Friday, April 10, 2009

Query Letter Review

A query letter is a business letter and your first contact with anyone: an agent, an editor. They are determined to discourage the riffraff; your job is to not be the riffraff. Do your best to write a sane and dignified business letter:

Name, Address and Salutation

First paragraph: Describe/summarize in your most interesting fashion the book you have finished (agents look at completed books only) or the article you plan (magazine editors will consider "pitches" for articles not yet written if yours is a good idea. Now that you've given away your idea, you must quickly...)

Second paragraph: Tell why you are the person qualified to write this. If it's your first book, don't say so. As proud as you are of your book -- and you should be! -- in the business of publishing, being a first-timer is a strike against you. Latest cool idea for first-timers: Be able to tell the agent or editor that a professional (writer, editor) has read it and declared it publishable.

Third paragraph: About the manuscript (how many words, genre, such as "a 35,000-word western romance novel"). Its working title (chances are they will not like your title, no matter what it is, so call it a working title).

Fourth paragraph: Tell, briefly, why you are querying this particular agent or publisher. Tell the truth. (Perhaps the one time in the business world when you absolutely must tell the truth and scrupulously avoid b---s---. )"I noticed that you are the agent for XX, who is my favorite romance author," or "Writer's Digest says you specialize in historical narrative nonfiction." If you're sending a snail mail, add: an SASE for your reply is enclosed.


Signature and all possible contact information: Name address phone numbers fax number email.

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