Wendy Cartmell is a British crime novelist who recently published her first book, Steps to Heaven, on Amazon (also available on Amazon UK). She’s had a fair amount of experience sending out query letters to agents. In this interview she discusses that along with her book and other marketing efforts.
1. Tell me briefly about your book – what is it about and what motivated you to write it?
Steps to Heaven is the first book in the Sgt Major Crane series. Crane is a Special Investigations Branch Detective in the British Army, based at Aldershot Garrison. He is disturbed by the horrific case of a soldier called Solomon who, after recently returning from Afghanistan, murdered his wife and 6 year old son and then committed suicide. It seems Solomon was attending a local church which encourages people to join by offering salvation to its members. But as Crane investigates and the body count rises, events take a darker turn and he wonders what the church is offering – salvation, or slaughter?
My inspiration for the Sgt Major Crane novels has been my love of crime writing (which I read voraciously) and my husband’s 22 years of service in the British Army.
2. How have your sales been?
I have sold around 50 copies so far over three platforms. I have nothing to judge this against though so I don’t know if this is good or bad for the first month of publication.
3. You’ve sent query letters to literary agents. Describe that process – how do you find them and what do you say to them?
I sent query letters out to a host of agents about Steps to Heaven. I found them through Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. The query letter gave a blurb about the book, similar to that found on a book jacket, and the remainder of the letter gave brief details about me and my background, linked to the book. The majority ignored me but I had two agents request the full manuscript: Peter Buckman at the Ampersand Literary Agency and Becky Bagnall at Lindsay Literary Agency. Both were interested in the central character Sgt Major Crane, the setting of the British Army and the plot. But both seemed to have trouble with the voice and also selling the book into the crowded field of crime.