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Why Hire a Publicity Consultant
Rather Than a Full-Service Publicist?


When a full scale promotion campaign for your book is required (and it always is), you hire a professional  to help you plot you campaign. One hour with Carolyn Howard-Johnson will:

·       educate you to the need for publicity which is free.

·       show you why free is better than paid. 

·       give you resources to get you started and keep you going.

·       in the process give you the tools to write great query letters and media releases so you can getfrom radio and TV appearances, feature articles and more.

·       equip you to partner with a publicist if you choose that route.

·       save you thousands of dollars if you choose to manage your own publicity.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson tailors your promotion to:        

·       your personality.

·       your pocketbook.

·       and she will work to improve your voice if you are submitting a proposal or other writing, not change it.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is credible because:

·        She has experienced what her clients need to know in most genres (novel, short stories, poetry and nonfiction).

·        she has published every which way (traditionally, self-published, subsidy-published--in trade paperbacks, e-books, booklets, newspapers, magazines and more).

·       she has worked as a publicist and journalist--that means she knows how to appeal to both sides of the fence in your search for exposure.

·       she is a UCLA Extension Writers' Program instructor.

·       she wrote The Frugal Book Promoter, winner of USA Book News Best Professional Book 2004 and the Irwin award.

·       she wrote th multi award-winning Frugal Editor -- and, yes, editing does have something to do with marketing, especially writing effective query letters.

·       she won Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award and the New Millennium Award for Marketing.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson's professional and personal life exemplify the American Dream. Her passion for the worlds of PR and publishing resonates with her clients. They leave sessions emotionally charged and ready to function. She passes on contacts and leads for you to pursue.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson customizes her consulting time with you. Reach her by e-mail.

So, why consult rather than hire it done? 

·       because you know your book better than anyone else and a good, content-laden consult is all you need to get you going.

·       because you are more passionate about your book than anyone else which means that your efforts will bear more fruit than someone else's.

·       because much of what many publicists do for you can easily be done yourself including radio, TV and speaking.

·       because you have a Rolodex of your own and building it for yourself will bode well for your writing career.

·       because Carolyn consults to save you money, she doesn't try to sell you more than you need.

Please contact Carolyn for information--a quote and the easy process she uses to save you time and money.





More on Book Trailers at end of this article.

How to Write a Query

Query letters? Do literary agents really read them?

Agents take queries very seriously, and yes, they really do read them. It’s not some universal rumor that agents have perpetuated because they all have a secret fetish for being bombarded with mail. Sure, agents make it sound like digging through the slush pile is the last priority of their day. Some agents even relegate the ambivalent task of reading unsolicited queries to an assistant or intern. But the fact of the matter is that most agents do read queries. Even more importantly, agents actually respond to ones that spark their interest.

So write a professional, intelligent, concise, intriguing query and not only will you entice an agent to ask for more, but you’ll move yourself one step closer to a book sale.

The Basics

A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a resume. It’s not rambling saga of your life as an aspiring writer. It’s not a friendly, “Hey, what’s up, buddy. I’m the next John Grisham. Got the next best selling thriller for ya,” kind of letter. And for the love of god, it is NOT more than one-page. Trust us on this.

A query letter has three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Don’t stray from this format. You won’t catch an agent’s attention by inventing a creative new query format. You’ll just alienate your chances of being taken seriously as a professional writer. A query letter is meant to elicit an invitation to send sample chapters or even the whole manuscript to the agent. It’s not meant to show off how cute and snazzy you can be by breaking formatting rules and going against the grain. Keep it simple. Stick to three paragraphs. The goal is to get the agent to read your book, not to blow you off because you screwed up the introduction.

Paragraph One—The Hook: A hook is a concise, one-sentence tagline for your book. It’s meant to hook your reader’s interest, and wind them in. The best way to understand how to write a hook is to read the loglines of the titles sold by agents in our database.

Here are a few examples of hooks for well-known novels:

House of Sand and Fog
When Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military, sinks his remaining funds into a house he buys at auction, he unwittingly puts himself and his family on a trajectory to disaster; the house once belonged to Kathy Nicolo, a self-destructive alcoholic, who engages in legal, then personal confrontation to get it back.

Bridges of Madison County
When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and turns into Francesca Johnson's farm lane looking for directions, the world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience that will haunt them forever.

The Corrections
When family patriarch, Alfred Lambert, enters his final decline, his wife and three adult children must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.

The "When" Formula: As you can see, we’re a fan of the when formula: “When such and such event happens, your main character—a descriptive adjective, age, professional occupation—must confront further conflict and triumph in his or her own special way. Sure, it’s a formula, but it’s a formula that works.

However, be warned...everyone and their grandmother who reads this site will try using our "when" formula, so we recommend simply using it as a starting point. Write your basic hook, then try spicing things up as you get more and more into the groove of "hooking." And don't worry, it's legal in every state, not just Nevada.

Check out these very simple, yet very non-"formulatic" fiction hooks:

The Kite Runner
An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.

The Da Vinci Code
A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ.

Everything Is Illuminated
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, Jonathan Safran Foer—both author and meta fictional protagonist—sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis.

Here are some non-"formulatic" hooks for a few nonfiction books:

Into Thin Air
On assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas as a client of Rob Hall, the most respected high-altitude guide in the world, and barely made it back alive from the deadliest season in the history of Everest.

The Perfect Storm
The true story of the meteorological conditions that created the "Storm of the Century" and the impact the Perfect Storm had on many of the people caught in its path; chiefly, among these are the six crew members of the swordfish boat the Andrea Gail, all of whom were lost 500 miles from home beneath rolling seas.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
The memoir of Dave Eggers, who at the age of 22, became both an orphan and a "single mother" when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers, leaving Eggers the appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher.

Other Great Ways to Start Your Hook:

# Give era and location: Three Different Examples:

   1. Set in modern-day Jerusalem...
   2. During the summer of 1889 in a rural Texas town...
   3. Taking place in turn-of-the-century New York City...

# Set up your main character: Three Different Examples:

   1. The tale of Una Spencer, wife of Melville's legendary fictional whale harpooner Captain Ahab...
   2. A chatty cozy mystery starring 50-something college professor Bell Barrett...
   3. Narrated by Cot Daley, an Irish peasant girl kidnapped from Galway and sent to Barbados...

# Variations on the "when" formula: Three Different Examples:

   1. Following a botched circumcision...
   2. While defending a drug-addicted prostitute accused of murder....
   3. After years of abuse at the hands of her alcoholic mother and step-father...

There are literally scores and scores of hooks listed in our database, specifically in the past & present clients section of our agents’ profiles. We encourage you to read as many as possible, and learn what captures your attention in a single sentence. Then try to emulate a similar hook for your query letter.

Paragraph Two—Mini-synopsis: This is where you get to distill your entire 300 page novel into one paragraph. Lucky you. We’d like to offer advice on how to do this, but really, it just takes practice, hard work and lots of patience. Then, like we said before, get your friends to read it and if their heads hurt afterwards, go back to the drawing board. We don’t envy you. We really don’t. Summing up your entire book in an intriguing single paragraph is worse than a root canal.

So think of it this way. You had trouble writing the gist of your book in one sentence, right? Now, you get a whole paragraph. About 150 extra words. Here’s your chance to expand on your hook. Give a little bit more information about your main characters, their problems and conflicts, and the way in which adversity changes their lives. Read the back flaps of your favorite novels and try to copy how the conflict of the book is described in a single, juicy paragraph. You can do this. You really can. You just have to sit down, brainstorm, then vomit it all out onto the page. Afterwards, cut, paste, trim, revise, and reshape.

Paragraph Three—Writer’s bio: This should be the easiest part of your query. After all, it’s about you, the writer. Okay, so it’s a bit daunting, especially if you’ve never been published, never won any awards, hold no degrees from MFA writing schools, and possess no credentials to write your book. No problem. The less you have to say, the more space you have for your mini-synopsis. Always a plus.

If you do choose to construct a writer’s bio (and you should), keep it short and related to writing. Agents don’t care what your day job is unless it directly relates to your book. Got a main character who’s a firefighter, and that’s your day job? Be sure to say that. Otherwise, scrap it. Education is helpful because it sounds good, but it’s only really important if you’re offering a nonfiction book about A.D.D. children and you hold a PhD in pediatric behavioral science. If you’ve published a few stories in your local newspaper, or a short story in a few literary magazines, or won any writing awards or contests, now’s the time to list the details. Don’t go hog wild, but don’t be too modest either.

Your Closing: Congratulations! You’ve finished your query letter. As a formal closing, be sure to do two things. First, thank the agent for her time and consideration. Second, if it’s nonfiction, tell them that you’ve included an outline, table of contents, and sample chapters for their review. If it’s fiction, alert the agent that the full manuscript is available upon request. And in case you still don’t believe us, we want to reiterate: don’t query agents until you’ve finished your full fiction manuscript. Agents will want to read the whole novel before they offer representation to you and your book.

Other Random Tips:

The Do’s:

    * Do address your query specifically to an agent. There are lots of greetings from which to choose. Here are your options in order of best to worst:

      Attn. Ms. Shermanstein:
      Dear Adrian Shermanstein:
      Dear Ms. Shermanstein:
      Dear Ms. Shermanstein,
      Dear Adrian,
      Yo Adrian,

    * Do state the title of your book.
    * Do mention the word count and genre of your book. Novels should be 80,000 to 100,00 words. Young adult novels can be significantly less: 40,000-60,000 words. Suavely insert word count and genre at the end of your first “hook” paragraph.
    * Do mention exactly why you’re approaching Ms. Agent. Try to compare your book with other books that Ms. Agent has represented in the past.
    * Do adopt a professional, serious tone.
    * Do keep your query to one-page only.
    * Do format your query using standard business letter alignment and spacing. That means: Single spaced. 12 point font. Everything aligned along the left margin. No paragraph indentations, but a space between each paragraph. One-page only!
    * Do list your phone number, mailing address, and email address
    * Do include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with all snail mail submissions.
    * Do have a pair of "fresh eyes" proofread for typos and grammar mistakes.

The Do NOT’s:

    * Do NOT start off your query by saying, "I am querying you because I found your name in 'such and such' writing guide or internet agent database" (like AQ!). Not only does this take up valuable query letter space, but it's also the sign of an amateur.
    * Do NOT refer to your novel as a fictional novel. That’s redundant. Just call it a novel.
    * Do NOT sing the praises of your book or compare it with other best selling books.
    * Do NOT send gifts or other bribes with your query.
    * Do NOT print your query on perfumed or colored paper. Use plain business stationery.
    * Do NOT shrink your font down to 9 point so it all fits on one page. 12 point is standard. 11 point if you’re really desperate.
    * Do NOT Fedex or mail your query in a lavish, signature-required fashion in order to make your query stand out. It will stand out, but in a very "annoying, over-zealous, bad first impression" kind of way. Not to mention, it's a friggin' waste of money.
    * Do NOT apologize in your query for being a newbie writer with zero publishing credits and experience. Your goal is to write a tight, alluring, eye-catching query and sound like a professional. If you're worried about your lack of writing credentials, just keep quiet and let the writing speak for itself.
    * Do NOT include sample chapters of your novel with your query UNLESS an agent's submission guidelines specifically SAY to include sample pages with your snail mail query. If you really feel compelled to show an agent your writing style along with your query letter, include only the first 5 pages of your novel. Never send more than the first 5 pages with your query unless the guidelines say, "A-Okay!"
    * Do NOT forget to list your email address or contact phone number on your query.
    * Do NOT forget to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE)

Need to see an ACTUAL query letter before you'll know how to write one?
We've been getting a lot of email from some AQ users who believe that they must see a query letter before they can write one. And you've been relentless in your requests for examples of REAL, L-I-V-E query letters. Some of you have even offered us shiny trinkets in exchange for a glimpse at the elusive QL beast. Well, it ain't the ivory-billed wood pecker, but here you go: examples from agents and writers with agents. You can't get a better view than that.

    * Published Author and AQ user, Heather Brewer's query letter that snagged her an agent, who later sold her book, THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD, to Penguin/Dutton
    * Jenny Bent's A Terrific Query Letter
    * Kristin Nelson displays the successful query letter of her first client, Jennifer O'Connell, in "What is an example of a good query?"
    * Barbara Collins Rosenberg's Sample Queries #1, 2 ,3 at the bottom of the page.

JUST FOR NON-FICTION WRITERS: Truth be told, much of our AQ advice is geared towards fiction writers, which is kind of silly considering that there's a bigger market for non-fiction than fiction these days. And non-fiction writers have the added benefit of not having to finish the whole manuscript before seeking representation from an agent. So we've trolled the web and asked our non-fiction friends to recommend books, web links, and tips for writers seeking information on how to write a stellar non-fiction proposal. Here's what we came up with:

    * Editor Michael Hyatt's "Writing a Winning Book Proposal" on literary agent Steve Laube's website.
    * "Ten Basic Steps to Writing a Non-Fiction Proposal" from the Small Press Center for Independent Publishing.
    * Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington will help you write your memoir and Elizabeth Lyon's Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write will help you format it for submission to agents.
    * Literary agent Scott Mendel's take on "Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal."
    * AbsoluteWrite.com founder and author Jenna Glazter's sample non-fiction book proposal, "Outwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of the Pen" that was sold to Lyons Press.

©agent query


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Comment by Jean Purcell on December 17, 2009 at 1:41pm
Carolyn, I'd like your ideas for my forthcoming book for Christian writers. I need maximum exposure leading to lots of sales conversions. Thanks!
Comment by Carolyn Howard-Johnson on November 5, 2009 at 6:26pm
I really like this article on query letters. Why no credit for whomever wrote it? Or am I missing something. (-:

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