Help Wanted: Query Letter And Synopsis Feedback

Dear Readers,

I am bypassing a traditional post this week to ask for your assistance with helping me to fulfill a longtime dream of having my romance novel published. As some of you may know, I recently completed a historical romance novel set in 1929 Newport, Rhode Island. Sweet Irish Kisses tells the unlikely love story of a wealthy debutante and an Irish shipbuilder whose paths cross when the heroine is on the run from an arranged marriage. Writing the 75,000 word novel was easy compared to having to condense it into a 200 word synopsis for submission to Avon’s Impulse line. Then there’s the tricky matter of the 750 word Query Letter. Quite frankly, this process is torture! And it’s scary. Especially when one considers the 200 words could determine whether an agent even bothers to read the query letter and story excerpt.

If you have the time, interest and willingness, could you please take a look at my three synopses and tell me which you prefer? If you think all need work or that I should start over completely, please say so and give me some specifics. Each synopsis is a work in progress and I fully anticipate having to revise one or more. Likewise, I seek feedback on my query letter. If you are a published author or have other knowledge of the publishing industry, your professional critique is most welcome. If not, then your opinion as an every day reader is most welcome. If you have no interest or time to read either, I completely understand. Thank you in advance for your feedback. I look forward to (and in some ways dread) your comments!

michael-gorman

Michael Gorman, my husband’s great-grandfather, whose portrait hangs in our living room, and who inspired the name of my hero. Michael came to the U.S. from Ireland in the late 1800s and bought 12 acres of land, which my father-in-law now owns.

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32 thoughts on “Help Wanted: Query Letter And Synopsis Feedback

    • First one sounds too negative and reminds me misconduct at work and not a romance “omission proves… “neglecting to mention..,
      Second, one I have no wonders left because it is clear to me how the story is going and will end.
      The third one sounds more romantic “runs into the arms…” and makes you wonder in your mind for more info “she wants more than temporary refuge…”
      Also, the words are more possitive “… spends with…tempts…”
      My own opinion, though 🙂 I am not a professional critique or publisher.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much! I greatly appreciate your feedback. I am utterly clueless about this process. I’m also afraid it’s highlighting flaws in my manuscript. In reading about how to write synopsis, they all say to include the ending for the agent, which is why I did. But who know? I appreciate you mentioning the tone of the first two sounded negative. That’s so important for me to know. Thanks again, Svet!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Kim.
    In my humble opinion.

    Synopsis one.
    Far too much detail.
    If I read this synopsis on the back
    of a book, I wouldn’t bother reading it.
    You’ve told me the beginning middle and the ending.
    Let the publisher read your work and find the ending
    out for himself. If he already knows the outcome, why
    bother reading it.
    As you said yourself, a synopsis is a BRIEF outline.

    I hope you are not offended by my comments.
    If not, I will happily give you my opinions on
    synopsis two and three.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not offended at all, Alan, I’m grateful! Thank you for this honest assessment. I think I’m really confused about what a synopsis is. As you mention, if it’s on the back of a book it shouldn’t give away too much or the ending. Yet everything I’ve read about writing a synopsis to submit to an agent says you must include it. So I’m just overall confused. If you are willing, I’d love you’re opinion on one and two. If I have to go back to the drawing board ultimately, I will. Thank you Alan!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Kim.
        I see you’re doing a complete rewrite
        regarding the synopsis. But, I would like to
        say between all three I think no two
        is the best. Except for the last paragraph.
        Way too much information.

        All the very best with the novel.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Kim,

    Perhaps synopsis one gives the game away with its ending, just a little, and could be left more intriguing at the close of the synopsis, so as to lead potential readers on? I also wonder if you’re focusing too much on the plot itself throughout, and might consider generalising the central themes and conceits as an alternative? Again with synopsis two then perhaps you’re painting too detailed a picture, and might couch the whole in terms more generalised; in other words, what the book is about conceptually or structurally, rather than what the plot itself is? Synopsis three felt the best by far, but do consider omitting the final three words. Hope this helps a little, and I do know very well the agony inducing experience of trying to convey a whole text in so few words.

    I wish you all the best with the project!

    Hariod

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Hariod. I greatly appreciate your feedback. I’m so confused because everything I read about writing synopsis for submissions says to include the ending. But maybe I’m taking that too literally. It really is a good exercise having to condense 75,000 words into 200. It forces you to really get clear about what your novel is about. It highlights flaws, problems, etc. Maybe this won’t be the one that gets published, maybe it will. Regardless, I am very thankful you took the time to read and provide feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I suspect that by ‘the ending’ they’re not meaning ‘the end of the plot’, as many works of fiction are open-ended plot-wise, of course, but rather the thematic ending (if that makes sense). So, the synopsis itself has an ending which somehow presents the book’s enduring moral message, perhaps, or philosophical dilemma, perhaps, or is a bald and open question itself as to how any potential ending may play-out, but which itself isn’t played-out in the narrative arc of the book. I hear that sort of thing often in radio programs where authors are interviewed and questioned about the ending – the interviewer may ask if the central character truly learns a lesson, or is happy, and the author says something like ‘I think she did, but it’s an open question; maybe she repeats her mistakes; I don’t really know’. In other words, as with the narrative of life as lived, there isn’t really an ending, just a pause, a moral lesson learned or needing to be learned, a philosophical conundrum left in the balance, perhaps forever unresolvable. If you consider your own work, Kim, then does Lara’s life story actually end, and if it does, don’t repercussions leave traces on the world she leaves behind?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hariod, first I want to thank you for challenging me to think, not just here but on your own blog and through comments on other blogs we both follow. What you say does make sense, and I think I’ve accomplished what you’re suggesting much better with the new synopsis I wrote late last night, thanks to all of your and the others’ feedback. The new last line suggests that Lara has grown and evolved as a result of learning the truth, which puts her on a path of self-discovery, which in turn allows her to enter the marriage a woman fully grounded in herself. In other words, she needed to grow up and find a way to rely on herself (instead of men and the kindness of strangers) before she can return to her husband a changed woman with a sense of independence. Before the truth she was impulsive and allowing herself to be swept up by circumstances. After it, her choices are more intentional. As I told Mick, I’m going to sit with this one a bit, though. Thanks again, Hariod! This exercise has been amazing.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I like synopsis 3 and your letter seems great, although I know nothing! Ha ha. I am absolutely in awe of you for writing a novel. It’s been my life long dream. I just can’t wrap my head around where to begin. Great good luck my dear!! xoxoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you so much! So far the consensus is number three, but I’ll wait for a few more comments. I started this novel 10 years ago as more of a women’s fiction piece called The Lure of the Siren. Then several years ago turned it into a 15,000 word novella. Now this. The way to begin is just to start writing, and it doesn’t even have to be at the beginning. Start with a scene. Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ll be honest and say I actually like synopsis one the best, because it described the story in such a way that I would want to read it, and I also liked writing style. If Avon’s Impulse Line doesn’t want the synopsis to include how the story ends, maybe you could just take out the last line.
    Still, I see that my opinion is not the same as others, and I think they make some good points as well. The bottom line is that each editor or first reader will have their own preferences, and it’s hard to predict what those are. I think the best you can do is make sure your query and synopsis meets their guidelines and then send the one you feel best represents your work.
    I haven’t read the query yet, but I will do that now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ann, both for reading and for your feedback. They are very vague about what to include, than to give a word count, but I’m pretty sure they must receive tens of thousands of queries a year and so probably limit the synopsis to 200 words so they can skim through them fast and decided within seconds if they want to bother with the query and sample chapter. I do wonder if I should find an agent from a smaller agency to sell it to or just go for it with Avon. I’ve had Avon in mind all this time, but I haven’t made a final decision yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If they don’t require an agent, I think I’d just go for it. And if they don’t buy it, then look at other romance publishers and agents then. The fact that you had a publisher in mind when you wrote you manuscript is a huge plus, I think, because that will mean it’s more likely suited for them. I’ve written my synopsis both ways, so I’m not sure whether including the ending is good or bad. But I can’t help but think that since you’re trying to get them to publish the book, rather than simply buy it to read it, the more information the better. (Said she who has four unpublished manuscripts in her files…..)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Okay, I just read the query, and thought it was very good. The only change I would suggest (in the letter and the synopsis, now that I think about it), would maybe to describe Michael’s reluctance to deflower and unmarried virgin in something other than “old-fashioned values.” It might have been different for someone of Michael’s class, but I’ve always thought that in the “good old days” men often thought nothing of having sex with other women as long as the woman they eventually married was a virgin. So maybe Michael’s reluctance to do so stems from the fact that he cares too much about her, or he has a strict moral code from religion? I’m suggesting this just as my opinion….I may well be completely wrong about the whole thing, and feel free to completely ignore everything I’ve said!
    Finally, I’m impressed that you wrote the book and are working so hard on your marketing. That’s just as hard as writing, if not harder, but it’s so important. You are very wise to spend so much time trying to get it “just right,” and I think that bodes well for your success as an author! Congrats, Kim!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ann, you are so good to read my query letter. Thank you so very much. I will heed your advice about using that phrase. It’s good to get the perspective of someone on the outside looking in. I’ve been engrossed in this story so long I can’t be very objective about some things or I don’t even realize them. You are correct that Michael wants his wife to be a virgin and he’s falling in love with Lara. And though he doesn’t think twice about sleeping with an experienced widow, he does draw the line at good girls/virgins, in part because he doesn’t want to be forced to marry one if he does. With Lara, he thinks he can never marry her because of their vastly different backgrounds and he doesn’t want to ruin her prospects. He’s also afraid if he has her once he’ll want her to be all his forever. OMG, I can’t believe I’m actually talking about my story that’s been in the closet for YEARS! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ann!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those are very good points, and also believable reasons for his attitude… If you can include those in your query, I would do it. Honestly, I think you have come up with believable characters that readers will sympathize with, and I think your plot line is a good one. I always knew you were talented, and now you’ve proved it!!!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Ellen, you are correct that no one dies, so your suggestion is an excellent one. Thank you very much for taking the time to read them all and provide me with this valuable feedback. This is still a work in progress so it’s great to get everyone’s opinion. I’m going to sit with it all for a little while and take a short break before going back to it, let it all process. Thank you, again!

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    • Thanks for your feedback, Cathleen. Unfortunately, I already submitted it, along with the synopsis and sample scene. I thought it was weird that Avon wanted a 199 (they bounced it back to me because it was 200 words so I had to omit one) synopsis, yet a 750 word max for the query letter. It seems to me it should be the other way around. Anyway, it was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this so it was quite the learning process. I suppose each novel, each synopsis and query will (hopefully) get better. I’ve started a women’s fiction novel and I’ve already got the book jacket-like synopsis done and that was super easy to write, yet for my romance novel it was torture. My fear is that the reason it was torture is because the story has too many flaws. Regardless, you know you love to write when you just can’t stop! Thanks again, Cathleen!

      Liked by 1 person

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