Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Query Letters-Part III- writing the actual beast

(reposted from April 2009 but still relevant today.)
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 novel 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 about how my manuscript fits in today's market. I think Spacequest, a 90,000 word completed Scifi novel might be something that would interest you.) or (I see that you represent Joe Bluffer, my favorite author)- 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 professor/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!


Judy Croome said...

Nancy you make it sound so easy, but really, I find writing query letters so nerve wracking taht was one of the factors that help me choose to leave the traditional path and go into self-pubbing my book. That's how much I hate query letters!
Judy (South Africa)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Judy,
I understand the nerves. A query letter is sort of like a job interview. All you can do is your best and send it out and hope that it gets the attention it deserves.
Best of luck on your book. I loved the cover art. Cheers~