The query letter is an introduction to an agent or editor that precedes your manuscript. You may have to include it with your manuscript or you may send it ahead.
Overview of a query letter:
The format of your query letter is very important. There is protocol for writing and submitting query letters that needs to be followed precisely.
You need to include the title of your manuscript, its length and what genre it falls into.
Write a paragraph about your story.
If you have relevant qualifications for writing, you can include them.
Remember to add a thank you for the agent/editor’s time. Also remember to sign your letter.
The title, length and genre of your manuscript:
Keep it short. One or two sentences are adequate. You can state whether or not the manuscript is finished. The following format is appropriate:
“MAGIC PIE is a completed 12,000 word educational book, targeted to children aged five to nine.”
A short synopsis of your story:
You do not want to write the whole story here. This is to be a short paragraph about your manuscript. Describe the story line without telling the story.
Don’t tell the ending. Don’t tell the characters names. Use descriptions instead of details. Leave out the time and place details unless necessary to outline the story.
Here is an example:
“A weary frog finds himself in an unfamiliar setting and must solve a series of puzzles to make his way home. Along the way he confronts situations and characters he has encountered in his past that feature greatly on his current journey.”
If you have relevant qualifications, list them next:
This is a very short biography of your qualifications. Do not include your numerous community college courses. Do not include book of the month club. This is for your unique credentials. For example, if your book takes place in a funeral parlor and you were a funeral director that would be relevant. If you travelled to the host country of your book and were involved in historical research and your manuscript is a historical novel that takes place in that country, it would be relevant.
This is not a resume.
Time is of the essence. Agents and editors have thousands of letters to read. They do not want to hear about the first book you ever read that changed your life. Be concise and professional.
Here is an example:
“I spent two years in the Amazon Rain forest studying Poison Dart frogs and the effect of deforestation on their environment and populations. I have subsequently written seven educational children’s book illustrating the effects of humanity on nature. Two of my books received awards of excellence for content.”
Remember to include a thank you:
Quite often the decision to read a manuscript will come down to whether or not there is a thank you note attached to the query letter. This separates a professional from an amateur.
Provide a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with your query so the editor or agent can respond easily and quickly.
A thank you note example:
“I appreciate your time and thank you for reading my letter. I will gladly send you the manuscript, or any part thereof, for your consideration. Enclosed is a SASE for your reply. Sincerely, Your name complete mailing address phone number e-mail address”
After your name you must include your complete contact information. This includes your mailing address, with postal/zip code, your city, town, county, your phone number and your e-mail address. Many good manuscripts get trashed because there is insufficient contact information included.
Final thoughts to keep in mind:
Do your research on the editor or agent you are submitting to. Each one will have their own specialty. Make sure they are accepting submissions before you send the query letter. Be sure they represents books of your genre.
These are the basics of sending query letters.
Indian publishers may accept your query letter and your manuscript together. Most publishers, however, will not even touch your manuscript if you send it unsolicited.
The acceptable practice is to send your query letter. If she likes it, she will ask for either the manuscript or the first three chapters, or similar.
Call ahead, to find out what the proper protocol is for that particular publisher. Find out the editor’s name. Make sure they are accepting query letters and that they publish your genre.
The publishing business is harsh and can be brutal. You may have to send a lot of query letters before you find someone who is interested in your manuscript. Don’t get disheartened. Just keep at it.
Because it is a business, the foremost topic on the editor’s mind is the bottom line. If she doesn’t think your book will sell you will probably get rejected. It does not mean your book isn’t good. It just means there may not be a market for it. It is the editor’s job to weed out what will sell and what won’t.
If they request your manuscript find out the correct mailing instructions. This is very important. If your book isn’t mailed properly you will get rejected before it gets read. Be as finicky as the publishers. Be professional. Follow these guidelines and you will succeed.
All the best and we would love to hear from you how you write your query letters.