One thing you have to get right to get published.

One thing you have to get right to get published.

Nothing makes my head ache faster than writing query letters.

What’s a query? A query letter is the quickest way to dash your dreams, water down your wonder, and choke your creativity until it has died a laborious and lonely death. Also–it’s the bridge that links you with an agent who will hopefully sell your manuscript to a publisher for lotsa $$$$. If you want the official definition of a query, has tons of great (and helpful) information.

And here’s the deal: writing a solid query letter is one thing you have to get right if you want to get published.

The final version of the query letter that I sent out for TEMPUS got more responses than any other query I’d ever written. I say final version, because I tested a TON of drafts with different agents. The draft that got the most attention was organized as follows:

Paragraphs 1-3: Catchy-yet-succinct overview of novel with cliffhanger ending (leave the agent wondering what happens next!)

Paragraph 4: Give word-count, genre, themes, and target audience

Paragraph 5: My credentials (How many books I’ve written, when/where I’ve been published, any degrees or training in a related field that might be appropriate to include, any writing clubs/societies I am a part of)

Two final thoughts about queries:
1. Make sure you check the agent’s submissions guidelines. EVERYONE wants something different. I tailored every last one of my queries. I even mentioned titles the agents represented that were similar mine, and noted how my book could compliment their current client list. Use the agent’s name in the greeting. If it feels like a “mass” email, it will be treated as such (TRASH).

2. Find that fine line between setting yourself apart and just being plain weird. This is a professional introduction to an industry leader. Don’t disregard standards because you think it will make you different. Agents are looking for specific information, and the more clearly you represent that information, the more likely they are to keep reading. The format, the grammar, the tone of your query–it’s all important. But I like to find ways to “humanize” myself by adding one or two little personal phrases.

Got an query advice for us? Comment and let us know!


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