What is a query letter?

 

What is a query letter?

For many beginning writers, eventually they ask themselves, “How do I send my manuscript to a publisher or agent?” I started writing at age eleven so as a child, I thought I’d send my entire manuscript to a publisher to read before he/she decided on publication. Isn’t that what publishers do? Don’t they read books and only publish the best stories? Wrong! I didn’t know that marketing and sales would play a large role in getting my book published.

Years later, a teacher mentioned to me, “Why don’t you send query letters to publishers?”

I thought one thing, “What is a query letter?

A query letter is a formal, professional, business letter sent out to an agent or publisher. The letter asks the agent or publisher to consider the book for representation or publication. Query letters have very strict specifications a writer must follow. If the formatting of the query letter, information inside the synopsis paragraph and submission guidelines aren’t exactly right, the query will go in the trash. It won’t matter how enthralling the manuscript it.

A touch of overkill Project 365(2) Day 301
(Photo credit: Keith Williamson)

What is a query letter sample?

After hours of research there are at least half a dozen different ways to word a query letter. The structure, basically, stays the same.

First, make sure you address the correct person! As I’ve stated in make sure you follow all submission guidelines correctly. If the directions say, “Address your query to Angela Dove,” make sure you do so!

Remember, some names are unisex so make sure, “Taylor Michaels” is “Mr. Michaels” or “Ms. Michaels” before mailing the query.

Query letters are beginning to be sent more and more through email then snail mail. Some requirements will ask for the query letter to be addressed to “submissions” or “query” in the email subject line. Read all directions for submissions carefully!

After addressing the correct person, most query letters have a one sentence opening line. Don’t form this into a question.

Example: What would happen if you found out you were once a spy for the United States but for some reason your memories were erased?

This is horrible! An agent or publisher would think, “I’ve seen at least five opening lines like this and it’s only noon!” The query would end up in the trash.

Example: I’m currently seeking representation for my science fiction novel, The Lost Spy at 90,000 words. I have chosen to query Agency XYZ because you specialize in representing the science fiction genre.

Example: The freedom of the United States rest in the hands of one spy, Phoenix Qualman, only he awoke from a comma and doesn’t remember his life.

These last two examples are much better. The first one goes straight to the point. The second example would intrigue a reader quicker then the very first opening line.

The first full paragraph should be a synopsis of the book. This paragraph is not a full summary or outline of the story. Think of it as your first form of marketing. Go to the library and read the back of books. Why do some catch your attention and others don’t? The synopsis need to make the agent/ publisher want to request sample chapters. Remember, this is a business proposal, you are selling your book in this one page letter.

The final paragraph should include an author’s biography. This doesn’t mean you sum up the reason for your existence. Use this time to state any of your other publications and education. This paragraph is not a place for sob stories, flattery, or begging because you’d be wasting the agent/ publisher’s time.

Remember to thank the person you addressed at the top of the query. “Thank you for your consideration Ms. Dove. Sample chapters are available upon request.

Do:

Don’t:

  • Make a query letter more than one page.
  • Send a query letter for an unfinished manuscript.
  • Lie, beg or act unprofessional in any way.

If the article above was helpful to you, I invite you to comment below.

Fill in the form above for free tips on writing or edit on three pages of your story! Learn more about my publications at: http://www.kaylahuntbooks.com/buy.

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