So you finished writing your first book and now you’re ready to send off that query letter. But wait! Before you start writing, have you done everything possible to give your book a fighting chance to make it on the shelves?
You poured your emotions, time, and sweat into the work of art you have created so why shouldn’t you give it the best chance possible of getting published?
I have put together some of the dos and don’ts for writing a query letter. I am definitely no expert and this is certainly not a comprehensive list but I am passing on the tips and knowledge that I gained from attending Brian Henry’s seminar, browsing through hundreds of websites, and, of course, not forgetting the advice and input from my writing buddies and editor friends.
Before you start writing your Query Letter:
- Get someone to read over your manuscript.
- Check your story for correct grammar, sentence structure, etc. You get one chance to pitch your book. Make sure you give it your best shot.
- Do your research and make a list of the agents/publishers accepting manuscripts in the genera you are writing?
- Confirm if the agent is accepting submissions by email or snail mail. For example, most agents do not accept attachments and prefer the query letter and sample chapters pasted in the body of the email.
- When sending your query via email it might be wise to include the word “Query” in the subject line. Some agents have a filter set on their email and if the email has attachments or does not have the word “Query” in the subject line, it might go straight into their junk folder.
- Follow the instructions exactly as given by the agents on how to submit your query letter. If an agents says to send the first 5000 words of your story then send only the first 5000 words. This shows that you have done your research and you can follow instructions.
What to include in the letter:
- Your name and the title and genre of your book on the top left.
- The Agency and Agent name below that.
- Unless stated otherwise, greet the agent by their first name.
For simplicity, the following format makes the most sense:
Divide the letter into four paragraphs:
- The first paragraph introduces your book, including word count and what category your book falls into. If it is a series, mention it. You might want to compare it to other books, if applicable.
- In the second paragraph include a summary of your book. Sometimes it is hard to sum up 50000 words into a one paragraph. Try summarizing your book into one page, then use the elimination process to reduce it to few paragraphs, and then to one paragraph.
- In the third paragraph talk about yourself. Mostly, showing the agent your writing abilities. Maybe a course you took or a writing workshop you have attended.
- In the fourth paragraph thank the agent.
You have sent of your Query Letter. Now what?
Most agents are pretty good at responding within the time frame they state on their websites. If you don’t hear anything after that time has lapsed then, unless the agent has specifically stated for you not to follow up, go ahead and send another email asking for an update on your Query.
Finally, don’t give up. Just keep improving your skills and believe in yourself. Go to writing workshops, join writing groups, and keep learning and writing.
A wise man said: Getting your book published depends on three factors: Luck, luck, and luck. But who makes your luck?