Thursday, October 21, 2010

YOUR TURN: Write the Winning Query with Helen Lowe (HarperCollins)

Helen Lowe is a NZ based speculative fiction author. Her first novel Thornspell (Knopf, 2008) won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for “Best Novel: Young Adult” 2009. Helen's second novel, The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night, Book One) is now on sale in the USA/Canada and Australia/New Zealand and will launch in the UK in March 2011.

You can find Helen at and follow her publishing journey and appearances at

Helen is represented by (*insert drum roll here*) Robin Rue at Writer's House. They've collaborated to give us what they believe is the key advice every author should take prior to sending a query letter and generously agreed to let me share it with you:

"...The four tips, which basically reflect the process I followed are:

1) Do some research to find out who out there represents/publishes work similar to yours. I did this by using the internet and looking at who represented authors whose work I considered to be broadly "of like kind" to mine. Robin suggests that another good place to look can be the Acknowledgments sections in published books, where very often an author will acknowledge their agent and publisher.

2) Once you have identified a likely agent/publisher go to their website and check out their submission guidelines. (Look under FAQ if you cannot see a section titled "Submission Guidelines".) Read those guidelines and follow them to the letter. Robin adds: "Try to send to a specific agent rather than a "group" mailing, as well."

3) Be professional and businesslike. (Repeat formula as often as required.)

4) Always be polite.

…Although I cannot provide the exact letter, that is exactly what I did to get taken on by Robin at Writers House Literary Agency."

Thank you so much Helen. I look forward to following the Wall of Night series!

So there it is folks! Examples and advice from people who've had real success. Before we wind up this series altogether, I'm personally going to offer one more tip:

Don't let yourself believe you're the exception to the rule.

It's easy to get impatient, or tell yourself those-in-the-know are being pedantic, but don't fall into that trap. If you've got a story to tell, give it the best possible chance of seeing daylight by following advice and emulating those who've already had success.

And before you go, drop in on the post beneath this one to tell us what you’d like to see next on Seeking the Write life – “Real Editor Tips and Tricks”, “Reader Feedback on Reader Queries”, “YOUR IDEA HERE”?

See you in the comments,



  1. Excellent post! Thanks for the query tips.

    I'll pop over to nano and buddy you!

  2. Excellent! I'm 'AimeeLS'. See you there

  3. Brilliant advice. I'm giving nano a bash this year, too. Not really sure what I'm letting myself in for.

    Great blog. This is defo being added to my favourites!

  4. Re Nano: Me either. Look forward to seeing you around!