April 20, 2016 | Posted in: April 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, Author Resources, XterraWeb Book Blog

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Q is for Query Letter Tips

Query letter. Elements of a query letter. Query letter tips. How to write a query letter.

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  • Your bio (optional for unpublished fiction writers): include relevant qualifications and publishing history, if any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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