Tag Archives: how do I get people to read my books?

The Difference Between a Query Letter and a Book Proposal

Before you write to either a publisher or to an agent, it is important to know the difference between a query letter and a book proposal.

A query letter is a request for a publisher to read your proposal for a request for reading your fiction book and a book proposal is a proposal for a request for reading your nonfiction book. A query letter is usually written after a fiction book is written and a book proposal is often written before the book is written. Since you have written a book of fiction, if you are going the traditional publishing route, you will be writing a query letter.

Of course, you no longer have to go the traditional publishing route. Many people are self-publishing or going through small press publishers or even doing what is called hybrid publishing which is a cross between traditional publishing or self-publishing. This post, however, is about how to contact a publisher or agent.

What is the difference between a publisher, an editor, and an agent?

A publisher can refer to an organization or the individual in charge of an organization which releases books. However, an editor is an individual who works with authors directly. In cases where the publisher refers to an organization, it simply means the publishing company as a whole which employs many editors. Editors are the people who work to adapt your book to the publisher’s audiences.

A literary agent (also known as book agents or publishing agents) act as authors’ representatives for the sale and/or licensing of their books with large domestic publishers. As well as smaller domestic publishers. These individuals work to connect you with the publisher and then help negotiate the contract between you and the publisher.

To secure either the services of a publisher or an agent, you can’t just call them up and ask them if you if they will accept you and your book. You have to write a query and send it to them.

It used to be that in order to send a query letter, you had to mail it in and wait weeks for a reply. Now days, contacting literary agents and publishers are usually done via e-mail. You send the query letter and then they let you know whether they want you to submit your manuscript. They may also want to do it some other way. The best way to find out how they want you to submit your manuscript would be by reading their submission guidelines.

Look at a publisher or agent’s website before submitting a query letter or your manuscript.

Study the publisher or agent’s website and learn everything you can about what this person accepts and doesn’t accept. If this agent focuses on selling science fiction, don’t try to get this agent to represent you if you write historical romances. If a publisher doesn’t publish horror, don’t think that that publisher is going to change for you!

The better you’re known by the publisher or agent, the more likely they are to represent you. However, even if they do represent your genre, don’t think that harassing them is going to make them represent you. Calling them on the phone and asking to speak to someone in charge could be a nail in your authorship coffin.

So how do you meet a publisher or an agent? You might go to an event where publishers or agents are present and get to know them at a writer’s conference.

It is also possible that you could get to know them through someone you already know. If you know another author who has published through a specific publisher or has been represented by a specific agent, that person might just be the connection you need.

Whether you’re contacting a publisher or an agent, your query letter should be perfectly written, but that will be a message for another blog post.  First, before writing the query letter, you’ll need to work on dressing up your bio. That will be the topic of next week’s post.

Beat the drum and help potential readers find your book with a better than average book description

In my upcoming book: Write a Book to Ignite your Business, I demonstrate not only how writing a book  can provide an awesome marketing tool for your business, but I also show business owners how to actually write the book. One of the first things I recommend they do is to write their book description.  The seven elements needed to nail it include: having a compelling hook, having a great thesis statement, putting it in present tense, writing in the third person (most of the time), using the right key words, using power words, and making the reader want  to read more by providing a cliffhanger.

  1. The Narrative Hook

Whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction, a hook draws the reader in, encouraging the reader to invest time in reading your book description.

Here are fourteen types of hooks:


Words of advice that will make an impact on your reader.



A short and amusing story about an incident or a person, usually famous.


Bold Statement

A statement or assertion that arouses an opinion or response from your reader.



A pair of concepts that don’t go together.



A definition (Caution—don’t quote the dictionary) of a term or concept that is relevant to your work.



A situation where a choice must be made between two or more, usually undesirable, outcomes.



An interesting fact from a reliable source.


Famous quote

A quote from a famous person that is relevant to your work.



A joke, quip, or scene that arouses laughter or amusement in your readers.


Personal experience

A short story about an experience in your life that is relevant to the writing topic.


Rhetorical question

A question that inspires curiosity, but that cannon be simply answered (but it should be addressed in your essay).



A description of a scene or setting that stimulates any of the five senses.


Simile or metaphor

A comparison of one thing to another, usually unrelated, thing.



A startling statistic from a reliable source.



  1. The Right Thesis Statement

The right thesis statement is essay 101 and is basically being able to say in one sentence what your book is all about. If you can’t, then you don’t know your book well enough.


  1. Present Tense

Present tense means the action in the description is happening now and you want your reader to actively feel that your book is relevant now rather than in the past or even in the future.  Use words like “is” rather than “was” and “what people are saying rather than “what people have said” to emulate the idea that this book is a book for today.


  1. Third Person

In the case of most books, write in the third person “he” or “she” is doing this rather than” I did this” or “you did this”.  One exception is the how-to book where you might want to use second person in your description.


  1. Key Words

Do you know which keywords are frequently put in the search bar but are seldom written and that relate to your book’s topic?


Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable, and high return activities in the search marketing field. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your website. By researching your market’s keyword demand, you can not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole.


It’s not always about getting visitors to read your book description, but about getting the right kind of visitors. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated; with keyword research you can produce the content that web searchers are actively seeking.


Understanding which websites already rank for your keyword gives you valuable insight into the competition, and also how hard it will be to rank for the given term. Are there search advertisements running along the top and right-hand side of the organic results? Typically, many search ads means a high-value keyword, and multiple search ads above the organic results often means a highly lucrative and directly conversion-prone keyword.

The key though is not to just throw in keywords that just have the best scores however. It is most important that the key words relate directly to what your book description (and book!) is all about.


  1. Power Words

Power words are words that excite the reader. The most powerful word is because. We will be more successful at doing whatever it is that we say because  we offer this reason.


Some words have been overused, however. “New and improved”, “more”, “free”, and a few others have become spam because they have been written a little too often and are no longer as powerful as they used to be. This is because of their over use and abuse.


One of the greatest ad campaigns simply used the ‘if then’ duo to sell its message. If you spend only five minutes a day then you will…..fill in what ever success you could imagine. Surely your have five minutes you could spend every day?


Simply put if and add an appropriate reasonable action with a resulting then. Use this power word duo and take note of how it improves your power of persuasion.


Let the evidence or the authority speak for you. Let the higher authority leverage what you say. Use the power words to act as the pry bar to give you that leverage. Use an anecdotal authority story as a group of power words in your book description to create a set of power words.  A story about how you did something that is in your book or a story about how something didn’t work and how you had to fix it.


More power words exist. A study of these words by googling “power words” can help you develop stronger reasons in your description for readers to buy your book.


7. Cliffhanger

Just as the hook draws the reader in to invest time in reading your book description, the cliffhanger encourages the reader to purchase and read your book. Put a cliffhanger at the end of your description that leaves the audience in suspense, wanting more than what the description offers and looking to the book to provide the answers that the description doesn’t .

Different Types of Books Require Different Applications of the above elements, therefore it makes sense to study how effective other authors have used these elements in their descriptions of the books within your genre and good luck your book!


As I stated in my last post, I think that even more important than me and those who work with me are the people who actually are likely to read my book.
These people include fans. I have fans of many different ages. I know of one fan who is only ten years old. However, I have another fan who is in her eighties. I could put out a new book in the Locket Saga tomorrow and both will buy it and ask me when the next book is coming out. Neither however, are actually in my target audience. Most ten year olds are not likely to enjoy my books, but this one does. Most of my readers aren’t in their eighties either. So who is my target audience?
This is where research comes in handy.

Basic Demographics of Romance Readers

64.6 million Americans read at least one romance novel in the past year. In 1998 there were 41 million readers in the US, 51.1 million in the US in 2002 and has continued to grow even faster because of e-books.
29 percent of romance readers are from the south, 27 percent are from the west, 26 percent are from the Midwest, and 12.6 percent are from the Northeast. Demographically romance readers are all over the place. Looking for a demographic, I say that romance readers are not generally from the northeast.
78 percent of romance readers are female and 22 percent of romance readers are male. Overwhelmingly, romance readers are female.
Fifty percent of romance readers are married and 37 percent of romance readers are single, Eight percent of romance readers are widowed, four percent are divorced and one percent are separated. Therefore most of romance readers are either married or have never been married.
Twenty two percent of romance readers are between the ages of 35-44, 19 percent are between the ages of 25-34, 18% are between the ages of 45-54 11 percent are between the ages of 55-64, 9 percent are between the ages of 18-24, eight percent are over75, six percent are between the ages of 14-17, six percent are between the ages of 65-74 and one percent are thirteen or younger. This means that 70 percent of romance readers are between the ages of 25 and 64 which would make this my target range.
Forty-two percent of romance readers have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 27 percent have college degrees, 15% have post-graduate work or degrees, 7% have associate degrees, 17% have attended a trade school or have some college, and 23% have high school diplomas. Romance readers tend to be educated.
Therefore, a basic demographic for a romance reader is likely be a well-educated woman between the ages of 25 and 64 living somewhere other than northeast. She is either married or has never been married. She is not likely to be divorced or widowed. This is also the demographic for my target reader.

Reading Habits of Romance Readers

During the past year, the number of romance novels that romance readers read varied. 54% have read between 1 and 5 books. 17% have read between 6 and 10 books. 14% have read between 11 and 20 books. 8% have read between 21 and 50 books. 2% have read between 51 and 100 books.
Romance Readers Obtained the Last Romance Novel They Read by buying them new (36%), checking them out of the library (25%), borrowing from a friend (16%), receiving as a gift (13%), bought them used (5%), got their books in other ways (4%) or traded another book for a new book (1%).
54% percentage of Romance readers bought 20% of their novels new, 32% don’t buy any new books, and 15% always buy new books
The most popular place readers buy their books is at mass merchandisers such as Target or Wal-Mart . 31% bought their books from a mass merchandiser, 22% bought their books from a mall bookstore, 16% bought their books from a free-standing bookstore, 8% bought their books from a mail order, 6% bought their books from another outlet, 5% bought their books from a book club, 5% bought their books from a grocery store, 4% bought their books from the internet, 2% bought their books from an airport bookstore, and 1% bought their books from a drug store.

What Elements do Romance Readers like Best?

When writing a book, it always helps to know what readers do and do not like about story lines. Here are some statistics regarding story elements.
Romance readers ranked the following setting or plot elements for romance novels in order of most enjoyable 48 percent of readers preferred mystery, thriller, or action plots. 36 percent of romance readers preferred exotic settings. 33 percent of readers prefer contemporary themes while 31 percent preferred inspirational romances with spiritual sub-plots. 27 percent of romance readers preferred Colonial American settings while 25% percent preferred settings in the American West. 24 percent preferred historical romance set in England while 21 percent preferred Scottish historical settings. 21 percent preferred Medieval settings, 18 percent preferred paranormal romances, and 14 percent preferred Futuristic romances.
What do Romance Readers Want in a Cover Design?
Cover designs that readers of romances prefer are as follows: 53% of readers prefer covers that are either abstract or romantic, 35% of readers prefer sedate and abstract covers, and 12% of readers prefer romantic covers.

What the Reader expects in Historical Fiction

No matter what a reader’s demographics, a reader expects certain things in a specific genre.For instance, my fiction genre is Historical Christian Romance. Above we saw the demographics of a romance novel, so now lets look at what a reader expects from historical fiction. A reader of historical fiction expects a setting located in a temporal past. Persons portrayed in this genre portray the manners and social conditions of the persons or times presented in the story and pays attention to other period details. Authors frequently choose to explore notable historical figures in these settings, allowing readers to better understand how these individuals would have responded to their environments. The tension between historical authenticity, or historicity, and fiction frequently becomes a point of commentary for readers and popular critics, while scholarly criticism frequently goes beyond this commentary, investigating the genre for its other thematic and critical interests. Historical describes historical events in story form for contemporary audiences.

What is expected in Christian Fiction

A reader expects Christian fiction to not have crass words and to be without voyeurism. Cursing and detailed bedroom scenes are not elements for Christian fiction. Plots should include Christian messages but without being preachy. Righteousness always wins out in the end.

The Importance of Target Readers

When we know who our target reader is, it helps us target our primary methods of book marketing. Our strategies can easily come from this knowledge and we are more likely to find success as self-publishers because we are focused on a specific target audience.
Another group of people who should be in this target reader is our reviewers. Reviewers are simply readers who also write about what they have read. If a reviewer is in our target audience, the reviewer probably has a following that is also within our target audience. As you can see, the more we understand our target reader, the better our chances of hitting the best sellers list.

IMG_8330 final copy

Donna Brown is an ordained minister. As Author Cygnet Brown, she  has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her book, check out her website at .

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