How to Turn Your Book Ideas into Money in the Bank, Step 6: Query Letters and Self-Publishing

Welcome back to our Turning Book Ideas into Money series! So far we have covered:

If you have decided to go the traditional route and get your book published with the big dogs in New York, then you will need to craft a short, compelling query letter.

This is a dreaded step for writers the world over. How can we be expected to compress our 100,000 word manuscript into a 250 word blurb? It’s outrageous, impossible! I won’t do it and that’s it. You can resent it. You can refuse to play by their rules. And you will never get that beauty published. Your idea, outlined, written, edited to a prosy shine, will lie forever in a drawer.

Are you ready to suck it up and write a query like a good little writer?

Check out this post for examples of winning queries. Note how each query differs slightly, depending on the genre of the book it represents, but also note that they all share one common thread: they sell both the book and the author.

A query letter is a letter of introduction, introducing a literary agent to you and your book. BUT, it is also much more than that. It is the last step in your Jedi training. Master the query and you will be crowned a Jedi Knight, powerful in the ways of the Writing Force. Succeed in this and you will have your own literary agent. Of course, there yet remain plenty of hurdles between your dream and sales. But crafting a successful query is a major check in the win column.

Here are 5 quick tips on drafting winning queries:

  1. Research potential agents: genres they like, titles and authors they’ve sold
  2. Drop the old-school gender salutation and just start with: Dear Jennifer Jackson,
  3. The Hook: What is the unique aspect of your novel? Open the letter with that
  4. The Body of the letter should include: Main character (don’t give a run-down of every character) and the person/group/thing that is keeping the MC from attaining her deepest desire. Don’t forget to include What is at Stake. What is exceptional about your created world? Ideally this will be something the agent has not yet seen
  5. The Snatch-N-Grab closing: Compare your book to other successful works, especially if they are books this agent has sold or mentioned as a favorite

Continue reading “How to Turn Your Book Ideas into Money in the Bank, Step 6: Query Letters and Self-Publishing”

How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Part 3: Writing

In the first article of this series in turning your book idea into money, we covered the pleasurable Step of conceiving your book idea and fantasizing it to life.

In the second we explored the vital usefulness of outlining, and how this Step will make the job of writing that much easier and quicker. In this post we will examine the actual writing of your brilliant idea, illuminating the methods to the madness of this solitary activity, ways to create compelling opening lines, and how you can make it all a successful breeze.


It can be intimidating, staring at that blank sheet of paper, or that empty white screen with its evil blinking cursor.

But you have everything you need to begin. You’ve conceived your idea. You’ve fantasized about it, molded it, outlined it to the point where you could name the type of grass your second-tier character is standing on while exposing a shocking truth late in the seventh chapter.

And yet, a roadblock remains: how to begin?

Beginning a 100,000 word novel (hopefully your first is not much longer than this or you risk scaring away prospective literary agents) can be a daunting task, and sometimes even more intimidating than writing the rest of it.

No matter how hard I try to perfect that opening line/sentence/chapter, and no matter how pleased I am with it at first, I always end up returning to it. Through a series of edits and revisions, my opening lines rarely survive unaltered. After years of reading and writing and study, I finally stumbled on 2 valuable solutions to this dilemma. Allow me to share them with you now. They are:

  1. Don’t spend days or weeks agonizing over your opening words. DON’T. Once you write your ending, you’ll feel compelled to rewrite the beginning. So just write whatever feels comfortable; you’ll end up editing it anyway.
  2. Wherever you think it is you should begin, ask yourself: Is this really where my story begins, or do things take off after this? Does this opening jive with the rest of my narrative? If it stands alone—cool, contrived, disconnected—it needs to be rewritten.

Blasé Pascal wrote: ‘The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.

As you will be coming back to rectify any weaknesses or inconsistencies in your opening, you might want to give yourself a break here, and just start writing already. You’ll have a better idea where to start once you’ve ended. It sounds contrary, I know, but it makes sense. You’ll see. Becca Puglisi of writershelpingwriters offers some tips on openings. Continue reading “How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Part 3: Writing”

Writing Original Ideas: Ichabod Kills Common Tropes

You love reading. You love discovering new characters and worlds. Big time readers like yourself eventually run into the dreaded ‘common tropes’ monster. After consuming a few hundred books, characters and ideas take on a familiar shade of prose.

Too Familiar Writing

You’re like, ‘Ah yes, the love triangle again. How original’ or ‘Oh good, another character whose childhood abuse has made him into a serial killer. Never seen that before.’

This is why I am so proud of my serial killer thriller ICHABOD, and why I am excited to share its opening with you here.

Ichabod is an upper-class playwright with no brain disorders and a past filled with nothing but love and peace. There are no apparent triggers to explain why he does the things he does (and why he believes what he believes).

These things involve experimental murder, mass disaster, and igniting a city-wide gang war, among other nefarious deeds. All of this is in the name of enacting his philosophy: crime rates will drop as the population is decreased.

Embrace the Strange

Another unique aspect of my novel is its hero. Detective Stephen Van Tassel is not the world weary boozer you’d expect in a serial killer novel. Instead, he is young and horrifically afflicted by the very disorder which makes him the one man uniquely qualified to solve the riddle of the chaos in Philicity.

He suffers from synesthesia, a blurring of the senses; he experiences the world like few humans ever have. And he remembers everything. He could tell you what the weather was like when he was having a conversation with a stranger ten years ago, and why the number 7 is a fat man wearing swimming trunks, or what the color red tastes like on an afternoon of 35’s.

‘Ichabod’ pits these two original characters against each other. Hunter and prey, haunted and determined, flawed and perfected.

Please enjoy the opening passages:

Continue reading “Writing Original Ideas: Ichabod Kills Common Tropes”