Thursday, July 5, 2007

Queries Queries Queries

You have a great manuscript that you've taken through the proper channels of editing. You start sending out queries and slowly the rejections start to trickle in. Now what?

John Wood, author of How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover letters, said: “If you’re still stuck at ground level in your writing career, take a hard look at the engine—at the correspondence you’re sending out. Most likely, that’s where the smoke’s coming from.”

Wood also said that your query letter should be as personal, as passionate, and as professional as possible.

But do you really have a chance? Agents receive thousands of queries a year. Not only do you have to impress their assistant, you have to impress them to receive a “call-back”—meaning a request for a partial (i.e. sample chapters).

First of all, it's essential to understand the purpose of a query letter. They are sent to gain the interest of an editor or agent. The all-in-one-submission package should include a Query, a one-page Synopsis, and a sample page of writing—sent at the same time.

This is fine as long as you read the submission guidelines. If the agent’s website says: accepts queries only. Then only send a one-page query. Nothing else.

A good query has these components:

1. Keep tone appropriate: don’t be cheesy or silly

2. Use high quality paper (25 lb bright white)

3. Address query to correct editor or agent: Some agents will throw out a submission if their name is spelled incorrectly

4. First paragraph: Hook sentence and story (see other blogs about writing Hooks)

5. Second Paragraph: Why you are submitting to this publisher—do your homework. Read their blogs, articles, and interviews

6. Third Paragraph: Your Writing Credentials—-if you haven’t been published, you need to have a PLATFORM. Why are you the expert in this subject? OR why is this novel important?

7. Close Simply: “Thank you for considering my manuscript. I look forward to your response.” Sign the letter with “Sincerely”

Email Query

1. Put “query” in the heading so it won’t be seen as spam.
2. Keep professional.
3. Use standard opening and closing as if you were writing a letter.
4. Proofread before sending.
5. Only email a query if the agent has specific guidelines

What's the difference between a query and a cover letter? A cover letter should only be included when additional material is requested. OR sometimes it’s specifically requested with non-fiction material. John Wood says, “A cover letter is not really a letter; it’s a note whose sole purpose is to briefly introduce yourself and your submission, then get out of the way . . . it should be no more than a half page.”

Next Thursday, I'll post some examples for a cover letter.

1 comment:

Josi said...

Queries scared the J-ello out of me until I got clear advice from people like you. It's not so scary when you know you're doing it right. Thanks Heather.