Secrets to the Query Letter

A query letter is used when a book is complete or near completion to solicit publishers to purchase the project for publication.

The letter is one or one and a half pages written in the format of a formal business letter asking a publisher or editor if they would like to publish your book. You can also query agents who represent books like yours, and they will approach publishers. A query letter should be brief, and it should pique the interest of any publishing executive who reads it. After all, if you can’t sell a single individual on the merits of your book, why should a publishing house believe you can sell to an audience of thousands or millions?

If you want some inside secrets to crafting a perfect query letter, keep reading....

How Do I Find Out Who Represents My Type of Story?

You may have read books where the author dedicates their time researching agents, but most don’t have that luxury when writing query letters for fiction work. The best way to go about this is by checking book jackets, covers, and descriptions for the publisher’s information. If that doesn’t work, then use an internet search engine to find a query letter that is similar to yours and study it. What type of stories are they looking for? It is important that your query letter goes to a person who actually wants the type of work you are proposing.

How Do I Begin My Query Letter?

The first sentence should catch the editor’s attention by being memorable and informative. In other words, make sure you say something unique about your story, or else editors will consider your query as another form letter coming off their slush pile—the unread submissions sent in by hopeful authors who have no clue what they are doing when writing query letters. Use some creativity when starting out your query letter—that way, it stands out from the rest!

Is There a Specific Format for Query Letters?

Yes, but since query letters can be different lengths, this shouldn’t be a problem. You will want to include your contact information at the top of the query letter. That way, you leave nothing to chance, and editors can get in touch with you if they have questions about your query or manuscript.

Is There Anything I Should Avoid Putting in My Query Letter?

Yes! For example, do not give an introduction about yourself or why you are writing a query letter—that is what cover letters are for. Do not call the editor by their first name; instead, use “Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr. Last Name.” Remember: it may seem like common sense, but query letters should be treated as formal documents.

What Is the Query Letter’s Purpose?

The query letter is to entice the editor into requesting your manuscript by providing a brief overview of your story and its characters. Include who would read this type of fiction as well as any information that might be unique about your story, such as a current event happening in society which may have inspired it.

How Should I Close My Query Letter?

Always thank the editor for their time and consideration. If you haven’t heard back from them within ninety days—by all means, follow up! Sending a reminder email or contacting their assistant could help you receive an answer to your query. And if they still say “No thanks,” then accept that and move on to the next query letter.

How Should I Format My Query Letter?

In a query letter, you will want to use a standard business letter formatting style. The only difference will be how many pages your query is—so keep that in mind! You can also add bullet points or number lists if it enhances the readability of your query. Also: do not forget to include the title and genre of your story at the top and bottom of each page.

Who Should Receive My Query Letter?

Every publishing house has an assistant editor who handles the slush pile—which means you need to find out who the assistant editor is for your query letter. Should you query an editor before getting a response from their assistant? No, as it could be considered as bad etiquette.

What Should My Query Letter Not Include?

Don’t tell stories or give too much background information on your manuscript. Again: focus on what makes your story unique and why a publishing house should take a chance on it!