Sunday, April 19, 2009

Query Letters-Part III- writing the actual beast

Now that you know your market, you have your pitch and your back cover blurb, it's time to write the actual letter. Here's a format I've found successful.

Salutation: (Dear Ms. Smith) - always direct the letter to a person-not a publisher or agency this shows you have done your homework.

Opening: (It was so nice to me you at whatifacon. I've always had an interest in stories of space exploration. After meeting you I believe my story, Spacequest, a 90,000 word completed Scifi is something that might interest you and your readers.) or (I am a big fan of your blog. Your thoughts about trends in the market really got me thinking how my manuscript. I think Spacequest, a 90,000 word completed Scifi might be something that would interest you.) - always start with a complementary sentence- that shows you have done your homework- followed their blog, checked out their website to discover they have sold books by authors who are writing what you write, etc.

Hint: Be careful not to give them a reason to turn you down on your opener. Example: if you did meet them and spilled coffee on them- don't mention it! If you disagreed with a blog or opinion- don't mention it! Even trickier- if they say that westerns aren't selling- don't send them a western- not even if your buddy just sold three. Don't insult them by telling them you know their job better then they do. Instead go find someone looking for westerns. Also-if your word count is high or low for the market- don't mention the word count. Don't give them a reason to reject you.

Next- Present your tag line: (Following is the tag line for Spacequest: An intrepid space cadet must pass through the galaxy of death stars to save his planet.)

Then give them your back blurb: (A MAN ON A MISSION...Junior Samples knows the code that will allow him to control the monster computer that is guiding the deathstars to his planet. (BR 549...) He has only 24 hours to make it through the galaxy of deathstars and implant the code but his lack of computer skills stands in his way.
A COMPANION OUT FOR NUMBER ONE...Bill Gatesman knows how to implement the code but is only interested in dominating the universe. Saving the planet is low on his list.
Can a hillbilly convince the computer world's biggest genius to work together to save mankind? Or are we all lost?)

Give a small paragraph about your qualifications: (I have been a member of a local scifi writers group for two years. I've finaled in three whatifacon contests. Judges have found my work fast paced and funny.)

Hint: again be careful not to give them a reason to reject you- ensure that you have entered contests in your genre. Or that you've taken workshops, etc. Don't tell them your mother/sister/best friend loved the work.

Finally, close with an ending paragraph that shows your professionalism: (Enclosed please find the first eight pages and a short synopsis per your guidelines. I've added a small bio and an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) for your reply. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, X

This is a simple template you can use to write your letter. Next week- we'll discuss what each piece of a proposal -query, synopsis, chapters- are for and how to ensure they create a branded marketing package. Cheers!


Jessica said...

I love this template. It just pares it down so well. I've used this type of query several times, except, unfortunately, I haven't met any agents or editors. But I read their blogs, so I mention that.
Thanks for the great post!

Marin Thomas said...


Great example of how a Query Letter should be done. The tip on not giving the agent/editor a reason to reject you is spot on!

A Cowboy's Promise (April 2009)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Thank you both!


Anita said...

Nice run down on the main points...peopel can always use a refresher and I'm sure newbies will especially appreciate this post.

Marilyn Brant said...

Yet again, you've done this so well, Nancy! I can't tell you how many writers wished they had a template like this when they sent out their first query letters to editors or agents. (Where were you when I started writing mine??!)

Great post :).

Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for the template, Nancy. I may need to use it someday. First I have my special project to finish.

Morgan Mandel

Kathryn Magendie said...

How helpful for writers!

Leigh Russell said...

Sound advice, Nancy. I wish I'd seen your blog before I started my rollercoaster of a ride to publication. The first book in my series is published in June. Please check out my blog if you'd like to be a virtual guest at my Virtual Book Launch. As a fellow writer, you'd be more than welcome to comment on my blog. Hope to see you there.