Query letters are a one page- yes, that is right, one page business letter that you are sending off to an editor, agent or publisher. It’s you and your story packaged up in one page, sent off to that coveted publisher, editor, or agent of your choice.
This is a brief overview of Angies Hodapp’ s presentation that she gave in July at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Western Slope event. The presentation that Angie gave is a shortened version of the class she teaches on this subject.
A query letter consists of:
- A personal greeting - one or two sentences
- The project summary - again short, one or two sentences
- Story synopsis - a few paragraphs that sums up all of the story
- Your biographical information
All on one page.
The first step is to finish your book, short story, poem, what ever it is. Make sure it is complete, critiqued, edited, and polished. If all of that is not done yet, you are not ready to send out a query letter. Just because your friends and family love it, does not mean it is polished. Several of them need to belong to a writers group, or are in the writing business. If not, find people who are. Get it reviewed before you say you are done.
Second step is research. Make sure you are sending the query to the right place. This is where research comes in. A common mistake is to send your query to everyone. Huge waste of time for you, looking up everyone and typing in all those addresses. And a waste of effort for the incorrect person who has to read it, and delete it. Make sure you are in the correct market. If the agent/editor/publisher only accepts memoirs of rodeo clowns, don’t send in your science fiction futuristic utopian poem to this person.
Third, and this one is important - follow the rules. Meaning the submission guidelines, those rules the publisher/agent/editor has set out there for you. These rules are online, and in books such as the yearly Writers Market. In the rules are great pieces of useful information such as genre(s)they accept, length of story, who to mail it to, how to mail it, what to mail, what happens after you send it, and many other things. Don’t deviate from the rules. That makes you a deviant, and no one wants to play with you.
Pitfalls to avoid:
- Claiming you met the person, when you never have
- “Dear Sir or Madam.” Find out who you are querying and make you sure spell the name correctly
- Don’t do a page count, do a word count
- Flattery of the person you are querying
- Self depreciation
- How hard you worked at this/how long it took you
Take a class on writing query letters if you have never written one before, or you feel overwhelmed, confused, or clueless.
Don’t forget the person on the other end of the query letter wants to hire you.
Editors/agents/publishers want to find you, and they want you to succeed. When you succeed, they do also. It’s a win-win situation.
“There is no such no thing as a perfect book, and no such thing as a perfect query letter.” Angie reminds us.
Finish it, follow the rules, be professional. Send it off.
Samantha Ross is a ghostwriter, freelance writer and editor. She lives on the Western Slope in Montrose, Colorado. For years she taught adults, organized lesson plans, developed curriculum, and encouraged everyone to be a success. One day she stumbled into her high school librarian who pointed her toward the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Now Samantha’s days are spent writing fiction and non fiction that covers a wide range of topics. If she’s not standing in front of her desk working, she’s spending time with her family and friends.