Friday, June 27, 2008


Cover letters, synopsis, author bios – how much is enough when a new author is facing the daunting marketplace in fiction books? Writing fiction books, novels, short story collections is the fun part; the most difficult writing for most new authors and many older ones is writing about oneself and one’s “baby” – the fiction book itself.

I’m going to walk you through it using my wife’s first novel, a suspense thriller entitled The Wishing Well . . . think creepy wishing well.

LET’S begin with the cover letter. This is a business letter and should get to the point and have all the salient points, and today often, surprisingly or not so surprisingly, editors are accepting the query letter itself via e-mail. I’m going to speak of it as a hardcopy here:

First at the top left or right (be consistent), all your contact information below your name along with the type of fiction book – say Mystery and the number of words, be it 80,000 for a fiction book or 7500 for a short story. After this comes the date—centered

June 20, 2007

Please! Send your manuscript to a person with a name, not Sir, not Madam, not Editorial Director. Do a spot of homework and learn the name of the editor at XYZ Publishing who handles your type of novel.

First paragraph:

For seventeen years I have worked in medicine as an RN with a degree in psychology and a minor in sociology, and most recently I am employed by the West Virginia State Bureau of Medical Services. Medicine and medical procedures are like breathing for someone of my experience, and I have the imagination of a writer of intrigue and suspense. Now I have combined these skills to a thriller novel, The Wishing Well (approximately 85,000 words). This Megan McKenna mystery compliments my background, as the unfolding story involves medicine, state government medical services, foster care, police, and law enforcement. These realms are rendered in dramatic terms as FBI Agent McKenna is faced with difficult personal and professional choices even as she gives chase to the maniacal Wishing Well killer whose victims are found in remote, eerie wells in and around Baltimore.

Paragraph Two:

I have had the manuscript professionally edited and it has been rewritten and polished. Still, I remain flexible to input and ideas—such as more sex, sin, and violence (lol). Below this letter, please find a brief biography and a full description of the novel as it might appear on the back-jacket copy. I would be happy to forward the entire manuscript for The Wishing Well should you request to see it in its entirety.

Thanking you in advance for your valuable time,
Miranda Phillips Walker

Next is an example of ONE WAY to lay out your synopsis or “brief” overview of the novel as you may wish to set it up as your ideal of what should appear on the back of the book in the way of a description. A good practice—write your ideal copy for your fiction book.

See Below for Pitch\Jacket-Copy:

The Wishing Well
by Miranda Phillips Walker

The Wishing Well Killer is terrorizing Charm City – Baltimore, Maryland. His victims are cropping up all over the area with two things in common: They’re wrapped like garbage and thrown down a well shaft, and each is in some bizarre way connected to an unfolding investigation of a Maryland foster care agency. The killer himself is a deformed Quasimodo type, plagued by a voice in his head, and he cannot take the slightest insult from any quarter. Anything can set him off.

The heroine FBI agent Megan McKenna and retired decorated police dog, Max, who she uses as a sounding board and friend, are faced with the most important case of her career. She’s hunting down a killer whose victims (ranging in age from pre-teen to adult) are in some bizarre fashion connected to a foster childcare agency operated by a pair of disreputable lawyers out of a former school called Our Lady of Peace. A marksman’s eye and a wicked sense of humor help Megan during her most stressful moments. She is tenacious and eager to prove herself, as her last case has left her scarred and vulnerable. Helping Megan are former lover and Agent Reese DiTrapano, a psychological profiler, and Phil Jenkins, a veteran Baltimore Police Detective who has eyes for Megan. In fact, both men harbor strong feelings for Megan, and through a sweltering summer of 2007, this trio tracks a madman only to learn he is someone from Megan’s past, someone all too willing to taunt her and place her in mortal danger.

The scam: As McKenna and law enforcement throw out a net to catch the maniac, they uncover an insidious under-the-table scam in the Maryland State foster care system, and a link between it, a pair of lawyers, and the killer. The fraud places foster care recipients in danger. The pace of the story is fast and as furious and twisting as a rollercoaster gone haywire. Not even Megan or her dog Max can predict what happens on the next page, nor will readers until the last wickedly humorous and wicked clue is uncovered.

Author Biography:

Miranda Phillips Walker is uniquely qualified to pen The Wishing Well as both a suspenseful mystery and an expose of the corruption and graft in the underbelly of our Nation’s foster care system. Walker, an RN, has a psychology degree with a minor in sociology and has been a registered nurse for over seventeen years. Her life in medicine has been far more exciting and colorful than any program on TV such as ER or Grey’s Anatomy. Walker has a wealth of knowledge that she brings to bear on the writing of a novel of aberrant behavior and the ins-and-outs of the agencies that abuse the foster care system. She currently works for the State of West Virginia as an RN for the Bureau of Medical Services. She has four children and is married to a professor of English, who is also a prominent author. She currently resides in the Charleston, West Virginia. Miranda says of The Wishing Well, “I understand the demons that drive Crusher, the killer, and I have insights into the Child Protective Services that few possess. Going into the writing of this novel, I was armed with the right tools to make it work. I trust that the reader will agree.”

Everyone has to write his or her own bio, back-copy or synopsis, and cover letter, but hopefully this example from one in your shoes will be of help if you are facing this most difficult task. The hardest but most important story—and the shortest—that you will ever write is the story about your story. That which has the purpose not of entertaining but enticing someone to read your novel or short story collection.

Rob -- new site
Interview in the Charleston Gazette --

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