If you think writing your book, is the hard, part, think again.
That’s the advice of a trio of mystery authors who spoke to the Central District Sisters in Crime group earlier this year.
Mary Burton, who has written eleven historical romances for Harlequin Historicals and four short romantic suspenses for Silhouette Romantic Suspense, says writing is a business.
Meredith Cole, who lives and writes in Charlottesville, Va., advises, “Be an editor and agent’s dream.”
Her mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur is set in the art community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and was nominated for an Agatha Award. “You want to produce a very well written book in a genre they can sell,” she says.
A key step to getting published is securing an agent. The way to do that is through a query letter, which are not easy to write. “It’s easier to write the book,” Mary says.
- Be as brief as possible
- Be as relevant as possible
- Write it professionally
- Reference relevant details
For example, Mary says, if you attend a writer’s conference and met the agent – even briefly – you should note the meeting in the letter. Or if you know the agent succeeded in publishing a book, note that. “It shows you’ve done your research,” Mary says.
They also suggest making an extensive list of agents within the appropriate genre. One site to help with that is agentquery.com, says Ellery Adams, who has written several mystery series. Another useful site, she says, is BookEnds Literacy Agency, which includes helpful posts about word count and sample queries.
When querying an agent, they recommend emailing 20 and then waiting about six weeks for the responses. “If you get 20 rejections, the query is probably poor,” Mary says. They suggest using the rejections to rewrite and try again.
When you do get to meet with an agent, they recommend having three good questions to ask and also having a paragraph about your book ready to share.
When it comes to getting published, Mary says, “Persistence is just as important as talent.”