Monday, October 12, 2015

Preparing To Query Part 2: The Query Letter

You've written a novel, how hard can it be to write one letter? You will be surprised.

Your query letter is a brief description of your work and a little about you. It should be no more than a page long and make sure you edit and proofread it. This is an agent's or publisher's first introduction to you and your work. Make sure it's professional. You are approaching these people to enter into a business agreement, don't give them reasons to doubt you. I have been amazed at the remarks I've seen from agents regarding unprofessional queries. Don't promise them that you're the next bestseller or that they will make millions off you. Let your writing convince them.

Start your query with an introduction - make it personal. Do not write one letter and mass email it, agents will know and the majority won't read any further than the generic salutation or list of email addresses at the top. At the top of each email, put the agents name. Dear Jane, Dear Ms. Doe, something that shows you know who you are sending the letter to. I personally do Dear Ms. Doe as a show of respect. DO NOT address your email/letter, Dear Agent, To Whom It May Concern, or any other impersonal greeting. One agent tweeted that she received a query that started, Hey Bitch. She stopped reading there.

There's some debate about the next paragraph. You can launch right into your pitch (as discussed in a pervious blog) or put your book information here. If you're doing your book information you need to include the genre, word count and something to show that you have researched the agent (which I will discuss in the next blog). It can read something like:

With your representation of fantasy, my 92,000 word manuscript Queen of Swords may be a fit for you.

If I know an author the agent represents in the same genre as your story, you can add it in. It shows that you have done your research.

Next start your pitch. Lead with your hook and a paragraph or two about the plot. Make sure you put in the main character and what is at stake for him/her. Read the back of books to get an idea of what to include. The pitch needs to be interesting, but not give everything away or be too information heavy. It can be a fine balance.

After your pitch, put a little bit about yourself that is relevant to your writing. This is a short paragraph. You are selling your work. If the agent likes your work, then they will ask more about you. Don't write about your family (unless it's very relevant to your book) or give a the whole background on how you came up with the idea for the book.

For help writing your query, here's some links:
Query Shark

Like your manuscript, this letter will be revised numerous times. Give your query to someone who hasn't read your manuscript and ask if there was anything confusing in it. Let someone who has read your manuscript look over your query to make sure you got the important points. Agents can read dozens of queries in one sitting, yours needs to stand out and make them want to read more of your work.

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