Dos and Don’ts of Query Letters - article

Once you have a shiny piece of work (novel, self-help book, article, etc.), you are ready to seek representation or a publisher. A query letter serves as an introduction letter to agents and publishers. This letter has three specific objectives.

1. The letter must saliently put forth the reason you are contacting this person and it should be personalized for that person (every agent and publisher has their own submission requirements).

2. The letter must condense the essence of you work into a paragraph-sized chunk. Yes, in one paragraph that is no longer than seven lines in length, you must reveal the blockbuster power of your writing. Do you believe in your work? This is your chance to let that belief shine. Choose your words carefully.

3. The letter must present your case for why you are qualified to write this work. This includes writing credits, degrees, and honors. Or if you have none, include pertinent information that shows that you are expert with a platform.

With these objectives in mind, it’s time to do some research. Don’t bother to send a query if you are not willing to do some research. This isn’t the business for you. Be sure that you are sending your work to people who care. Be sure to spell their name right and also check their gender. If you have any questions, try “Dear First Name Last Name.” Do be sure the every word is spelled right and perfect your grammar.

Try to have specific reasons to send your work to the chosen professional. Cite similar work of clients, a common interest, or one of the best reasons -- the date and time that you met this particular professional. Shy away from frivolous reasons like we went to the same elementary school or my cousin’s brother’s uncle knows your sister’s husband

Do not mention how many people think you are the best writer from since sliced bread unless one of those people is an industry professional who has already sent an email sharing their support of your work. Consider not sharing why you’re writing, especially if your answer is “this has been my dream since I was knee high to a grasshopper.”

Remember, this is not a private letter to a friend. Keep your hopes and dreams in your heart, and let your query be about the hopes and dreams of you book. If there is a specific audience your book will appeal to, great, but do not mention general audiences like “all people who have ever had a dream”.
A good rule of thumb is to view your work as a commodity that you are introducing so that people will invest in it so that it will make money. The query letter as the first step on the business journey for your artistic creation.

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  • I was looking for general instructions for letter content about my book.  It provides a basic outline for most 'book letters'.   

    I like how this article is broad, yet gives parameters. The examples are loaded and helpful.   

    Thank you. 

  • Thank you Molly Blaisdell for telling me how to write a query letter. I appreciate that you were not vague, but specific.
  • Good information. Please check spelling in a couple of places in the last paragraph; first line-" you(r) book" and last line "as (is) the first step..."