Yes. Unfortunately, you will have to write a query letter. At some point. For something.
If you ever have any desire to be a hybrid author or a traditionally published author, you’ll have to write one.
While they’re not the easiest thing in the world to write, they can be done, if you think about them from the point of view that they’re a selling tool, not a story-telling device (that’s a synopsis, and a different post).
We’ve all had that friend who, whenever he tells you about a movie/book/story/whatever, that not only does he tell the idea, he tells you the whole book, so when he’s done, you’re like “Why do I bother? I know what happens.”
THIS IS NOT WHAT A QUERY LETTER IS.
A query letter is designed to make whoever reads it WANT TO KNOW MORE.
Like the blurb on the back of the book.
So you want to tease that reader of that query letter a bit, suck them in with a few choice sentences, then leave them hanging and wanting more.
Note: This does NOT mean give the reader such a vague understanding of your book that they have no idea, and reject you for not being clear.
Queries also have a few basic required guidelines that you put in every one, that keeps you on the professional side.
- Include the genre of your book. (If you don’t know, figure it out. It’s essential to know where your book fits in the market.)
- Include the word count of your book. You don’t have to be specific, 85,000 words is fine, if your word count is, say 85,426. Round to the nearest thousand. (Unless your work is under 1,000 words, like for a kid’s book or poetry or something like that. Then be very specific.)
- Include the TITLE and if it’s part of a series. (Seriously. People forget this…)
- Include how you found the publisher/agent that you’re sending the query to. However, don’t “name drop” unless the person you’re dropping specifically said you can mention them. “Several authors I’ve spoken to said great things about your agency,” is enough. However, even if you just found them via a google search, and read their blog, say “I read your blog, and I thought you might be interested in my book.”
- Add any tidbits about your experience in publishing, or if you have a special skill that gives you an added edge to your topic. Example: If you’ve written a cozy mystery series involving a hair salon, and you were a stylist for 10 years. Including a tidbit like that shows that you really do know how a salon runs.
- Anything requested that the agent/publisher wants to see–like sample pages in the email, attachments, etc. This you have to check each person you’re submitting to, because every place is different.
- AND SPELL-CHECK. Then READ IT OUT LOUD. Make sure your letter is as flawless as possible. Grammarly.com is a good grammar and spelling check. But you still want to read it out loud and make sure it sounds right.
Hello, my name is Candice Gilmer, and I am looking for representation for my new contemporary romance book, SUMMER BURNS. It is a 35,000 word novella, featuring a military widow and the soldier who came home to check on her. It is the first in a trilogy of stories that center around three sisters who work in their mother’s beauty shop, Celestial Springs. (A lot of information here, but that’s good. They know right up front what’s coming.)
Summer Bettes doesn’t think she needs anything. A full time hairdresser, mommy to her precocious, Disney-obsessed daughter, and a family that she adores–most of the time–she has it pretty good. Except for the occasional asthma attack, she really has no complaints.
Although at night, she does miss her husband, who was killed overseas.
Then, in the middle of a busy day at Celestial Springs Salon, her sister Winter tells her a man is there to see her.
When Matthew Hennessy first sees Summer Bettes, his breath is taken away. Not only is she still as beautiful as she was in high school, but even with one look, he knows he’s going to have a hard time staying away from her.
No matter what her husband’s dying wish had been.
(See how I did that? A little about my heroine, a little about my hero, and left the last line making you want to know more about what was coming… What was his dying wish? Why was Matthew there? Many would likely want to read more.)
I have been reading your blog for years. I don’t always comment, but I do read it regularly, and even occasionally write blog posts about your topics. (I reference how I heard about Scott Eagan’s literary agency. If you found the agency/publisher through a Google search, you can probably omit this part)
As a hairdresser for over 20 years, I know what it’s like to work in a salon, and the unusual dynamic and bonds that form between stylists, and their clients. Hairdressing is a very personal business, and I am thrilled to be writing a romance series set in a salon. I currently have 15 books available for sale some via self publication as well as with a publisher. (Here, we have a little more about me, my credentials and qualifications to write a book set in a salon)
Please let me know where to send the full manuscript.
Thank you for your time, (Always ALWAYS ALWAYS use some kind of cordial closing for your letter. It’s still a letter, whether it’s an email or a piece of paper.)
(I always included my website, in case the agent or editor wanted to click the link and see my other books. Nowadays, you can put your Facebook, your Twitter, or website or blog here. Wherever you’d like them to look. I always put my website, because it’s cleaner than going to look at social media. Remember, this is part of the sales pitch.)
I hope this helps you write a better query letter.
Good luck with your writing!