Query letters that work with Adrienne Kerr


Adrienne_KerrAdrienne Kerr is the senior editor for commercial fiction at Penguin Canada.  She’s worked in various book-oriented occupations for seventeen years (gosh, she must have started as a kid).

Adrienne ran the session alone and we had a fabulous time.

Here are my notes:

  • Everyone has to hustle.
  • Harness your enthusiasm.
  • Craft your query as carefully as you craft your novel.
  • Find out what your target agent or editor has sold or acquired recently.

Research

  • Writers have the power.  Act like it.
  • Start with your bookshelves.  Pick out your favourite books.  Look at the acknowledgements.  Authors always thank their agents and editors.
  • Next, go to your library or bookstore and do the same thing.
  • Then go on line.  Look at the agencies.  Look at the submission guidelines.  Anything less than 100% compliance is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Be open to the process; be delightful to work with.
  • Editors are hidden.  They’re not on-line.  Traditionally, they don’t take unsolicited submissions.  Now, they’re taking a more active role in ferreting out new talent.
  • Check out Publishers’ Marketplace.  Search through 14 years worth of deals.  Each entry has a logline attached.

Loglines – you need one

  • What if – so what formula
    25 words or less.  Convey major conflict.
    Answers so what.
  • Hollywood style
    It’s X meets Y.
    Mash-up of famous books and/or movies.
  • Save the Cat method
    A sentence or two, ironic, compelling, genre/audience-targeted, killer title.
  • Blurb-based
    Who/what the hero wants and why.
    Focus on conflict.
  • Comps must be realistic.  Consider the sales numbers and the social media imprint.
  • Indicate your job only if pertinent (e.g. a lawyer who writes legal thrillers).
  • Agents will use your query/logline/synopsis to sell.
  • Editors will use your query/logline/synopsis for marketing.
  • You will use it when someone asks what your book is about.

The rest of the session was spent critiquing loglines and queries volunteered from the attendees.  I was still working on mine and didn’t speak up, but there were some pretty interesting projects pitched and some effective improvements were crowd-sourced.

I will be finishing off my SiWC posts one per day.

Until tomorrow, mes amis!

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4 thoughts on “Query letters that work with Adrienne Kerr

  1. Thank you for sharing all the info you gathered this past week. Lots of good stuff here from the agent. I particularly loved reading, “Writers have the power. Act like it.” Many times I forget that part.

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