Before beginning the query process, have a finished and polished manuscript ready to go. Make sure your manuscript is the best you can make it. You can hire editors and/or proofreaders to assist with polishing your manuscript.
What is a Query Letter
A query letter is a formal letter sent to magazine editors, literary agents, or editors and/or agents at publishing houses or companies. Writers write query letters to propose writing ideas. A query letter is a sales pitch and should be written in such a way as to spark the reader’s interest.
Purpose of a Query Letter
The only purpose of a query letter is to entice the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work.
Elements of a Query Letter
In addition to the opening/introductory paragraph and the thank you/closing paragraph, include the following:
- What you’re selling: Title/subtitle, word count, genre/category
- Hook (approximately 100–200 words). This is your “sales pitch” and is your novel summed up in such a way it will entice the agent or editor to request your work. The hook should include the following details:
- Setting/time period (optional, based on genre)
- The protagonist and his/her conflicts
- The choices the protagonist has to make (or what is at stake)
- What makes your story stand out and sets it apart from others in the same genre
- Your bio (optional for unpublished fiction writers): include relevant qualifications and publishing history, if any
Tips for Writing a Query Letter
- Use quality paper with a weight of at least 20# in white or off-white colors
- Do not use stationery in unusual colors (e.g., mint green, hot pink) or with little pictures in the margins
- Consider using personalized letterhead with logo
- Use a professional font (e.g., Times New Roman, Courier)
- Follow query guidelines set forth by editor, agent, or publisher
- Make sure to point out your novel is completed
- Restrict yourself to one page (Two pages only if necessary)
- Be professional and respectful
- Make your points quickly, clearly, and concisely
- Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope
- Address and direct the letter to a specific person by name and title (Check the spelling)
- Personalize/customize the letter for the recipient (If you met the agent at a conference, include this fact.)
- Don’t include sample chapters unless specifically requested to attach to the query letter
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