May 27, 2014

Writing Tips (IV)

 The Query Letter II

 Reblogged from 

How do I format a query letter?

In order to make an excellent impression on agents and editors, you must format your query correctly. This entails being aware of an agency’s or publication’s submission guidelines and following them completely. In the case where there are no specific guidelines available, here are some general formatting tips for query letters:
  • If you query via e-mail, be sure your e-mail address is professional.
  • If querying by mail, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE). This way an editor or agent can notify you when the work has been accepted or rejected.
  • Keep it to one page. Agents and editors are very busy and are looking for a lot of information in a small amount of space.
  • Format it to industry standards. This means white paper, black ink, and Times New Roman size 12 font.
  • Include the date, the editor’s/agent’s name and title, the magazine or agency name and address, and your name and contact information (address, phone, fax, and e-mail).
  • Address it to the right editor or agent. When in doubt, call the publisher or magazine and ask who to send it to. Or buy one of our Writer’s Market books for detailed listings.
  • Spell the name of the publisher or magazine correctly and have an accurate address. Sometimes companies have multiple addresses or locations. If this is the case, know which location or address your contact works at.

What makes a query letter successful?

Remember, a query letter is your chance to introduce yourself to an agent or editor—someone who could potentially publish your work.
The first element of a successful query letter is the referral. When you write a query, don’t generalize your letter with a “Dear Mr. or Mrs.” Instead, be sure to address the agent or editor specifically. Make the extra effort to find out about them. Search online and see what they’ve written about or have mentioned what they are looking for. Then reference the information you learned about them in your query. For example, if you both attended the same writing conference, mention how you met. For more ways to approach editors and agents, read the Guide to Literary Agents or go to
A secondary element to include in your query is the basic information about your proposed story or idea. If you’ve written a fiction piece, mention the title and genre your work fits best in. If you are a nonfiction writer, talk about your proposed title or category for your book. You should also include a one-sentence summary of your story and your final manuscript’s word count or proposed word count of your nonfiction book.
The third element is the hook, which makes up the bulk of your query letter. This is where you talk about the subject matter (for nonfiction) or the characters, plot, and conflict (for fiction). This section should be between 100 and 200 words long.
For fiction writers, focus on who your protagonist is, the conflict the protagonist faces, and the setting—where and when does it take place? You can mention a couple major story beats, but do not give away the ending. For both nonfiction and fiction writers, it’s important to mention how your particular story or idea is different from other books on the same topic. Remember, you are trying to sell your work or idea to a potential publisher. Make sure your unique selling proposition is compelling. One way to achieve this is by avoiding addressing minor plots or characters in a fiction query. For a nonfiction query, you could mention the subject matter, your unique approach, and who the intended audience is.
The fourth element is the bio. In essence, the bio allows you to share with an editor or agent who you are and what expertise you may have. What makes you an authority on your subject? If it is relevant, nonfiction writers can mention their academic background, amount of research they’ve conducted on their proposal’s topic and their most recent (but relevant) published articles. Additionally, writers of either genre can mention their platforms. In this case, it’s okay to include how many Facebook, Twitter, or blog followers you may have because editors and agents want to see the ways in which you connect with your audience and how people know you and your work.
The final element of a query letter is the closing. This is when you should politely thank the agent or editor for their time and make them aware that you are prepared to send the appropriate additional materials at their request. Then sign your query and include your contact information at the bottom of the letter.
Here is an example of a successful query letter:

In summation, a good query letter should show the agent or editor you’ve done your homework; provide them with the key pieces of information they are looking for; get them interested in seeing more; and make them aware that you are prepared to send the appropriate additional materials. Good luck!

May 22, 2014

Reviews (XXVII)

4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat dark and well worth a read, March 7, 2014
Robert Clark
This review is from: Shadows of the Past (Kindle Edition)
Shadows of the Past, by Carmen Stefanescu, is, in effect, two novels intertwined into one. One, set several hundred years ago, revolves around Genevieve and, to a lesser extent, around Andrew. The other, set in the present, has Anne as the main protagonist with Neil as the secondary main character. While Shadows of the Past has to be considered a paranormal romance, the romance element is simply one part of a complex story.

The paranormal aspects of the book start out as hints and suppositions. Even well into the novel the reader has to wonder if the supernatural elements are really there, or are the products of the characters’ minds. Was the venomous snake crawling up to Neil a sending from some evil power or was it just a snake in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are the spectral figures Anne sees real or products of her imagination? Is there an actual linkage between Anne and Genevieve? Only toward the end does Stefanescu leave no doubt that the paranormal is operating as a major factor in her novel.

The constant movement within the two basic time frames, and some back and forth jumps within each, can prove a bit disconcerting at first. However, unlike some novels, in Shadows of the Past the two story lines are always clearly delineated and can’t be confused with each other. As the novel progresses smoothly this ceases to be a problem as Stefanescu draws the reader into the plot.

For those who like their paranormal romances light and fluffy with happy endings, Shadows of the Past probably isn’t a good choice. While most novels in this genre put the protagonists in danger or at least in crisis time after time, they almost always finish with a happy ever after ending. Stefanescu’s work is darker. The threats and problems are as much psychological as physical, and, as in real life, not every problem is easily solved and not every ending is happy.

This does not mean Shadows of the Past is a downer. In the critical story line the good guys win, it’s just that their victory doesn’t mean their lives will always be perfect. I found the concession to realism in the fantasy refreshing.

No novel is perfect, although the imperfections are often less in the novel itself than in the mindset of the reader. There are sections of Shadows of the Past that I found a bit repetitive. However, in all those cases, I could see where Stefanescu would have considered the retelling of specific events critical to make sure the reader understood what was happening.

There was one minor scientific glitch where DNA, instead of something like carbon dating, was used to determine the age of some bones. In the over-all context of the book, the error was irrelevant.

Apparently Shadows of the Past is intended as one book in a series, or at least a book with a sequel, because one rather ominous passage at the end certainly sets the stage for another book.

Carmen Stefanescu’s Shadows of the Past is a little different from the typical paranormal romance, which is a good thing, and is an enjoyable read.

Buy link: Amazon 
All Romance ebooks 

May 17, 2014

Mysterious Romania (II) UFOs in A Place You'd Never Imagined

Portal to a mysterious world?!
As I've promised, I'll bring to your attention those places around here, I mean Romania, that are surrounded by mystery. Areas that generate controversy, legends and make scientists raise their eyebrows or frown over the paranormal manifestations. Today  I'll tell you about another  intriguing  place in Romania.
  The strange sky at Bozioru. 
Bozioru is a commune situated in Buzau county. Many people say its fields have a special fragrance, the rocks seem to be alive and the sky is open towards a new world. The "strange sky" has a dome of unusual clearness. Its  intense tone puzzles men of science as the  shine measurements  made there estimated a value of 23,000 - twenty three thousand - Kelvin degrees. (The Kelvin is used in the measure of the color temperature of light sources.) While usually a sunny day at noon measures around 5,500K in Bozioru it has an almost six time higher value.  A huge difference that has got no explanation so far. 
 What affects and scares inhabitants
The sky has an odd effect on people who say their senses get numb and like hypnotized they feel absorbed in a kind of vortex. The more you stare at this sky, the more you feel sucked into it. People living in the area speak of a tunnel that link Bozioru with the Bucegi mountains, but scientists deny it. And not only the sky is a strange phenomenon. Locals speak about mysterious  persons disappearances,  people who either never appear again or appear in some other places, but not able to tell what happened to them. Electronic devices become nonfunctional. The existence of radioactive springs called by people immortal waters. Magnetic anomalies. UFOs sightings. 
 Want to know more? 
Well, there is an activation of telepathic phenomena and also other extra sensorial events felt by the people who get in those areas.
Historians state that this is the area where Christianity started in Romania. Others link the strange things happening here to several archeological discoveries made by a peasant, twenty years ago. The man found skeletons and skulls of huge  people, around 2,4 meters high. Some say it must have belonged to an unidentified, extremely advanced civilization. Very likely, its people had to leave Terra because of unexpected events.Of course the theory has never been proven or hasn't been made public, yet, there are elements pointing to it: an unusually black soil, as the result of deep burning, a peak that is energetically charged, attracting all lightnings and  magnetic anomalies.
Tests baffled scientists
 Game-like tests have been performed in the area. The participants have been divided into two groups and climbing on two different peaks  they had to exchange, telepathically, their thoughts or other info. The clearer the sky, the more accurate the exchange of info proved to be.  These perceptions, some claim, made possible the accurate discovery of archaeological vestiges. As if the land itself told the  people where these vestiges were.
Mention should be made of a bizarre coincidence between the occult names of the Summerian civilization and the place we are talking about - Buzur – Bozioru. Buzur was an enigmatic god, having as symbol a triangle. He was the one who solved the secrets of the depth; people associated him with a god of the mines. It was as if this god resonated with the people experiencing the perception and helped them discover the vestiges hidden underground.
 Bozioru sky is included in the list of unique phenomena in the world.
Let me know, please, if you have ever visited the area or what do you think about it! 
If you missed the first part of Mysterious Romania, you can read it on 1st May posting.
Buy links

May 12, 2014

Writing Tips (III)

6 Publishers Accepting Unsolicited Manuscripts from Writers - No Agent Needed

Reblogged from Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity
These publishers accept manuscripts directly from writers. As is the case with most publishers that don't require an agent, they have a narrow focus. But, if your work falls into the categories they publish, you will have a good chance of having your proposal read. As always, go to the website, look at their other publications to see if yours will be a good fit, and follow all of their submission guidelines carefully.
Small Beer Press
Small Beer Press was founded in 2000 and is run by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link. It publishes books as Small Beer Press, Big Mouth House, and Peapod Classics, and occasionally chapbooks and a zine - on recycled paper.

They also have an ebooksite for indie presses: Weightless Books.

Generally, they publish 6-10 books per year. They pay a small advance and standard royalties. Their ebook royalty rate is 40% of net receipts. While their catalog is not extensive, they do have two short story collections by Ursula LeGuin.

What they are looking for: Fiction (leaning toward the speculative), both short story collections and novels. No poetry.

How to submit: Print format by post only.

Please send a query with the first 10-20 pages of the book (not the full manuscript) in standard manuscript format, and an SASE (with a Forever Stamp or an international reply coupon) by mail to:

Small Beer Press

150 Pleasant St., #306

Easthampton, MA 01027

Phone: 413.203.1636413.203.1636

Email: info at
Allworth Press

Allworth Press publishes business and self-help information for the general public and creative professionals.  They share distribution with Skyhorse Publishing, using W. W. Norton in the United States. Allworth Press titles are now distributed in Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Southern Africa, the Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Books from Allworth Press have been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Japanese. Allworth Press currently has 300 titles in print.

What they are looking for: Graphic Design, Business, Performing Arts, Interior Design, Art, Theater, Web Design, Book Arts, Photography, Crafts.

How to submit: Prospective authors should submit a book proposal that includes a query letter, synopsis (1-2 pages), annotated chapter outline, market analysis, sample chapter (or two), bio, and SASE.

Send all submissions to: allworthsubmissions If they are interested, they will get back to you within 4-6 weeks
City Lights
City Lights Publishers is famous for launching several poets, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, but this press also specializes in literary fiction and nonfiction. City Lights publishes 12 books a year.

From the website: For over fifty years, City Lights has been a champion of progressive thinking, fighting against the forces of conservatism and censorship. We are committed to publishing works of social responsibility, and to maintaining a tradition of bringing renegade literature from other parts of the world into English. In our function of discovery, we will continue to publish cutting-edge contemporary literature and brilliant new non-fiction.

What they are looking for: Fiction, essays, memoirs, translations, poetry, and books on social and political issues. They do not publish New Age, self-help, children’s literature, how-to guides, or genre works such as romance, westerns, or science fiction.

How to submit: City Lights does not accept unsolicited manuscripts, but they do accept proposals. Prospective authors should submit the following: 

    A one to two-page letter that describes your book and includes your resumé, with a list of any prior publications and information about your relevant writing and professional experience.

    A sample (10–20 pages maximum) of your work.

    An additional outline and table of contents for a nonfiction work.

To receive a response, you must enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). You will receive a reply from our staff within six months letting you know if they want to see a complete manuscript. Telephoning or e-mailing will not speed up the review process.

City Lights takes no responsibility for the loss or damage of submitted materials. Please do not submit irreplaceable materials.

They do not accept proposals by e-mail or at the front desk at City Lights Bookstore.

Please mail proposals to:

Editorial Department

City Lights Publishers

261 Columbus Avenue

San Francisco CA 94133

Chicago Review Press

Academy Chicago Publishers is one of the oldest publishing houses in Chicago. They publish both fiction and nonfiction and have more than two hundred published titles on their list. Academy Chicago publishes about 60 new titles yearly under five imprints: Chicago Review Press, Lawrence Hill Books, Ball Publishing, Zephyr Press, and Academy Chicago.

What they are looking for: Chicago Review Press publishes general nonfiction on a wide range of subjects including history, popular science, music, film, biography, autobiography, DIY, craft, and travel, as well as an award-winning line of children's activity books and young adult biographies. Lawrence Hill Books publishes nonfiction on topics of African American interest, progressive politics, Middle Eastern studies, and feminism. Ball Publishing specializes in gardening books, and Zephyr Press publishes professional development titles for teachers. Academy Chicago publishes memoirs, mysteries, and other exciting, new, and well-crafted fiction and nonfiction.

How to submit: For non-fiction send:

    A brief synopsis of your proposed book in 1–2 paragraphs

    The estimated word count of the final manuscript

    The estimated completion date

    Author biography or resume specifying credentials and publication credits, where appropriate

    Approximate sales of previous books published, if any

    A complete table of contents and/or a complete outline of the proposed chapters

    1–2 sample chapters

For children's activity books, include a few sample activities and list the others

    Any information regarding photographs or artwork for the book

    A description of the target audience and any information about the market

    A list of competing and comparable titles and how your book differs—be sure to tell us what makes your book unique

Please e-mail your proposal to

Their turnaround time on reviewing proposals is about 4–6 weeks.
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