M M F i n c k
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 (often sold out) master classes in query letters and pitching. As a past Vice President of Communications for the Women's Fiction Writers Association and past-chair advisor to the Rising STAR Award for unpublished fiction, I work closely with agents and agent-judges.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 several thousand of times over. 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 Critiques and Overall Story Analysis 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 I work with all fiction genres.
"'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."
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TRUST AND PARTNERSHIP AND FRIENDSHIP over these past many years!!! (I'm not going anywhere.) I love you and my job *so, so* much. Every single day of these past years, my happy place has been working with my clients and other writers to achieve your writerly dreams. I could not be MORE PROUD of you or more GRATEFUL to be a rung on your ladders to your many accomplishments! Beginning March 2023, I will save space for my own writing. Something I haven't done for a minute. I will, of course, remain available to previous clients (#foreverteam) and writers I've met and will meet at various conferences and workshops!
I remain available and excited for speaking and teaching engagements in 2023! I cannot wait to meet you and your writers! It is my very favorite thing. If you are interested in having me or if you are a writer who would like to suggest me to your groups, please email me.
If you are interested in hearing about an upcoming Query Quill Quorum (I usually do 3 over the spring/summer) or being notified when I fully reopen, please email me. No subscriptions. No spam. :)
QUERY LETTER PENNING - $500
A fully written query letter with agent personalization, carefully curated comps, fresh and compelling pitch, and a professional bio.
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!"
*Since the inception of Query Quill in 2014, 100% of the query letters I've written when I also did an opening pages critique have garnered manuscript requests from agents.*
OPENING PAGES CRITIQUE - $300
Most literary agents say that they only give a story one 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, with special focus on the all-important first page
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.
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.
OVERALL STORY ANALYSIS - $400
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:
point of view
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, post-feedback availability and support, and a video call or call to go over everything, brainstorm ideas, and answer any questions.
SYNOPSIS PENNING - $500
With chapter summaries and dialogue between us, I will write a full two page synopsis of your story.
SYNOPSIS CRITIQUE - $250
With chapter summaries and dialogue between us, I will do line edits of your draft synopsis (up to four single spaced pages) as well as give feedback on how to elevate it and get it down to the industry standard of two.
QUERY LETTER CRITIQUE - $275
A bit of real talk first
This is where I started, and I am here for it still! If you would like me to do this, I will gladly do it with you!
Here's the real talk: In my almost decade of doing this after hundreds of clients and countless teachings at workshops/presentations/retreats/etc. across the country - please do not kill me for being candid here - most query letters need larger changes than critique-like suggestions such as word swaps, show more character, give more description, cut back on description, and more or less world-building. Those are things at which writers excel!
Agent personalization needs to be professional and current. Often the writer's bio is too long (or, just as often, missing some relevant affiliations or other information) or includes things the writer intends for color that won't help and could hurt. Sometimes writers choose the wrong genre or subgenre or comps. Those are all elements of a query that are very conducive to line critiquing!
The pitch is different. Querying is not writing. It is a completely different skill. Often query pitches read like mini-summaries rather than sales pitches. They are either too airy or too dense. They introduce too many characters. Good pitches need loglines that hook. They need to build tension and conflict and convey importance (not just stakes but far-reaching importance.) They need to end on a question.
Most of the time, I see a different angle to position the story and engage the reader more effectively which most often necessitates rewriting the pitch almost from the ground up.
If you think my potentially making suggestions on how to reframe your story is enough for you to go back to your computer and rewrite your pitch, FANTASTIC! LET'S DO IT! :) It is less expensive and includes two follow-up read-throughs of your revisions.
But if you aren't sure how to write a letter or if your letter isn't giving you the feels (most important part,) I AM STILL HERE FOR YOU. IN FACT, I AM HERE FOR YOU THE MOST. Writing query letters is what I do.
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 accommodate contest and publisher deadlines.*
A Word About Pricing
***I offer a 10% first responder discount for active and retired military, clergy, firefighters, police, EMTs, and paramedics 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 too! - that is simply unfathomable. It has been my passion since the inception QUERY QUILL to provide superior partnership at intentionally affordable price points, available ala carte because you know best what you need and what you already have handled. 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/he just returned from vacation or ma/pa-ternity leave, please ask for references and ask in your writing communities if anyone else has worked with her. She/he 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!