Sunday, August 1, 2010

QUERY LETTERS

A query letter has two functions: to tell an agent or editor what you have to offer, and to ask if she is interested in seeing it.

Though you can send the query letter attached to a novel package, many agents and editors prefer that you send the query letter either by itself or with a synopsis and a few sample pages from your novel. Follow the agent’s guidelines for submission.

If she likes your query, she’ll call and ask for either specific parts of your novel package – like the first few chapters or the first 50 pages – or, if you’re lucky, the entire manuscript. Then she’ll make her decision. (from Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript)

FORMAT:

• Limit it to one page, single-spaced; block style (no indentations, an extra space between paragraphs).

• Typed (not hand-written), in a standard 12-point font, plain letter-size paper, 1-inch margins all around.

• Use business letter format, with your full name at the top, address, phone number, email address and the date.

• Address the letter to the agent or editor by name.

ALL GOOD QUERIES SHOULD CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING:

• A “grabber” or hook sentence that makes the reader want to get his hands on the actual novel

• One to three paragraphs about your novel

• A short paragraph about you and your publishing credentials (if you have any)

• A good reason why you’re soliciting the person you’re soliciting (why this agent or publisher instead of another?)

• The length and genre of the novel

• A sentence or two about the intended audience

• An indication that an SASE is enclosed if you are sending it through the mail

A FEW OTHER DOS AND DON'TS:

• Don’t fax your query.

• Don’t mention that you’re a first-time writer or that you’ve never been published.

• Don’t spend too much time trying to sell yourself. Your manuscript will stand on its own.

• Don’t state that some other agent has rejected your novel.

• Don’t ask for advice or criticism—that’s not the agent’s or editor’s job at this stage.

• Don’t mention anything about yourself not pertinent to the novel.

• Don’t bring up payment expectations.

- from Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript, by Chuck Sambuchino and The Editors of Writer’s Digest Books


… and here’s more:


A GOOD QUERY LETTER WILL:

• Summarize in one or two sentences the manuscript’s strong points.

• State the number of words in the full manuscript.

• Be based on a completed manuscript.

• State the line (genre) it is intended to fit into, and why you feel the book belongs there.

• Give the flavor of the book (funny? dark? tender?).

• Tell the editor important things about the characters.

• List your qualifications for writing this particular story (for example, it’s a historical set in Tudor times and you have a degree in English history).

• Briefly list your publication credits, if appropriate (any publication for which you were paid, even if it wasn’t […] fiction, is an indication of professionalism).

• Reflect your personality.

ON THE OTHER HAND, A GOOD QUERY LETTER WILL NOT:

• List self-published or subsidy-published works as publication credits

• List the titles of your other, unpublished manuscripts.

• Say, “My mother thinks this is the best book ever!”

• Include a pen name.

• Go into detail about your education or experience unless this is pertinent to the book’s subject.


- From The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel, by Christie Craig and Faye Hughes

Information compiled by Jodie Renner, http://www.jodierennerediting.com/, August 2010

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