Wednesday, August 1, 2012

11 WOW Wednesday: Nicola Furlong on Promotion that Begins with a Killer Query

Today's guest, Nicola Furlong, writes mystery novels, develops interactive children's books for the iPad, blogs about and publishes e-books (, creates podcasts about genre writing (The Novel Experience) and produces book trailers...when she's not playing hockey, growing blue poppies or eating chocolate fudge. She has also written a gardening guide for the West Coast and has adapted two of her novels to screenplays; both were optioned for television. She lives in small town on southern Vancouver Island, but you can catch her at her website: and at:

 Promoting Your Book Starts with Your Query

by Nicola Furlong

One of the most rewarding parts of being a professional mystery writer is helping aspiring writers get published. I teach a variety of writing courses at a local college and interview other published authors to discover their tips and tricks of the storytelling trade as part of my podcast, The Novel Experience.

Today, I thought I would highlight the key elements of two areas of every writer's life that are always top of mind: Query letters and Marketing.

Writing Killer Queries

Writing good queries is hard; it's both art and craft. A strong query is:
  • An advertisement for your book
  • Brief
  • Punchy
  • Personalized for a specific editor or agent
  • Hooks reader's interest
  • Writing style suits the book
  • Leaves reader wanting more

The four basic elements of a killer query letter are:
  • First Paragraph:
    Opening line pitch: two sentences or so that hooks reader's interest, written in the style of the book.
  • Second Paragraph: 
    Three to five sentences providing more information about the main character and his/her character arc, the central plot and the length and style of the book.
  • Third Paragraph: 
    Two to three sentences about you, such as your qualifications, the reason for writing the book, the possible audience/markets for the book and why you are the one to write and how you plan to promote it.
  • Final Paragraph: 
    Two sentences to ask if they wish to receive sample chapters or the entire manuscript and to thank them for their kind consideration.

Six Clues to Self-Promotion

Competition’s fierce, so you’ve got to have F.L.A.R.E.:
  • Fresh, original
  • Loud: both voice & appearance
  • Articulate for panels, interviews
  • Respectful to audience, reviewers, booksellers
  • Endurance to survive

You don’t have to have lots of money. Just follow my clues for shameless & successful self-promotion:

1)         Swallow Your Shyness & Be Bold. (Fake it if necessary!)
  • Must master public speaking, some acting helps
  • Start small: local clubs, book signings & build to Oprah
2)         Get Your Ducks in Order
  • Write a snappy press release for media & online
  • Get professional photo
  • Seek marvellous reviews & cover quotes
  • Invent an interesting bio; you’re a creative writer, remember?
  • Use hooks—like a book’s locale, where you live or work—to generate interest

3)         Get the Word & Book Out
  • Press releases online (e.g., Prweb & Prlog) & to local TV, radio, variety of newspapers
  • Review copies to review web sites/forums/chats, newspapers, bookstores, TV & radio
  • Create book trailer & upload
  • Create bookmarks, postcards, business cards or flyers with book information
  • Send to your mailing lists: bookstores, libraries, reporters, fans, relevant organizations
  • Give bookmarks etc., to friends, family, strangers
  • Write articles for related magazines, blogs & newspapers
  • Comment on relevant websites, blogs & newspapers

4)         Get off Your Duff
  • Scout out opportunities: readings, book clubs & guest blogging
  • Attend relevant tradeshows & sell books
  • Visit bookstores, offer to sign stock or do book signing
  • Join groups (local, professional, online) for information and promotional opportunities
  • Attend conferences & conventions; be a panellist
  • Teach others

5)         Wow the Web
  •   Email signature includes book info & buy link
  •    Entertaining & informative web site: excerpts, bio, reviews, places to buy books
  •    Blog your head off (Wordpress, Blogger, etc.)
  •    Attend chat rooms and social networking sites (Facebook, GoodReads, etc.)
  •   Join specialty list serves
  •   Share links with other web sites

And, last but not least:

6)         Wear Bright Colours & Funky Shoes
  • Something to chat about
  • Stand out & be noticed    
 I really hope that some of my ideas will help you realize your writing dream of getting published.


Nicola is the author of two stand-alone mysteries, six inspirational cozies from the Church Choir Mystery series, an iPad interactive children's book, a multi-media online thriller and two non-fiction writing primers.


  1. This is a fantastic post!! I'm sharing it.

  2. Fabulous advice! Definitely bookmarking this one! :)

  3. Ha! Wear bright colors and funky shoes...that's a new one to me! Thanks for the great advice. Like Jemi, I'm bookmarking it.

  4. Wow, so much to do, but all needed. Thanks for organizing this info so nicely! Bullet points make me happy:)

  5. Thanks for the great advice. You make the query sound so easy.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thanks for the mention of PRWeb in your post! If you need some inspiration for promoting your book in a press release, you can see great examples here:

    And if you have any questions, feel free to tweet us on Twitter @PRWeb.

  8. Holy Cow what a golden post. Bookmarking immediately. Blue poppies? I'm intrigued.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. You had me until the 3rd paragraph. How do you fit all that into two or three paragraphs, never mind two or three sentences? Could you give us an example


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