As promised, everyone, here is the third and last chunk of our Big Hairy World of Book Publication workshop.
If you’re confused or you want clarification, you can email me anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk. And meanwhile – read on!
WHAT IS A QUERY LETTER AND HOW DO I WRITE ONE?
Please bear in mind that entire book are written on the above question. You can take a whole online write course on the above question. So please, please understand that this answer is extremely abbreviated.
A query letter is an introduction and it is a sales pitch. It’s like you and your book distilled down in miniature. A query letter is your cover letter whether you’re writing an agent to request representation or to a press. A query letter tells the story of your book – very quickly – and it shows an agent or an editor that you are serious, professional and that you can write. You’d be surprised at how many people send query letters who are not/cannot do any of those things.
Query letters are for fiction and they are for non-fiction, children’s and adult. And they are extremely formulaic. Please go look up “query letters” in your Writer’s Market and you will see that you are writing what is basically a form letter. For your reading enjoyment, I’ve attached two really excellent REAL query letters below, one fiction and one non-fiction.
First Name Last Name
Street Address, City, State, Zip Code
Phone number/email address
Editor in Chief
PUBLISHING HOUSE NAME
95 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016 DATE
Dear Ms. EDITOR
Recently you requested the manuscript of TITLE, a biography aimed at middle grade readers. I am pleased to have an opportunity for you to consider it; it’s now titled A DIFFERENT TITLE.
ONE PARAGRAPH DESCRIBING THIS PARTICULAR BIOGRAPH Y SUBJECT-BASICALLY A VERY MINI-BIOGRAPHY. HIT THE KEY MOMENTS OF HIS LIFE.
NOW ONE PARAGRAPH ABOUT WHY THIS GUY IS AT ALL RELEVANT NOW. DOES HE APPEAR ON SCHOOL CURRICULA? WHY, YES HE DOES. THERE WAS A NOVA DOCUMENTARY ABOUT HIM. HE WAS ON A STAMP. YOU GET THEIDEA.
Enclosed are the manuscript, lists of sources and possible images, and a copy of my original query. Please note that this is a simultaneous submission.
I hope that you will find THIS BIOGRAPHY SUBJECT’S story as fascinating as I have.
YOUR NAME HERE
SWING RIGHT INTO ONE PARAGRAPH DESCRIBING YOUR BOOK. IMMEDIATELY. THIS READS LIKE A BACK OF THE BOOK BLURB – SHARP, ENGAGING WITH LOTS OF REAL DETAIL ABOUT THE BOOK. I CAN’T EMPHASIZE THAT ENOUGH: GET SPECIFIC, WRITERS. DO NOT SAY ANYTHING THAT IS A GENERALITY. YOU WILL SOUND COMPLETELY FORGETTABLE.
PARAGRAPH TWO CONTINUES WHAT YOU STARTED ABOVE
PARAGRAPH THREE—THIS IS YOUR LAST ONE, SAME AS ABOVE. MAKE IT COUNT
TITLE OF THIS BOOK could be described as a cross between POPULAR EXISTING BOOK SERIES and POPULAR MOVIE FRANCHISE. It is complete at 63,000 words and has series potential. Also, please note that I have been querying this novel to other agencies.
I am a freelance writer and editor with over 15 years’ experience in the publishing industry, including a 2008 middle grade novel, TITLE. In addition, I teaching adult-continuing education classes in novel-writing, and I have an MFA in creative writing.
The first three pages of my novel are pasted below this letter. Please let me know if you would like to see the full manuscript.