Monday, September 06, 2010

Publishing Tips - What is a Query Letter?

A query letter is a short letter (preferably one-page!) a writer sends to a literary agent or a book/magazine publisher. The purpose is to inform the agent/publisher about their manuscript in order to obtain representation (in the case of an agent) or publication of their writing (in case of a publisher.)

The most important thing to remember when sending out a query letter IS THAT IT is THE FIRST SAMPLE OF WRITING THE RECIVER WILL SEE!!! Therefore, it must be perfect. If you send out a one page letter with errors, the receiver will rightfully assume that your manuscript will be riddled with errors. Please believe me, no matter how tantalizing your book might be, no one wants to be bothered reading it knowing you don’t know how to write.

And, yes, if you send out a query letter with errors the assumption will be that you don’t know how to write. Or, that you don’t care enough about your writing to proofread it before sending it out – and that’s just as bad.

You want to immediately hook the reader of your query letter, so make sure you open with a zinger. Many people open with the “My name is ____ and I am writing to request representation for my manuscript . . .” but I suggest you make that sentence the opening of your second or third paragraph, and instead open up by telling what your book is about. AND MAKE IT INTERESTING.

Don’t go off, saying you’ve written the next New York Times Best Seller. Of course you have. And so has every other aspiring author who’s written the agent that day. Just get down to the nitty-gritty of what the book is about. One or two paragraphs should be enough.

Use the next paragraph to introduce yourself. Don’t only give your name, but also let the agent know a little about you. And while witty if fine, cutesy is not. Act like the professional you want yourself perceived to be.

In the next paragraph let the agent know why you decided to write this particular book, and give the manuscript length – use a word count, not the number of pages. Also, compare your manuscript to already published books so the agent can get a feel for how best the book might be marketed.

And in the very last paragraph, give your contact information – including telephone number and email address – and let the agent know you’d like to send them the full manuscript of the first few chapters, if they’d prefer. If you’re sending the query letter out via snail mail, be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope so the agent can get back to you quickly.

Responses to query letter can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, so I would suggest that you send out more than one query letter at a time rather than wait months for one only to find you’ve been rejected.

I will be including a sample query letter in a follow-up post so you can get a clearer idea of what one should look like.

Good luck you all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!