain there needs to be pirates 🏴☠️ in this book. Either way, I’ll read it. Where’s the preorder link?
Marti Wulfow Garner says
I want to read this book.
Richard Manning says
Baen. I used to do slush pile reading for them, and you literally cannot believe what is submitted. Just having a well written novel that hangs together will throw you to the top of the pile.