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QUERY QUILL -

In my work, I have the ears of top literary agents and acquiring editors and the voice to ask them their tastes, desires, and opinions.

I oversee the Agents' Corner segment for Women Writers, Women['s] Books magazine and community. One of the panels I frequently moderate at writers' conferences is entitled, "THIS AGENT'S LIFE."  I also teach master classes in query letters and pitching. As the Vice President Emerta of Communications for the Women's Fiction Writers Association and longtime chair of the Rising Star Award Award for unpublished fiction, I work closely with agents and agent-judges. In 2018, I published a series called, "Being Agented IRL" which is a compilation of interviews with over a dozen authors, from debut to career bestsellers, about the author-agent relationship based on their personal experiences. My award-winning article, "Successful Querying: It's Not All About the Letter" has appeared on nine "Best Of" lists by industry observers. It has been liked, shared, posted, favorited, and retweeted on social media over a thousand times. It remains the most popular article since the inception of Women Writers, Women['s] Books. In the wake of some troubling #shmagents testimonials by real clients I offered advice that was lauded and seconded by legit literary agents and editors. Fortunately, I do believe that was a very odd, singular moment in time. 

I've trained under Donald Maass (Writing 21st Century Fiction, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel), Lisa Cron (Wired for Story, Story Genius, TED Talker), Sol Stein (How to Grow A Novel, Solutions for Writers, Stein on Writing), Margie Lawson, and more. I've studied self-editing, screenwriting, and workshopped on "The Hero's Journey," "Three-Act Structure," and more. I bring it all to your story.

I can't promise that my help will land you an agent. Only your manuscript can do that. Until your manuscript is shining, your time and money are better spent on a developmental editor. (Please don't get scammed. I'm happy to recommend qualified dev eds anytime! Send me a message on the Contact page or below. There is no charge - of course - and I receive no payment or nonmonetary value from the editors. I also offer Opening Pages Editing and Overall Story Evaluation myself. These extensions of my practice arose from client demand and client success. I am honored by that, very. See below for details and praise.)  When that manuscript is absolutely as good as you can make it, read the article I mentioned above. Read others like it. Hopefully, that will be enough. If it is and you land that agent, share the news! I'll be in your cheering section!!! If you need a bit more help...

I'm HERE FOR YOU.  

I will be your query quill.

FROM COACHING TO PENNING TO A BIRD's EYE VIEW...

I AM HERE FOR YOU.

After working together, among my clients' many achievements are: manuscript requests from their dream agents, awards, offers of representation, manuscripts sold at auction, multiple book deals, lists, book club picks, and blurbs by bold-faced names. Every time, I am the loudest, happiest, proudest person in their cheering sections! <3

"'Thank you' seems too little to say and I don't think it represents even half of my gratitude."

"MM was able to look through my synopsis and reach the story below. What she saw there not only affirmed my faith in myself as a writer, but illuminated things I was too close to the manuscript to see. Her calm wisdom in navigating the shoals of genre are helping me answer questions my critique partners and I have been struggling with for over a year. I'm so happy I found her!"

"After so many workshops and rewrites and edits and more edits...now I have definitive suggestions on how to rework those pages. THANK YOU! No one has ever pinpointed exactly what was wrong with those pages as you did." 

"I already have a request!! I sent your query! I got an answer an hour later!" 

"I've sent out about 40 queries so far. Just wanted to let you know that I’ve had 15 requests for fulls. Your query is certainly very good. I AM INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL is what I am trying to say."

"MM is a rare find. She provides straightforward and honest feedback while also being kind and supportive. That's a tough tightrope to walk and she does it beautifully. Even more impressive, she pointed out exactly what was needed to strengthen my first chapter, something no one else had been able to do. I'm so happy I found her! Highly recommend."

"I'm sqeeing so hard right now! You made [my work] sound so good!"

"Somehow you organized the mess of thoughts I gave you into a beautiful cover story. It was also so helpful to have the list of agents who may be interested in my book. I had my own ideas, but I definitely sent the query to the ones you recommended first. The comps you proposed for my books were absolutely perfect. They were current, I’ve seen them mentioned by agents, and I know readers love them. Thank you a million times!"

"I realized yesterday when I started reading through the MS again with an eye trained specifically on [your feedback] that there was a big gap in my understanding of how & why [my protagonist] became the person she used to be. I have known for a long time it was there, but it hadn't really occurred to me that it was important. And whatever that answer is addresses an issue [an interested agent] identified last spring, so...good things all the way around!"

"I paid a lot of money to a developmental editor. I don't understand why she didn't tell me half of these things! Thank you for your extensive feedback and insight. I really appreciate you taking my call this evening too."

"MM Finck is a true professional. She is incredibly encouraging while providing insightful and valuable feedback in a timely manner. I would not hesitate to recommend her to any writer looking to polish their craft and succeed in this often challenging industry." 

QUERY QUILL QUORUM - QUERY LETTERS - $95 

  • A small virtual working group wherein a group of four to seven writers collaborate to critique and revise query letters over a video call.

  • I come to the call already having reviewed your letter, prepared with explanations as to what is working, where I see opportunities to strengthen it, and ideas for how.

  • I lead and regroup as necessary. 

  • Calls run approximately two hours (often two and a half) to ensure every quorum member gets the time they need.

  • The group brainstorms comps for each other to supplement my agreements or suggestions.

  • The groups more often than not remain connected as a writers' support group. 

  • My ongoing partnership and cheerleading. Not sure how to respond to an agent? Not sure whether to follow up? Don't worry. I do, and I'm always happy to help. Did your #pitmad tweet get liked by an agent? We'll squeal together. My clients have my personal email and cell. 

  • Small surcharge for quorums beginning after 5pm EST or on weekends ($10 ea per participant)

  • If you come with a group of four to seven people you've gathered on your own, I will schedule a Query Quill Qurom, and everyone in the group will get a $5 discount! (yes, for after normal EST working hours, that nets to an increase of $5 ea per participant.

  • Optional add-on for me to  give feedback on post-quorum revised query letter - $15 in total for two subsequent reads. I usually turn around re-reads within 2 business days. 

"I literally cannot thank you enough. This was incredible and I just spent an hour working on it and it's SOOOOOO much stronger. Now I just need to actually revise the book! I'm going to send everyone I know to you!"

"Query Quill goes above and beyond helping writers achieve their query goals. I walked away with not only new and valuable insights but also the feeling that somebody actually cared about my work!"

"My wordy, I can tell why you are a query magician. I’m now a little in love with my own book and with you! Lol.
What a fabulous session. It was the perfect blend of point in time information, fun and jokes, and the harder finger poke jabbing in the hard truths about successful queries. Thanks a million."

"Thanks again for such a wonderful opportunity and event! I already thought you came across great "on paper" i.e. blogs, writings etc. but "in person" (sorta) even better! You are a gem and what you do for others is so awesome and appreciated. Technology issues were a real personal struggle for me that night...but it was all worth it because I walked away with so much insight and I am now in the middle of a total revamp of my query. The key that really fit into the lock was the nugget you gave me at the end. Again, many thanks and all the best!"

"Oh my goodness, Peggy. That was amazing! You have such a gift for drilling down to exactly what matters, and it was amazing to see how you were able to strengthen all our very different pitches. Thank you for such a valuable and encouraging event. I will use these two pitches, repeating the first one. The only change I made to pitch #1 was the incredibly fabulous addition of “maybe,” which adds so much." 

 

"You are every bit as wise as your blurbs say.

Practical.

Insightful.

Supportive.

And many other wonderful things, perhaps the most wonderful of which is
your embrace of the nuts and bolts involved--that this is a THING, a
thing which is WORKED ON-- tweaked and polished and made better, whether
thirty percent better or a fraction of one percent better.

The best thing about that conversation was that while, yes, it's time to
take the query apart and rebuild it,  I feel as though you affirmed the
goodness of the book itself-- its story, and its voices.  That means
everything to me."

QUERY QUILL QUORUM - THE ALL-IMPORTANT ELEVATOR PITCH - $75 

How cam we possibly encapsulate our stories, especially, our favorite parts, no - the best parts,  in just a couple sentences?! It often feels like the most impossible pitch format because it is so unbearably short. How can it be enough to convince agents in one-on-one sessions, friends and family, and online pitch agent-/editor-partipants of the value of our work? It seems impossible. I promise you, it is not. I will help you. I have examples and your hand. At the most recent conference (October 2020) where I taught four sessions on this, every single one of the participants in my sessions received manuscript and pages requests from agents.   

Conference Survey Question: "What was most valuable or helpful to you at the conference?" 

Participant Answer: "ShopTalk: 'Pitches' by M.M. Finck who took the time to look at my query letter and give me advice [on every element]... Her insight was invaluable."

"Thanks again for your review of my pitch. It helped me focus on what I really needed to say when I met with an agent yesterday.

She gave me her email and told (not asked) me to get back to her when I’ve written the proposal. She told me she would introduce me to two agents who have successfully represented my kind of book and recommend it to them. This all sounds encouraging to me. Your critique and suggestions set me up well in preparing for the agent interview.  THANK YOU!"

"Just so you know, you make it look easy."

 

  • A small virtual working group wherein a group of four to seven writers collaborate to critique and revise elevator or twitter-style pitches and loglines over a video call.

  • Participants submit their long pitch (usually plucked from their query letter) and up to four of their favorite possibilities for their elevator or twitter-style pitches or loglines.

  • I come to the call already having reviewed the materials, prepared with explanations with which of the possibilities are strongest, what is working, often a lot of questions, and where I see opportunities to strengthen it and ideas for how.

  • I lead and regroup as necessary. 

  • Calls run approximately two hours (often two and a half) to ensure every quorum member gets the time they need.

  • The group brainstorms comps if that is part of the final pitch or logline. 

  • The groups more often than not remain connected as a writers' support group. 

  • My ongoing partnership and cheerleading. Not sure how to respond to an agent? Not sure whether to follow up? Don't worry. I do, and I'm always happy to help. Did your #pitmad tweet get liked by an agent? We'll squeal together. My clients have my personal email and cell. 

  • Optional add-on for me to  give feedback on revised elevator/twitter pitch or logline - $5 total for two rereads. I usually turn around re-reads within two business days. I have been known to pull over to the side of the road for repeat clients who needed it 'stat.' :)

  • If you come to me with a group of four to seven people you've gathered on your own who are ready to be form a quorum, I will schedule one, and everyone in the group will get a $5 discount! 

*I have long recognized the brilliance of contests like #pitmad, #pitchwars, and #dvpit which essentially illustrate the power of a phenomenal elevator pitch/hook/logline. Writers attract agents with it, agents sell our work with it, editors make decisions upon it, cover copy writers use it to conceive our back cover copy, marketing uses it to promote our titles, booksellers use it to hand-sell our books! I am grateful and proud that QUERY QUILL has grown purely by word-of-mouth which has kept me booked solid for four years. 100% of the Query Quill Quorum participants working on their twitter pitches earned 'likes' (aka query requests) from literary agents. Every single one. <3*  

ONE-ON-ONE QUERY LETTER PARTNERSHIP - $125 

  • Time to  join mentalities; a much deeper, word-level, big-picture-encapsulting partnership brought to your query letter. 

  • I study your syniopsis (or scene list or outline or whatever you've got, if nothing, no worries...) followed up by detailed Q&A.

  • In addition to pointing out what is workingneeded, we work together to brainstorm perfect wording.

  • I am a partner bounce ideas off of.

  • or at least many steps closer it and a colleague to bounce possibilities off of. 

  • Calls run approximately two hours (often two and a half) to ensure every quorum member gets the time they need.

  • The group brainstorms comps for each other to supplement my own confirmation or suggestions.

  • The groups often remain connected as a writers' support group. 

  • My ongoing partnership and cheerleading. Not sure how to respond to an agent? Not sure whether to follow up? Don't worry. I do, and I'm always happy to help. Did your #pitmad tweet get liked by an agent? We'll squeal together. My clients have my personal email and cell. 

  • Small surcharge for quorums after normal EST weekday working hours. $10/per participant.

  • Optional add-on for me to  give feedback on revised query letter - $15 in total for two subsequent reads. I usually turn around re-reads within 2 business days. 

  • If you come to me with a group of four to seven people you've gathered on your own who are ready to be form a quorum, I will schedule one, and everyone in the group will get a $5 discount! 

OPENING PAGES CRITIQUE -

$TBD

Most literary agents say that they only give a story two to three pages to hook them.

Let's hook them. 

If your query letter is strong, but you aren't getting any requests for more than the sample pages you sent with the query, the problem is likely your opening pages.

If you are getting requests for partials, but it stops there without requests for the full, the problem is likely your opening pages

I Am here for you.

With a full critique of your first 10 double-spaced pages you can expect - 

  • In depth editorial notes for the first five pages, with special focus on the all-important first page (as well as the second and maybe even the third as they often should be the first. :))

  • Questions for your consideration, as needed, regarding theme, POV, narration, pacing, and story arc all the way through the ten pages. 

  • Specificity in both praise and critique.

  • Feedback delivered via call/video call followed by an email with line-by-line points for consideration. 

  • Submitted synopses (I don't care if they are pretty; other story-encapsulation formats up to are also welcome), if available, will be read and brought to the opening pages analysis.

  • Post-feedback availability and support. 

  • Encouragement.

QUERY LETTER PENNING -

$TBD

  • A fully written query letter.

  • Two to three comparable book titles, film or television series ("Veronica Mars" and "Dexter" for example, are frequent inclusions on agents' and editors' manuscript wish lists.), or authors, with an eye on reviews, praise, sales, and repute of publisher.

  • Names of three agents specifically chosen for your story.

  • An example of personalization for one of the recommended agents.

  • We start with you submitting your synopsis (up to two single-spaced pages) and query letter, if you have one. It doesn't have to be pretty. I study it for key elements. From there, we often have a call/video call that helps me to feel like I am living in the universe of your story..  

  • The process, for me, usually takes two weeks. All you have to do is be fairly responsive to my email/text inquiries, at a same day or early next day type reply-pace. 

  • Ongoing partnership and cheerleading. Not sure how to respond to an agent? Not sure whether to follow up? Don't worry. I do, and I'm always happy to help. Did your #pitmad tweet get liked by an agent? We'll squeal together. My clients have my personal email and cell. 

"Dude! I sent out seven query letters Friday night. This morning [Monday] I got one request for a full and another request for a partial. That's some magic, Query Quill!"

*In four years of business and hundreds of clients, 100% of the query letters I've written when I also did an opening pages critique have garnered manuscript requests from agents.* 

Fast becoming the most popular Query Quill service!

OVERALL STORY ANALYSIS  -

$TBD

Agents look at manuscripts from a bird's eye view. The most beautiful writing in the world can't save a story without certain essential elements. I'll help you make sure they are there, occurring at the right times, and in the proper dosage.

This service mimics the feedback that agents gives their clients which is strikingly similar to their evaluatory process for deciding whether or not to sign a querying writer for representation.

Let's Get you Signed!

I may do some line-editing of the writing with this service, but the focus here is on the story and storytelling. For our purposes your synopsis doesn't have to be fancy or final. All I need is something that gives me a detailed overview of the story - up to approximately four single-spaced pages. I've used chapter outlines, scene lists, less formal depictions... it doesn't matter. I'm on your team. I don't care what it looks like as long as it tells me the story and how you're telling it. With that, I evaluate the major elements:

  • obstacles

  • stakes

  • pacing

  • story structure

  • story questions

  • character development

  • theme 

  • ticking clock

  • setting

  • starting point

  • ending point

  • point of view

  • the "spark"

  • and more

It is rarely possible for an unpublished author to afford professional feedback on their entire story. Most reputable freelance editors charge clients by the page (approximately $3-5/page) or by the word (approximately, $.35-.40/word which extends to many $1,000s for a full manuscript.)  I will not tell you that you won't get more by my trusted friends who offer these services. I will suggest that you may get all you need with mine. If you are motivated, open to partnership, and willing to carry resulting realizations through your manuscript, this may be the perfect service for you.

My feedback contains praise, encouragement, suggestions, questions, points for your consideration, and post-feedback availability and support.  

MAKE YOUR OWN -

This service exists - again at client request (more accurately quoting as "comically begging" :) #heartswell) - as a catch-all.

Most recently, it was to write the back cover copy for a past client who got a publishing deal. Another one was to title a current client's book. I know her story well, I like word play and titling. I gave her ideas, we narrowed down to a few, then I conducted a blind facebook poll for her to test them with potential readers. I've written in-person conference pitches for previous clients. I've written twitter pitch contest tweets for previous and current clients.

Feeling unsure about something? Ask. Essentially, I'm here.

If you are a new client, and I am unfamiliar with your story, you are equally welcome! I'll need to get into the details of your story which takes mental energy and time, so it will naturally be at a slightly higher cost, but again and always, intentionally inexpensive. I will dedicatedly spend the time diving into your story, parsing, evaluating, researching ad infinitum, and brainstorming the best possible hook. 

*For quicker services like many of these allow or require, if time is of the essence, I try very hard to fit them in sooner to accomodate contest and publisher deadlines.* 

A Word About Pricing

***I offer a 5% discount for families of first responders (active and retired military, clergy, firefighters, & police) as a token of my great appreciation for all you do.***

Full-length book editors typically charge upwards of three thousand to several thousand dollars. (This recent article on The Write Life provides more detail and sources for comparison.) For most writers I know - for me! - that is simply unfathomable. It has been my passion since the inception QUERY QUILL to provide superior, intentionally inexpensive partnership. My clients' praise, referrals, and successes prove that my work, at 10-20% of that cost, is thorough, expert, and effective. 

A Word About Timing

Like nearly all reputable editors, my next available time slot is usually a few to several weeks out. I know waiting is excrutiating. I am the most impatient person on earth. :) So I urge you to consider the timing of our partnership (or any editor) as part of your overall project calendar. Once you are far enough along in your revisions to see the light at the end of the tunnel and able to commit to a later date, scheduling with me for then is often a great idea.

If you're eager to query, but our time together is a little ways out, I promise you, the days will slide by! Our slot will be here sooner than you expect, and the wait will be worth it.

"MM!!!!! This seriously just happened! I sent our letter out Friday night, and it's freaking Monday! YOU ARE A MASTER!" A top agent claimed to be so hooked by the query letter that she "sped" through the sample pages over lunch and immediately requested a full.

"[MM's query letter] has so far garnered 7 manuscript requests from some of the hardest and best agents in the industry...I can't thank her enough and frugal bastard though I am, had I money set aside early in my career... this would be something that current me would recommend past me invest in sooner and without reservation... MM's deft hands are worth whatever she's charging these days."

"Like a child opening a Christmas gift, I was giddy to read the letter. Girl, you did not disappoint.  I love it and if I was an agent I'd definitely want to read this ms!! 😉Thanks for the list of agents. [One of the recommended agents]...asked for 50 pages! The comps are on point. Will keep you in the loop. Thank you very much for your services and your encouragement."
 

If you simply can't stop yourself from querying while you wait, I recommend that you not query agents on your dream list. You cannot rescind and resend. Everything about your submission - letter, opening pages, and story - will be better after our time together.

(Full length developmental editors are usually booked out a few months. If you are interested in an editor who is not booked out at least a few weeks, and there isn't another explanation like she just returned from vacation or maternity leave, please ask for references and ask in your writing communities if anyone else has worked with her. She could be wonderfull! And simply taken on clients only rarely. Just be sure. Every story of wasted money and mislaid trust breaks my heart. What we do as writers, isn't just our work, it's our dreams. In my experience, the best editors are in demand.)

I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING TOGETHER!

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