WHAT IS A QUERY LETTER

SO YOU FINISHED YOUR NOVEL. NOW WHAT?

So you finished your novel. Now what? You didn’t spend a year writing it just to shove it into a drawer. No, of course not.

So what do you do next? You write a Query Letter.

What’s a query letter, you ask?

The short answer is that it’s a sales pitch an aspiring writer makes when seeking representation with a literary agent.

The long answer:  It’s the dreaded “one-pager” that each writer must write if they want to see their book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble or any other brick and mortar book store.  

“But you wrote the book. You should know everything about what makes it so great. It should be an easy task.”

That’s probably an internal debate you had with yourself, right?

WHAT GOES INTO A QUERY LETTER

To start, the writer must figure a way to squeeze their four hundred page manuscript into roughly five hundred words. Sounds impossible, right? It’s daunting for sure, but not impossible. 

First is you have to introduce your work. It might look something like this:

I am writing to you about my 85,000-word thriller, DRONE KINGS. I believe you will find it has a similar appeal to novels written by Mathew Fitzsimmons or Simon Gervais.

Before taking the time to finish reading your letter, agents want to know if your word count  hits the sweet spot—75,000 to 100,000 words. And then they want to see if the book is even in the genre they represent.

The next few lines should contain your elevator pitch. And the first sentence can make or break you. If the first sentence in the pitch doesn’t grab the agent’s attention, your manuscript won’t either.

What makes your manuscript special? Why should an agent waste his/her time reading yours?

Agents receive hundreds of submissions a month. It’s more than likely they already represent a stable of authors. To say they are busy would be an understatement. 

So, put yourself in their shoes. You’d want to be wowed too, right? 

Pithiness is the name of the game. Be concise. Be intriguing. And as Elmore Leonard said, “Leave out the boring stuff.”   

A sHORT BIO

Congrats. The agent read to the bottom of your Query Letter. They know what your book is about; now it’s time to tell them about YOU. 

Maybe you are already published. And perhaps you’ve received an award or two. Or perhaps, like me, this is your first attempt at writing a novel, and all you have to rely upon is your professional work experience. If your past work or life experience is significant, put it in.  

WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA?

Unless you have a significant social media following, numbering in the tens of thousands, it’s best not to include any of your social media statistics. It could only hurt your chances.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Remember, this one-pager is all a writer has to impress a literary agent. Without it, the writer has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting their manuscript looked at by one of the Big-5 publishing companies.

The first Query Letter I drafted came-in at over 800 words—much more than one page. I sent it off to my brother for him to “review.” As usual, he came back with some helpful suggestions/edits. 

After several more drafts, I still found I wasn’t comfortable sending it out. I wanted/needed to give myself an edge, so I signed up for a three-week Query Letter writing course on LitReactor.com

At the end of the class, I felt I had a polished Query letter worthy of being read by the dozens of literary agents I planned to query.

Now all I had to do was hit the enter button and send it out.

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