How to Describe Your
Romance Novel in Queries
by Marilynn Byerly
novel is hundreds of pages long, but you'll need to
describe it in a few short paragraphs when you try to
sell it to a publisher. How can you condense all that
Here's how I do it.
For short novels, I usually use two paragraphs to
describe the book, longer or more complex books three to
four paragraphs. If some important point fits one
paragraph better than another, don't feel as if you must
follow my structure. Put it where it fits.
First paragraph: Simple plot set up, and
heroine's or main character's emotional involvement with
it. What is the exterior conflict of the novel? (What are
the hero and heroine fighting against and why?) The
examples are from my THE GAME WE PLAY.
Schoolteacher Faith Cody thinks she has the perfect
summer job as nanny to Nicholas Price's two visiting
children, but the children are kidnapped, and she and
Nick are compelled to join forces to steal the ransom --
documents incriminating vicious criminals.
Second paragraph: More simple plot set
up and hero's or second lead's emotional involvement with
An investigative journalist trained in the ways of the
professional cat burglar, Nick has the skill to steal the
hidden documents, but their dangerous owner guards the
documents well since they prevent his death.
Third and Fourth paragraphs: What is the
interior conflict of the novel? (What tears the hero and
heroine apart emotionally?) What must both must achieve
or defeat and what do they have to lose? This can include
plot set up, place set up, the important secondary
characters, and the villain.
At the secluded estate of their intended victim, on the
catwalks above a Las Vegas stage, and in a back alley at
the mercy of killers, Faith and Nick face danger with a
witty quip and a willingness to risk anything and anyone,
even each other, for the sake of two children they both
In this game of betrayer and betrayed, the kidnappers
seem determined to destroy Nick's sanity as well as his
life, and Faith's life and love may be their ultimate
weapon against him.
Here are some other examples:
TIME AFTER TIME
ALEXA WEST thinks she's found a man who loves her, but
another man, JUSTIN LORD, woos her with an
outlandishtale-- they have loved and married for their
last twelve reincarnations, and he will allow no other
man to marry her in their thirteenth. Is Justin's story
lunacy, a line, or a love that spans the ages?
Determined to win her by making her remember, dynamic
Justin romances Alexa by restaging and retelling their
past lives and their loves. But he doesn't tell her she
has rivals for his love, and she is all twelve.
Trapped on Arden, Earthman Tristan Mallory discovers that
men are sex slaves forced into harems. He has no
intention of belonging to anyone, not even beautiful
fellow scientist Mara d'Jorel.
Mara despises the harem system and has refused to
participate, but her heart won't allow anyone else to own
Tristan, and owning him will turn his growing love into
hate. To give Tristan the freedom her world denies, she
must risk everything--her reputation, her home, and even
her freedom and life. But her greatest risk is losing
Tristan's love to another woman.
Tristan's friend Kellen Votrain is acquired as a bed
slave by vicious Cadaran d'Hasta, head of Arden's
Internal Security, who has used the lives and deaths of
thousands of men to gain her power. Intelligent and
amoral, she'll do anything to destroy him and Tristan and
any woman weak enough to love them.
With the help of a local intelligent alien who resembles
an Earth cat and Dorian Dalia--Tristan's longtime
romantic interest, Tristan, Mara, and Kellen escape the
planet. Through the vast emptiness of space and the most
primitive of human colonies, they seek freedom, but
Cadaran is always one step behind them.
© 2003-2007 by Marilynn Byerly. All Rights Reserved
Byerly's two passions are writing and teaching.
With a BA and MA in English from UNC-Greensboro as well
as postgraduate work at Duke, she has taught writing,
judged numerous national and regional writing contests,
reviewed books, and written articles on writing which
have appeared in trade publications, websites, and
national magazines. She also has acted as a book
doctor for established authors.
Her science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and romance
novels and short stories have won major awards including
the National Readers Choice Award, the Sapphire, the
Write Touch, and Reviewer's Choice Awards. She has
also been named an outstanding achiever in romance by one
major romance magazine and an author to
watch by another. To learn more about her, visit
her website at http://marilynnbyerly.com.