Wednesday, July 29, 2009

55 Query Contest

I am seeking representation for my 55,000 word Series Romance, Love In The Spotlight. I’m targeting the Silhouette Special Edition line. I know many authors submit directly to Harlequin, but I believe an agent would be able to help me better guide my career.

When the paparazzi follow Hollywood bad boy Teague Reynolds to sleepy Willowbrook, he hires Kate Riley to pose as his girlfriend for the summer so no one will know why he’s really there. Kate’s desperate for cash to pay off her stepfather’s tax bill. Otherwise, he goes to jail, and her pregnant teenage stepsister is left with no one to care for her but Kate. So Kate reluctantly makes a deal with the handsome devil and flies off to L.A. with the movie star heartthrob. Kate’s determined not to fall for Teague, a gorgeous womanizer like her stepfather. Her mother may be dead, but Kate will never forget the pain he caused her.

Teague is intrigued by beautiful, funny Kate; but he didn’t earn his nickname T-Rex for his romantic ways. He’s left a trail of broken hearts across tinsel town. Teague has worked hard to keep anyone from getting close to his heart. Hell, his own mother gave him up for adoption when he was just one year old. That’s a lifetime of hurt he’ll never get over.

But this jet-setting farce he’s created with Kate is the perfect setup for two wary hearts to find love—until Teague’s secret back in Willowbrook threatens to ruin everything.

I am a member of RWA and my local writer’s group. I’ve had thirty romantic short stories published in the True Confessional magazines in the past two years. Woman’s World magazine published my romantic short story “Picture This” in June 2009.

I’ve attached the first 250 words of my manuscript. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Kate Riley parked her Jeep in front of the restaurant and glared at the old brick building. This is where she’d be spending her summer. Normally, the break from her job as middle school nurse meant a breather from moody tweens and time for a few hot books at the beach. Not this year.

“Thanks for the ride,” Dina said, hopping out, nearly tumbling forward from the weight of her baby belly. “I can find a lift home.”

“Maybe from the baby’s father?” Kate asked. “Ready to tell us who that is?”

Dina rubbed her stomach and shook her head.

“Can your father drive you home?”

“George was gone when I got up.”

Kate’s stepfather was so unreliable. “Out getting a job?”

“Doubt it.” Dina paused. “The boss is in, if you want to ask about that waitress position. It’ll be filled if you wait.”

That’s what Kate was hoping. Working with her step-sister Dina and a bunch of surly teens just might kill her. But Kate did the mental math again. She needed an extra twelve thousand dollars by summer’s end to help a man she couldn’t stand. Why, why, why did she make that promise to her mother before she died?

She leaned against her car, willing herself to go inside and fill out the application. But she was distracted by a tall, handsome man hurrying toward her. He grinned in a practiced way that undoubtedly made women swoon. Dumb women, anyway. “Can you give me a ride?”


  1. I was almost hooked by your sentence "When the paparazzi follow Hollywood bad boy..." That sentence alone made me want to read the sample page to see the writing. But the rest of the query feels like it needs to be tightened to me. I want to know what the secret is, or at least, why he has to have a girlfriend to keep them from learning it. You don't have to spill the beans, just give me more of a hint.

    Also like his nickname. :-)

    The writing was okay. I'd probably read another page, but I don't think I'd end up requesting a partial, mostly b/c I don't read series romance and I wasn't hooked quite enough.

  2. i thought the query was pretty good! hooky storyline, though i thought being given up for adoption when he was one causing a lifetime of pain might have been not quite enough reason for his walls. just my opinion (as a person who was adopted).

    i think the problem with a lot of romance is that it can sometimes feel contrived like that, though, so it would probably work better on someone else.

    the writing was good, i thought. again, i felt the situation where she had to help her step-dad because of a deathbed promise to her mom felt sort of contrived and just tossed out there. i probably would stop reading as those types of things continued to happen.

  3. Though I'm not typically a romance reader, the query hooked me and I continued to read the exerpt. Both were very well done. I would take a look at brimfire's recommendation about giving more of a hint about Teague's secret.

  4. Hooked. I liked the query and the 250 words. Life is complicated it shows in your plot. We don't always like our commitments to family, but we still have to deal with them. I'd read the story.

  5. Hooked. I like how you're specific about your genre and whom you'd target. Writing credentials sound impressive. Story starts right in with plot points covered in the query. I think you deliver what you promise.

  6. This is just so well done. Just a couple of suggestions:

    I think you could back off a few of your descriptions of Teague, and that would help tighten things up. Just in the first paragraph you call him all of these things:

    1. Hollywood bad boy
    2. handsome devil
    3. movie star heartthrob
    4. a gorgeous womanizer

    I would cut at least two of those. I also think you could combine the sentences about why Kate's doing this. Something like:

    Kate's only in it for the cash, which she needs to pay off her stepfather's tax bill and keep him out of jail so he can continue to take care of her pregnant teenage stepsister.

    Okay, so you can make that SO much better, I'm sure. But it gets a little choppy with the details around there, and I think you could make it flow better. Also, saying that her stepsister would have no one to care for her but Kate makes Kate sound a little selfish--like she'd rather pawn her sister off on her dad. And I'm not sure that's what you're going for.

    Again, though... WELL DONE! I fully expect to see this on shelves soon.

  7. Good query. You get to the point quickly and tell what the story is about.

  8. With the exception of the first paragraph, I was hooked. Maybe consider moving the first paragraph to the end of the query to have me drooling to read the first page sooner. Just a word of caution -- not many agents rep category romance, so be very picky about where you send this letter.

    You did a good job plunging us right into the story and its conflicts. I'd want to read more.

  9. Wow, if I were into romance novels, I'd totally be into this. Great job! I thought both the query and the sample were great.

    Good job and good luck!

  10. Query:

    The fake girlfriend is meant to keep everyone distracted from... what?

    I do think this could be tightened up quite a bit.... but it is hookable.

    Snippet: Looks good.

  11. The query hooked me but I stopped reading the partial after encountering too many cliches. They give a shallowness to what otherwise might be a good story.

  12. Great query, your voice shines through and sets the tone for the story. Also loved the sample page, would read further

  13. Hooked. I don't read contemporary romance, but this is one I would pick up.

  14. I really like your concept. It seems fresh, but that may be because I don't read much in this genre. Anyhow, this was the first query that actually enticed me to read the pages.

    I think this opening scene is a good one; it communicates a lot of information without just telling us. However, the line "Kate's stepfather was so unreliable" pulled me out of the narrative because it was definitely telling, not showing, and the dialogue adequately communicated that point, anyway.

  15. You've got style. I'm definitely hooked. But if I was your agent you might not want to work with me, becasuse I can be down right anal. Therefore, I am going to suggest possible minor improvements. Remember, this is for the both of us, to get you published.
    Jet setting didn't work for me, since she was only hired to "be" in one place...or clarify. "so no ne will really know why he's there (Willowbrook).
    The 250ish:
    I'm surprised by the nearly tumbling. The preggy's I've known are overly careful, but heck, it's funny.
    Tag "George was.... or the line before, because the reader isn't acquaited yet with your pace and character habits.
    In fact, tag the next two also, because I lost my way.
    So I assume Kate: Can your father...
    Dina: George was gone...
    Then comes Kate's stepfather was so unreliable, so maybe the above is reversed.
    "out getting a job." is on the same line as Kate's stepfather was so reliable, so I assume the POV has changed to Dina. If it's Kate's POV then Out getting needs a tag and a separate line.
    Change "if you wait" to "if you don't get on it." (for clarity).
    "can you give me a ride?" should be on a separate line to avoid confusion as to whom is saying it (although it's very clear to me, it's the movie star, it's better down a line.
    That's it, I fell all analed out. Gee, thanks.

  16. Thanks everyone! Lots of good points, (none too anal Locksley!) I'm so torn on how much of Teague's secret to give away in the query. Decisions...decisions....

  17. Really good. Hooked. Liked the voice in both your letter and the snippet. Kate is likable, and from the query, I definitely want to learn more about the relationship with Dina. You paint a vivid picture of her not liking her stepfather, so you've already enticed me to see how that step-sister dynamic goes. Overall, hooked by the premise. Would read on. Also, impressive credits - all in a two year time span. Not that this matters at all, but maybe start with your most recent, then the 30-in-two-years, then RWA and group? I don't think it makes a difference, but just an idea. Heck- June 2009 is pretty fresh. Still on stands- that's great because agent could still maybe access it- just I am getting off topic, haha.

    The only minor issue I have is with your intro - I don't know if "I know other writers...but I believe an agent would help me better guide my career." I just kind of felt like it could wrongly be misinterpreted as too butt-kissy to what an agent can do, or look like you are implying you are 'better than' all those other writers who just send to publisher. I think it's minor, but could rub someone the wrong way. The agent already knows you're looking for career guidance because you submitted. I'd just cut that sentence and get write into your compelling query!

    Now get this thing published so I can read it. I think Can't Buy Me Love mixed with Pretty Woman mixed with (some father/daughter story I can't think of right now>.


    Now, I better go to sleep. 2am. I just can't stop.

  18. I like the establishment that you really know what you're doing, right down to knowing exactly what line would print the book. Like the others, though, I thought there should be less synopsis in the letter. I skipped over most of it to get to the writing.

    I was ready to ask to see more when I started the writing sample, but I was turned off by the business about raising money for an unknown but hated person because her dead mom wanted her to. I'd probably still want to read on, but I think just saying she needed the money would be enough for now and you can get into specifics of why later.

  19. It's my understanding that the agent shouldn't be left guessing. You reveal the end of the story, including his secret. You aren't revealing it to the readers, just the agent and editor. They need to know if the secret is worthy of all the secrecy.

    Good premise.

  20. I wasn't hooked but in a way it grabbed me. The "I need a ride" parts were getting tedious.

  21. Great query. It drew my interest and made me want to read on. Great tract record with publications, too. Congratulations!! That alone would be enough to make me want to read on to see what other publications were so excited about. The characters seem charming and likable, too.

  22. Both the query and the sample are very good. I am wondering what Teague's secret is. I think you should reveal this in the query, or at least give us more of an idea.

  23. Lose the asking for the agent's time at the beginning; it slows my interest.

    Put your character's name in your first sentence and condense the rest of your query. I lost interest trying to follow it.

    Good idea, though!

  24. Someone hiring someone else to be their boyfriend/girlfriend is really a familiar trope. Anything with that would really have to do something special to make me request.

    The second paragraph is kind of confusing. I'm not sure what's going on in there. Focus one paragraph on Kate, and the other on Teague.

    I'm afraid the query didn't hook me. I didn't get a sense of the conflicts and stakes.

    The writing in the sample page is pretty good, but I'm just not drawn in. Contemporary romance isn't my thing, so it's really, really hard to get me to say yes.