How to Write The Perfect Query Letter

By on Mar 18, 2015 in Special Features

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So you’ve finished a book, revised it in a million different ways and edited it a billion times. Now, you’re ready to write a query letter and send it to an agent or a publisher.

But what is a query letter?

A Query letter is a letter containing the synopsis of your book and your biography. It also contains why the agent should represent you and why the publisher should publish your work. It is also a business letter with a touch of creative writing. You still need to be creative in writing your query letter because you need to hook the reader’s interest, in order to grab the chance to be represented and be published.

Things you should remember

• The content of your letter should depend on your story and your instinct.

• You will get tons of contradicting advice from the internet. Take what works, and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what will work best to deliver your story and your biography.

• Finding an agent or a publisher is like finding a friend or a partner in life. Their likes and dislikes are subjective, so find someone who has similar interests, or a similar way of thinking or world view as you. After all, you need an agent or a publisher, who will get along with you, and someone who will believe in you and your work.

• Most important of all, make sure you don’t lose the soul of your story in your query letter.

Key steps for writing a perfect query letter

1) Before writing a query letter, always check and follow the guidelines and instructions of the agent, or the publisher.

2) Research if the agent, or the publisher has published the same story genre such as romance or drama novel etc. before. Find the right match for your personality and for your story.

3) Answer the questions below in your query letter:

a. What does the main character want?

b. What’s going to stand in his way?

c. What conflict or road block he’s going to face in order to get what he wants in the conclusion of the story?

d. What terrible thing is going to happen if he chooses to get what he wants? What is going to happen if he doesn’t?

e. What makes your story original, fresh, and unique? What is the hook in the story?

4) Never include the comment, “Your family and friends think your story is the best story or that they loved it.” It appears a bias comment rather than an objective one.

5) Make sure to avoid scam artists. Remember, if an agent or publisher asks you for a fee, check their credibility at the sites below:

a. Preditors & Editors – http://pred-ed.com/

b. Absolute Write – http://www.absolutewrite.com/

c. Writers Beware – http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/

6) Make sure to also check out sites about query letter writing. You can see examples of queries and corresponding advice to improve the queries and sending queries to agents and publishers. Two examples are:

a. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

b. http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

7) When you’re ready to write your query letter, remember to write with your mind and your heart. Be yourself and don’t over analyze things. The more you over think things, the more you worry, and the more you panic, the more you will create mistakes.

8) If you have a 1000-word query letter, read your work loud three times. Cut down the sentences that makes you breathless and cut down the words, phrases or sentences that will trip you over, and confuse you or the reader. Give specific details and go straight to the point.

9) Cut down the words, phrases, and sentences that will impress rather than serve the purpose of the query letter. Stick to the plot of the story and show them your talent as a writer.

10) Make sure to practice correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

11) Practice writing your query letter and keep the word count below 350 words. The more you practice, the more likelihood to get it right.

12) Join a writing a group for feedback on your query letter. They have groups and other authors who can give you specific advice and suggestions for your work. Two examples are below:

a. Scribophile – www.scribophile.com

b. Inked Voices – www.inkedvoices.com

13) As you revise and edit your query letter, remember to take the advice with a grain of salt. Take what works and ignore the rest. Remember the answers for questions in tip #3 . Stick to the purpose of your query letter.

Now that you’ve sent your query letter, relax and wait for a response. Agents and publishers are swamped with query letters every day, so just imagine, how many letters they have to read and respond to.

If you’ve sent numerous query letters and you haven’t got a response, it’s time to read your letter and figure out what’s wrong with it then revise and edit again.

Image credit: Jason Dean on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

Cassiopeia Lancaster is a Freelance Writer and Relationship blogger. She is currently working on three novels.

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