Book Marketing and the Query Letter
If you are contemplating writing a book or you’ve already written one and intend on going the traditional publishing path, you’ll need a query letter and a cover letter.
This is true whether you’re an author, a writer, or a business owner who wants to build his authority with a book.
Wondering what a query letter has to do with book marketing?
The query is part of the second step in your book marketing journey. Think of it as the beginning of a hopefully rewarding relationship with a publisher or agent.
The first step is writing a great story. The second is getting a contract – this is where the query comes in.
If you’re not sure what a query letter is, Jane Friedman notes that it’s a stand-alone letter and has only one purpose. Its sole purpose is “to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.” (1)
The query letter is your foot in the publishing door. So, you can see how much rides on this one or two page letter (preferably one page).
The query letter usually has 8 elements to be aware of:
1. Do your research. Have you gone to the publisher’s or agent’s website to make sure your manuscript topic is something s/he handles?
You can do an online search for publishers or agents that will be a fit for your story. Or, you can use an online service, like WritersMarket.com.
2. Know what you need to do. At the site, did you carefully go over the submission guidelines? I mean really, really, really, carefully!
3. Is your opening (in the query) grabbing? Will it get the reader’s attention?
4. Edit, edit, edit. Have you checked for grammar errors? Have you checked for redundancy? How about spelling? Don’t rely on a word processors speck check feature alone. Edit your letter manually.
5. Keep it short and sweet. Eliminate non-essential personal information.
6. Include credentials, and/or pertinent background information that is relevant to the story you’ve written, if any.
7. Include your book marketing strategy for promoting your book. In this section, include your social media following, only if significant: 500 followers, 1000 followers, 5000, 10,000. Obviously, the more the better. And, it’s essential that you have an author website and include the link in your heading.
8. Have you studied the query letter format?
The format consists of several paragraphs?
a. Your introduction, mentioning that you’ve visited the website and why you’re querying.
b. A very brief gist of what the manuscript is about and the intended age group.
c. A very brief synopsis of the story.
e. Your background, if pertinent. Include your marketing intentions.
f. Thank the editor/agent for her time. Mention that you included XXX pages (the number the guidelines said to send), if applicable.
Taking the time to do it right and write an optimized query letter may make the difference between the slush pile and a contract.
The query letter is the portal to a contract. If the reader says NO at the letter, your manuscript may be great, but it won’t have a chance.
(1) The Complete Guide to Query Letters
How to Write the Perfect Query Letter
For more on children’s writing tips and writing help, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.
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Karen is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.
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