The Query Counselor–Dana Hopkins

A few weeks ago Dana Hopkins, an editorial assistant in Harlequin’s Toronto office, did a Q&A on the Harlequin Forums. Here’s a link to the full post: Camp Gonnabe: A Visit to the Query Counselor aka Dana Hopkins but we’re going to put a few highlights here…

Dana says:

One of the biggest issues I see in query letters is “the tease,” for example say something like “but will they get together in the end?” or “But who really is the baby’s father?” A tease is fine but leaving your story so open-ended that we can’t tell what it’s about isn’t! This doesn’t entice us to read more! We don’t want back cover copy, we want to see exactly what the story is your pitching. So don’t leave out how your book ends, or at least where it’s going!

Often, people forget to let us know which imprint they’re targeting, as well. Because specific teams work with specific imprints, we can’t field a manuscript that’s just been sent to “Harlequin” properly. Taking a look at our writing guidelines  and including which imprint you see your book fitting into is key

and about pet peeves…

I have a few pet peeves! Here are a couple of no-nos that pop up more often than you’d think:

– “I showed this to my friends and they all really loved it.” Unfortunately, this means nothing to us. I’m sure you and your friends are lovely and supportive people, but telling an editor your friends like your work isn’t an objective measure. You don’t have a lot of space in a query letter to catch our attention, so don’t waste room!

– A first (and second and third) paragraph consisting of personal details that have no bearing on your writing. Personally, I think it’s sweet when someone wants to share with me the names of their grandkids and what their favourite hobbies are and where in the US they’ve lived. And if we’re just chatting at a party or on Twitter about books, I’m happy to hear it and get to know you better. But in a query letter there’s no room or point! Like I said earlier in the thread, if you’ve lived on a ranch and your book is set on a ranch, that’s interesting to know. It shows me that you’re bringing direct life experience to your writing. If you enjoy painting still-lifes and going snorkelling but your book is about mountain climbers, i don’t need to know about those hobbies.

– spelling and grammar mistakes. Presentation does count! I would never reject something with merit just because it had a spelling mistake or two, but we often receive letters and synopses that are just riddled with mistakes. Proofread, proofread, proofread! And if you’re not comfortable with that, find a friend who will check it over for you.

– And on the topic of presentation, don’t worry about fonts or expensive paper (if you’re submitting by mail), or added images, or a fancy title page. One readable typeface is all we need!

Remember, check the full post: Camp Gonnabe: A Visit to the Query Counselor aka Dana Hopkins for even more questions, answers and input from other editors!