Hello, again, Reader!
If you’re not already sick of my how-to posts, then you’re in luck because here is another one. This time, we’re dipping our toes into the ocean that is publishing. Where does this begin? Well, it all begins with what’s called a query letter.
What Is A Query Letter?
A query letter, Reader, is essentially a proposal piece. No, I’m not talking about marriage. What I mean to say is that a query letter, as Jane Friedman so eloquently puts it, is a letter meant to seduce the agent or editor into requesting and representing your written work. Here, the written work becomes a product.
Keep in mind, Reader, that although there are multiple types of query letters for different genres, we are going to discuss the general query letter.
How Do I Organize My Query Letter?
I’ve done all the work for you, Reader! Below, you’ll find a template of a general cover letter and its requirements. You may also feel free to download the same template here.
As per usual, it’s important that you meet the necessary requirements when writing a query letter. Above, you’ll see this letter holds your current address and contact information, the date, the employer’s name and business address, a greeting, the content of your letter, and salutations.
Each category you see is relevant because it helps the agent or editor get to know you and your work personally.
Next, let’s take a look at what goes into a query letter.
What Goes in A Query Letter?
I cannot stress this enough, Reader – it is important to remember your audience when writing your query letter. You have to think of the publishing agency you handpicked and their mission as well as how it aligns with your work.
Addresses and Contact Information
Like with the resume and the cover letter, it’s important to include both your own and the publishing agency’s address and current contact information – full names, phone numbers, job titles, and home/business and email addresses – the whole nine yards. This helps publishing agents to reach you if they’d like to speak with you further. Having the information for the person who reviews your applicant (a) shows that you did you research when you handpicked your publishing company and (b) ensures that the letter goes to the correct person.
Like before, let’s remember that you must open your letter with a greeting. It would be weird if you jumped into a deep conversation with a stranger without so much as an introduction, wouldn’t it? The same applies here. You should include something like “Dear So-and-so,” “Hello, So-and-so,” or “To Whom It May Concern” (if you do not know who the specific recipient is). Again, other examples of professional greetings for query letters can be found on The Balance Career’s “How to Start a Letter With Professional Greeting Examples.” Reader, please choose the greeting most appropriate for the situation and professional position.
In your first paragraph, you should include some general information about you and your book – a greeting, introduction of yourself, and your goal – which should demonstrate that you researched and handpicked the publishing agency. Look to share your work’s title, genre, and wordcount.
In your next section, you should craft a catchy pitch of your proposed work. Include characters, plot, etc., but leave a cliffhanger (in other words, don’t give away the entire plot). This will – hopefully – keep the agent or editor on their toes and wanting to read more.
Who Are You, Again?
For your third paragraph, look to include a bio which details your writing history/experience and explains why you’re right for the project. Having more information related to your previous work – or, if you are a first time author, any work – in writing will help boost your credibility as an author.
Although this section is not included in most query letter samples I’ve seen, I feel it is important to remember to thank the agent or editor reading your letter. Thanking the agent or editor will help you stand out in their memories when others fail to do so. Agents and editors go through many query letters at a time, so not only do you have to have excellent, interesting work but you also have to be polite.
Finally, don’t forget to close your letter with a farewell statement. Please, choose the most appropriate closing for the situation. You can refer to different forms of salutations, or goodbyes, on The Balance Career’s “How to End a Letter With Closing Examples.”
How Do I Edit My Query Letter?
It’s extremely important to keep in mind to limit your letter. You may be excited about your work, but when you are pitching your work, you don’t want to give too much away.
Additionally, your bio should only include relevant writing or editing experience to help boost your credibility as an author. Anything additional can be touched upon in your resume.
I’ll strike the iron while it’s hot – remember your audience!
Be mindful of the length of your query letter – you’ll want to keep it as succinct as possible. Generally speaking, most query letters do not exceed 300-500 words. It’s definitely a challenge when your work exceeds 10,000 or more words. You should look to feature your most important points in a brief overview.
Once again, some good places to start looking for templates are Microsoft Word and Canva. Jane Friedman also provides a wonderful guide to query letters (linked above and again here) as well as Reedsy, who provides step-by-step instructions via video and her article “How To Write A Query Letter In 7 Steps.” Additionally, Writer’s Digest lists “The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter.”
Share Your Thoughts!
Here we are again, Reader. Did you find any of this helpful? What do you suggest I focus on in this article? If you have any questions for me regarding query letters – or any questions about anything at all, don’t be hesitant to reach out.
Thanks, again, for visiting my page, and feel free to follow this blog and Instagram @thereadywriter.blog and leave your thoughts below!