Thursday, October 4, 2012

Query Letters- How to write one...

Query Letters...What are they?
Why are they important?
And... how the heck do you write one??


A query letter is a single page formal cover letter, that introduces you and your book to a literary (or magazine) agents, publishing houses or companies.
That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a resume. It’s not rambling saga of your life as an aspiring writer.
Seems simple enough, right?
But no... There is a formula you should use, if you want your letter to be a successful one and truly capture the interest of the person you are querying.
Good query letters are only one page
Query letter breakdown by paragraph:
1.            Introduction: explain why you are contacting our agency. Were you referred? Why are we the agency for this project?
2.            Manuscript pitch/ the hook: what is your novel or nonfiction proposal?
You should be able to summarize your novel or nonfiction project in a one pitch sentence or in one short paragraph—like a summary on the back cover of a book.
If you can’t, then the publisher won’t be able to either, so it won’t sell.
For me, this is one of the hardest parts, so here are some examples:
House of Sand and Fog
When Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military, sinks his remaining funds into a house he buys at auction, he unwittingly puts himself and his family on a trajectory to disaster; the house once belonged to Kathy Nicolo, a self-destructive alcoholic, who engages in legal, then personal confrontation to get it back.

Bridges of Madison County
When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and turns into Francesca Johnson's farm lane looking for directions, the world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience that will haunt them forever.
The Kite Runner
An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.

The Da Vinci Code
A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ.
3.            Credentials: for fiction, what is your writing background, stories sold, programs attended, mentors, awards, etc. For nonfiction, Why are you the person to write this book? What are your credentials?
If you do choose to construct a writer’s bio (and you should), keep it short and related to writing. Agents don’t care what your day job is unless it directly relates to your book. Got a main character who’s a firefighter, and that’s your day job? Be sure to say that. Otherwise, scrap it. Education is helpful because it sounds good, but it’s only really important if you’re offering a nonfiction book about A.D.D. children and you hold a PhD in pediatric behavioral science. If you’ve published a few stories in your local newspaper, or a short story in a few literary magazines, or won any writing awards or contests, now’s the time to list the details.
4.            Conclusion: Thank the agent for taking the time to read your materials, etc
At the end of the query letter you offer to send more--the complete manuscript for a novel. Do not offer a choice. Do not offer to send sample chapters or the complete manuscript. Offer only the completed manuscript. (You shouldn't be querying if your manuscript isn't complete.) If they want to see more they will tell you. They will also tell you if they want a synopsis.You can close your letter by simply saying ``May I send you the complete manuscript?"



(LOVE this cartoon!!!!!!)
Some tips:
1. A query should look like a business letter. Use your nice letterhead stationery. And make sure your phone number is on it. These days, make sure your email address is, too.
2. Also make sure you have the agent or editor's correct name, title, and sex! (I can't tell you how many letters I get that say Dear Mr. Camenson! I am sure, for example, that agent Rob Cohen will tell you about all of her misaddressed query letters, too.)
3. Again, your query should be only one-page.
4. Only propose one project in a single query, but you can mention if you are working on others.
5. If your book is part of a series, send a query for the first of that series. It will be difficult to sell the third or fourth book in a series if you haven't sold the first one yet. It just tells the editor/agent that you couldn't sell the first one and so you've given up and are moving on to the next one. Be sure to mention, though, that your book is part of a series.
6. Save the reviews for the book reviewers. Don't fall into the temptation of describing your work as dazzling, dramatic, exciting, fast-paced, or any other adjective. Say, ``My book is an account of...." not "My book is a humorous account..." Got it? No adjectives!
7. Never put yourself down in a query letter. Don't say--this is my first book, or you're not sure what they'll think. Also, don't say you hope they like it. Of course, you do! That's understood. Don't show your desperation or mention that Aunt Mary loved your idea. Keep it professional.
8. Do not forget to run your spellchecker before you send out your query letter.
9. Do not forget to enclose an SASE.
10. Don't send your query via email to editors and agents unless you are sure this form of communication is acceptable.
11. Remember that a query letter is your calling card. Make it your best writing ever.


AND MOST IMPORTANT:
Dont give up!!!! Don't let it DIScourage you, but rather, encourage you!!



This is the information I have gathered from various different websites, (including AgentQuery, different literary agents sites, and wikipedia)

Hope it helps...

I got another rejection letter today.
LAME

But thats ok, Im working on the Cover for POWER, Book 1 in The Descendant Trilogy!
Self-pub, here I come.

3 comments:

  1. I think that writers -- you, me, or anyone else out there trying to leave their mark -- would do well to remember the sage advice given from the arcade game Revolution X and its digitized version of Aerosmith:

    "Don't give up! PLAY IT AGAIN!"

    In any case, I'll have to give my query another look. I've passed it around a few times (one rejection + an eternal wait on other responses), but I guess I could stand to tighten it up a bit. But more importantly, just remember that I'll be rooting for you -- whether it's self-publishing or traditional, I hope you can pull off a win.

    A shame that a query letter can't feature lyrics from "Walk This Way", but I suppose it can't be helped. Guess we'll just have to win 'em over with our glowing skills, eh?

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great post! I didn't know much about query letters before, so I was really happy to stumble upon this. I'm a beginner when it comes to the whole publishing thing, and I'm still a beginner at writing books, but this helps me prepare for whats to come. Thank you for posting info on this stuff! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! Everyone has to start somewhere!!
      Im glad this post gave you some NEW info!

      :)

      Delete

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