Embrace Your Query Letter

Take a moment. Look around your office? How many piles are there at different stages, with hopes of getting to them at some point in time? With that in mind, just think what an editor’s desk might look like on any given day. He or she receives each day large quantities of manuscripts. They go into a series of many piles. Such as a short story, novel, freelance article, etc. Then there is a pile; no one likes to think about, the Rejection pile. Heaven forbid you ever get a Rejection letter; however, you won’t be the only person that has ever received one.

Now that I have your attention, think about the manuscript you’ve finished. You’re smiling, right? It’s your baby. You love it. You want the editor to love it as well. Make the best presentation you can. The editor’s time is valuable. They’re looking for a story, which will capture their attention. Your Query Letter is like an interview. Present in a positive way, the editor will want to read more.

Read everything you can about the publishing house and the editor you are submitting to. If you’ve met this editor before, give a short description of the time and place. Be sure the editor is still at this publishing house. Read their guidelines. Follow them to the letter. Don’t send a manuscript about children to an editor, if she doesn’t want a story about children. Be sure your story fits the guidelines for their publishing house. Don’t waste your valuable time and theirs. Editor’s may blog. This is an excellent way for you to get to know their likes and dislikes, as well as the style of writing they are interested in.

Convey enthusiasm for your story. Set the tone of your writing, using a strong element describing your story as a romance, comedy, suspense, etc. Know your story; tell it briefly. Introduce your hero and heroine. Describing the conflict and the black moment. Explaining the over all plot, in such a way, the editor will want to read more. A short summary is all that is required.

Keep your Query letter short, professional, single-spaced. Let the editor know the manuscript is completed, with a word count and the title of the manuscript. Be enthusiastic about your accomplishments. Let the editor know if you are already published. Contests you have placed in. Chapters you belong to, including the writer’s positions you’ve held. List if you belong to a critique group.

Tell the editor you appreciate their time and look forward to hearing from them soon.

End with the proper signature.SASE encl.

I’m listing a few websites that might help you.

Preditors and Editors is one site.



There are several more. Just Google “Query Letter/Writers”. I hope I’ve answered some of the questions you might have about writing a query letter. The best advice I can give you. Write what you know. Be true to yourself and continue to practice writing a Query Letter.



Joan Vincent said...

You've hit all the important points, Sharon, and more as well as given great links. The dose of reality in your opening paragraph is often overlooked by others writing about querying but it is better for those submitting to have a proper perspective. That and the emphasis you place on researching to find an agent or editor who handles the genre one writes is so important for any chance of success. A superb summation of what is needed in a query letter.

Becky A said...

Thanks Sharon,
Your blog lays out the process for writing Query Letters so simply and in such an orderly fashion that you make them sound easy. You put the hard part, the story summary, into bite size pieces which now makes it more do-able.
Thanks, Becky

Starla Kaye said...

Good job, Sharon. Writing a good query letter is the first step in getting an agent or an editor to look at any part of your work. If they don't like the query letter, they often won't even look at an attached synopsis...I've been told this by a number of editors over the years.

The query letter needs to tell them what you've written, tease them about the project, tie it to the types of stories they work with, introduce yourself and your basic qualifications (especially a limited mention of your publishing history), and NOT brag about either yourself or the manuscript. Definitely never tell them that "my mother loved the story" or some such nonsense as that.

Again, great blog.

Rox Delaney said...

Re: Agents

Here's where doing your homework about publishers comes in. Unless the publisher(s) you're targeting will accept submissions only if you're agented, don't worry about an agent.

Agents are paid only when you sell, so I can't really fault them for not taking on a lot of new and not yet established writers. They have to make a living, too. :)

We'll do some blogging about whether to have an agent or not in the future, so stay tuned! LOL

snwriter52 said...

Becky I did make it sound easy, didn't I? Writing a great query letter can be done. Don't brag. Be a skilled writer and let your self shine.

Rox Delaney said...

It's basically a business letter. Make it short, sweet, and to the point. Work the hardest on the blurb/hot premise of your story. Some writers jazz up their query letters, but I never was able to. :( Sharon's links are perfect for getting the feel for how to write them.

snwriter52 said...

Rox the blurb/hot premise is very important for the query letter. Wanting to catch the editors interest, in hopes of reading your synopsis is so true Starla. Joan I hope the links I shared will help.
Thank you for taking time to stop by and post your thoughts.

Penny Rader said...

Great post, Sharon. Writing a query letter is not my favorite thing to do. Took me a long time to finally get it right, to write one that worked and resulted in a request.