Thursday, September 30, 2010

Writing Query Letters 101

Many people in the literary blogosphere have posted about what to put in a good query letter. Here's what I've learned:
  • It's not a book report, so don't just summarize the plot. Think about writing jacket copy, the description on the back that makes browsers buy books in bookstores. Write something that makes people go, "Ooh--I'd like to read that."
  • Keep the bio short (about 1-2 sentences), especially for fiction manuscripts. Only elaborate if your life experiences are relevant to the subject, e.g., if your book's about life in the military, mention that you were in the military. 
  • Tailor your submissions to the specific agent or publisher.  If they ask for the first five pages, send the first five pages.  If they only accept e-queries, don't send them paper.  Make sure that you write the agent's actual last name, and call them Mr. or Ms. (and try to pick the right one). Only submit queries to people who represent books in your genre, or you're just wasting everyone's time.  
  • Include the basic information about your work, such as genre and word count.  
  • Don't query a work of fiction until the manuscript is complete AND has been through several revisions.
So, those are some of the basics, and most agents and publishers seem to agree with them.  Now, I'll give you my own opinion.  Keep in mind that I'm not an agent, but this is what I did with Minder, and I had a great response rate from this query format. 

OPENINGS - Start with a hook.  Think about your book and what is most compelling about it...or most compelling about the opening or the premise.  DON'T start with a rhetorical question. 

Dear Ms. Agent,

Sixteen-year-old Maddie Dunn doesn't know how Del and his two friends died. She just knows that she killed them.

SETTING AND PLOT - Give a basic overview of where this takes place and what the conflict is.
*BTW, this contains minor spoilers for Minder. Skip over the blue section if you want to be surprised. *
When you query, don't worry about giving spoilers to agents.  Agents usually hate it more when someone gets cutesy and says, "...and if you want to know what happens next, you'll need to read the manuscript." Try to put as much of your narrative voice as you can into these sentences, since they'll give the agent his/her first impression of your style.  However, keep them in third-person, simple-past tense, even if your story is told in first-person.

Ganzfield is a training facility full of people like her; they're called G-positives. It's not exactly a nurturing place; the top clique uses mind-control to humiliate the low-status geeks, and Maddie doesn't know yet where she fits in the pecking order.

Trevor can move things with his mind, but that isn't what draws Maddie to him. He slays the personal demons that haunt her dreams, and the two of them connect on a magical level. When someone kidnaps him, she'll do whatever it takes to get him back. 

BIO - Keep it short and sweet.  If you've previously published something relevant to your current project and/or won any awards for your writing, include that info here--but don't pad this with irrelevant info. So, if you're pitching a fiction manuscript, mention any published novels or short stories.  Don't mention the letter to the editor that your local paper printed, being editor-in-chief on your High School yearbook, or your Master's thesis.  Don't include info about your family, your current job, your cat, etc., unless they directly relate to the topic of your book. 

I attended Yale and Rutgers Universities, earning three psychology degrees. I drew on this background to create a realistic scenario for G-positives and for the effects of their abilities.

CONCLUSION - Give the genre, word count, etc.  If you have a personal connection to the agent, this is a good place to mention it, e.g., "I read your blog," "We met at the BackSpace Conference," "If you ever want to see your guinea pig alive again," --whatever your connection may be.

MINDER is a YA paranormal romantic thriller with strong elements of violence and sensuality. It is complete at 70,000 words. Please let me know if you want to see more.


Check back late next week for the start of the query contest right here at the Disgruntled Bear. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Since I'm promoting my book series, I have Google Alerts send me a daily email listing new sites with my name, my book names, etc.

Yesterday, I got a hit for someone requesting that other people upload my books to a pirate site.

Is it weird that I thought this was AWESOME?

First off--hey, she wants to read my books!

Second--they haven't been pirated yet (at least on that site).

I considered replying to her request, but I couldn't think of anything to write that didn't sound whiny or snarky, yet still conveyed my desire that she actually compensate me for my work.

So, I wrote this instead. If you come up with a cool or funny reply I should send to this person, please post it below.

Next piece of news:
Maggie Stiefvater's Forever now has a cover, and it looks gaw-jus!
Finally, thanks to Cindy for a great lunch yesterday. She's got a YA novel in the works that looks like it's going to be a-maz-ing. Speaking of amazing novels, if you have a YA paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi novel ready to submit, polish up your queries. We're going to have a contest here starting late next week.

Step 1: I'll ask you to submit your query letters as comments to the blog.
Step 2: We'll critique them over several days and give you a chance to polish and resubmit for the second round.
Step 3: readers will vote for the winner, who will receive a (viciously blunt) partial critique.  

Now, here's the kicker.  My publisher, Spencer Hill Press, is looking for a couple of new projects in the coming year. So this little contest is the backdoor to possibly getting a full MS request from a publisher.

Oh, and the winner of last week's giveaway is Cass (Words on Paper). Congratulations, Cass!

UPDATE: This new review for Minder made me giddy:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I gotta pay more attention.  I saw an ad for Fergie's new perfume yesterday, and I swear I thought they were singing, "She's housebroken!" in the background.

That would be a truly original name for a perfume--the actual name, "Outspoken," doesn't get my attention at all.

But maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I just did a phone interview with Sarah Earle of the Concord Monitor.  She's writing a column about me that'll be in the Sunday Book Section on October 3rd. 

There's something indescribably cool about being written up in your hometown paper.  This is the same newspaper in which I first discovered Dave Barry's work. I've seen that familiar logo
around this house since I was a kid (we bought my grandparent's house a few years back, so, when I say *this* house, I'm being strangely specific).

So, if you're local, please pick up a copy of the paper this weekend and check it out!  I'll also try to link from here.

Keep an eye out for more info on the query contest for YA paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi. It'll start next week.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Kinda Cool

Hi folks,

Wouldn't it be great if we could double the play count on this? Let's pass this one around!

Attention writers of YA paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi. I'll be having a query critique and contest here in the next week or so. Spread the word (or muffle the word to keep the competition down).

Don't forget to comment on Friday's post for a chance to win a Ganzfield book!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another Giveaway!

OK, just for fun.  I'll give away a signed copy of Minder, Adversary, or the ARC of Legacy (when it's available) to a randomly selected commenter.  Post a comment below by midnight (EDT) Tuesday, September 28th. I'll give +1 additional chance for followers and +1 for every link you post back here (Facebook, Twitter, blog, website, etc.). I'll also add +1 for every review of Minder or Adversary you post on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, etc.

Yeah, I'm putting all my creativity into the next book, so I'm just gonna throw another giveaway.  Anyone complaining? :)

Happy Weekend! 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When Do you Blog?

This past week, I've started writing my posts a day or two ahead and using the scheduler to post them early on the appropriate morning.

I love this. The pressure is gone.  I'd been doing it first thing every weekday morning as soon as the kids were in school--or at least fed and dressed.

So, my question to all you bloggers out there is...when do you write your posts?

Oh, and just for fun...(and it's clean enough to show your kids or my grandmother)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


[the first part of this message has been redacted]

The blogosphere is abuzz with talk of the Missouri college professor who wants certain books banned from the local schools. If you haven't read his "voice of the day" piece, just follow this link:

Here's my problem: I can see both sides of this. I'm a writer/psychologist who loves the first amendment and thinks that adolescents need (and can handle) literature that shows them more than just a "Main Street, U.S.A." version of the world. I'm also a mom who wants to know what her kids are reading and learning.

There's a great post on this topic on Cari's Book Blog today (and I'm not just linking because she quoted me; she's also having a book giveaway!):

So, what do you all think?   And, on a related note, isn't the word "redacted" just delightfully evil?

OOH--Breaking News: If you enjoyed the music in the Minder Book Trailer, you should know that the band, Glenridge, announced yesterday that they are in pre-production for their first LP! Check them out at

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beware of the Squirrels

Apparently, the squirrels of the world have decided to go after the writers.

From Lilith Saintcrow's LOL funny Squirrel Matrix to Orson Scott Card's Squirrel Genius, the internet is abuzz with discussion of the latest incidents.

I take this to mean that I'm in good company.  My husband's office is in the back of the house; it's a former screen porch that was winterized about a decade ago.  Rough, exposed beams still frame the high ceiling and the upper half of the room.

One night last month, my husband was working late by the light of a solitary desk lamp, and something moved along the beams. This thing scratched its way upside-down around the edge of the room, much like one of your creepier vampires might. But, when he shone a light in the direction of the sound, there was a flash of movement and whatever-it-was disappeared.

Suitably wigged out, he kept a wary eye, and eventually saw the perpetrator again. A mother squirrel had set up a nest behind one of my husband's picture frames. When he moved the frame (not knowing she was there) she crouched over her two babies and stared him down.

I repeat, this bold mama squirrel held off a man several dozen times her size simply with the look in her eye. You gotta respect that. My husband hastily backed away and called in his own scary female.

The mother squirrel and I sized each other up for a minute. Then I opened the window and closed the door behind me.  An hour later, mama and babies had left the premises.

I like to think that she'll tell the other squirrels that I'm okay--even if I am a writer.

Oh, and check out the latest review from Wicked Awesome Books:
"Fantastic. Kaynak does an extraordinary job creating a vast, sprawling world filled with just enough science and psychology to make it believable...Minder is an engaging read with unique characters and a steamy romance that sizzles off the page. The ending had me begging for more and, lucky me, Adversary is already out." – Wicked Awesome Books

Monday, September 20, 2010


It's official! There is now a fourth book in the Ganzfield series.  Accused will come out in summer 2011.  Woo hoo! We also have a mock-up of the cover:
What do you think?

Speaking of forthcoming books, Beautiful Darkness will be here in three weeks. If you haven't read Beautiful Creatures yet, you must.  You simply must.  It's an indescribably addictive YA paranormal romance told from the POV of a teenage boy.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I'm a plotter when I write. I spend much of my day deep in my head, thinking about the people of Ganzfield and what they're doing.  When ideas strike, I jot down notes on post-its.

Ideas hit me all over the place, so I have post-its everywhere.  I try to herd them back to my computer, but some of them take the scenic route, so I find them again on my doors, the microwave, my purse, etc.

Apparently, this has made an impression on my 5-year-old daughter.  I woke up yesterday to find these on my bedroom door:
Happy weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One of Us

Oh. My Gawd. Now you, too can be like me! Learn how you can look like you're from 'Jersey. Now watch Jersey Shore to figure out how to too-awk like you're from down the shore.

Only six weeks until Halloween!

And here's something that's both cool and sweet:

Speaking of cool, how cool is it that my books are available in Germany?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Random Fun

How have I missed this blog up 'til now?

 Check it out:
Thanks to Miranda for the link!

Back to book 5, the outlet of all my creative energies these days...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Random Twilight-ish Fun and Nerd-Themed Songs

I love The Key of Awesome, even if they DO have typos in their trailer headings:
(these two probably aren't the best things to play at work or in front of the kids)

Did I ever share this one? Sadly, I now have this song stuck in my head.

Oh, and here's the spoiler alert to end all spoiler alerts (but read it anyway):
Thanks to Matthias for the link!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Still Alive

Final Score:
Kate (Home): 1
Evil Preschool Virus of Death (Visitor): 0


I'm back! First off, did you know that you can give away free books on Goodreads and hundreds of people sign up to win them?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Adversary (Ganzfield, #2) by Kate Kaynak


by Kate Kaynak

Giveaway ends September 20, 2010.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

How cool is that? Feel free to enter!  When I gave away a copy of Minder last week, more than 600 people requested it! If you're not on Goodreads, check it out.  It's a great way to waste even more time online reading about books, instead of settling in and actually reading or writing them.

Speaking of spending a lot of time reading books, check out this story about a teenager who read over 300 books this summer. I don't think they should have counted the comic books, though. I want to send her a copy of Minder.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ah, Nyquil

I'm actually awake on time.  Nyquil is the best! Do ya think, if I praise it enough here at the Bear, they'd send me a free case?

Anyway, I'm sick, but I'm still the mom around here, so I dragged my sorry carcass out of bed and will get everyone one off to school in a few minutes. In the meantime, here's a classic series of animated shorts. BTW, "animated shorts" is a phrase that makes me think of dancing summerwear--and also might be a little dirty.

But I digress.

I blame the Nyquil (The wonderful, wonderful Nyquil). The videos themselves are 100% clean, and my kids love them.

The complete set of videos can be found here:

Happy weekend!  I'd like to spend mine curled up sleeping in a blanket in the dark, but I think my family knows all my hiding places.   *sigh*

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Power of Preschool Germs

Excuse any fuzzy qualities in this brief post--I have been set upon by mutant microorganisms that followed my almost 4-year-old home from preschool. I will now sign off and let the Nyquil have its way with me. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The New Look Seems to Work

There's a new review of Adversary over at Book Crazy today. Thanks for reviewing, Jenn!
Thanks also to Cari at Cari's Book Blog for reviewing, as well!
I'm still buzzing from this one at Escape Between the Pages

Q: Why do black backgrounds bother some people's eyes?
A: No clue. You stumped me!

Aspiring_x, I'm actually honored that you would risk migraines to read my blog!

Most people seem to think that the new look works, although a few people miss the black background. I think it worked with the bear theme (like I was writing from my cave), but this works, too. I'm keeping the black over at, though, so you can get a darkness-fix over there.

Cindy asked:
1. Can you create a character in book 5 that has the talent of folding and putting away my laundry? It would be much appreciated.
A: I'd just ask Trevor to do it--how cool would THAT be to watch? You make a good point, though; I never show my characters doing laundry.

2. Can I get one of those Minder t-shirts so I can take my picture with it on?
A: Yes!  Email me with your size!

3. What is your record word count for a day? (I know you've got this in your excel spreadsheet somewhere!)
A: When I'm doing a first draft, I make myself do 1000 words each day.  They don't have to be good, but they have to be written.  Well, last summer I really got into a semi-manic writing frenzy and--on one of the Saturdays that my husband took the kids from dawn to dusk (known as a "writing vacation" in our house)--I wrote...11,998 words.

My own jaw drops at that. I doubt I'll ever get anywhere close to doing that ever again (I've been under 3K per day on book 5 so far).

But that's why the first draft of book 4 took less than a month to write. 

4. Wanna have lunch?
Yeah!  Email me!

BTW, folks, I'll be in Boston, NYC, and Albany for business this fall and winter.  If you live in or near one of these places, let me know and I'll try to set up a book event or something.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Hi folks,

After reading Fiction Groupie's recent post--which declared black backgrounds "no longer cool"--I felt a sudden need to redecorate. What do you think of the new look? Comments? Criticisms? Compliments?

I'm nearly 12K into the first draft of book 5, and I think most of my creative energy has been going into the book. So, I'll throw a question to everyone--is there anything you'd like to know about? I know a surprising amount of useless trivia; I hold a Ph.D. in psych; I do business development training, and I've spent the last three years learning all about the publishing industry. Appropriate topics include:

What is the average windspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Why do kids have imaginary friends?
How do I motivate a difficult employee?
What should I say about my cat in a query letter?

C'mon--ask away!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

This American holiday has a special meaning in our family, since our twins were born five years ago tomorrow.

Get it? "Labor" Day?

We're having the family party today and baking cupcakes for their kindergarten classes. So, I have two topics for your discussion:

1) What's the BEST birthday memory you have as a kid?

2) I need a little help with research for my WIP. I posted this last week on Facebook, but I figure a few more opinions couldn't hurt. Here's the deal. I have a character who is an 18-year-old American guy who LOVES cars. He now has to pick a late model one to use. Money is not an object (let's hypothetically give him 100K Euro max), but he needs something that won't stand out too much (e.g., no red Ferraris). However, it needs to be able to kick butt on the Autobahn. Any suggestions?

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Series of Books

There's a great discussion at Reading Teen about stand-alone versus series of books.  Check it out here:

"Hi. My name is Earl."

Have a Happy Hurricane Holiday Weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Belated Bear

Sorry about the late post today--I have been without internet access all day.  However, I have an article to share with you, since apparently Ganzfield's gone public:

I love when stuff like this comes out. I'm as skeptical about their claims as I am of the "lose weight as you sleep" diet aids, but it's still fun to read them...and dream.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Taking Time to Appreciate LIfe

Now that I have all this quality breathing time, I recognize the truth in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller:

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

So, I'd like to show you something that made me happy to live in a world where such things exist.

From "Hot Guys and Baby Animals 2011 Calendar"
Debbie over at Debbie's World of Books is having a Minder giveaway until September 6th.

Finally, Leah, a BFF here at the Bear, has posted her review of Adversary.  Thanks for reviewing, Leah!