I’ve found that many writers are intimidated by a query letter. Some tips that can help you get over that”
1. Use a font that is easy to read like Times New Roman. If you’re sending it to an editor in hard copy then be sure to use a 10 or 12 point font. Editors suffer from eye strain and are looking for more reasons to not publish your book at first. If the query letter is not easy to read, then it goes into the rejection pile mostly unread.
2. If you are sending this to one of the large publishing houses have you researched and verified who the editor is and do they take unsolicited manuscripts. Small and mid-size publishers are more likely to take a new author and may not require you to have an agent. Agents act as screeners for the publishers and are a great ally in negotiating for you if they like your work. Only use agents who work strictly on commission of no more than 15%.
3. The letter needs to be addressed to a specific person. You can call the publishing house and ask to confirm that the editor is still with the company and the address that it needs to be sent to. The receptionist can give you that information.
4. The best sources for research of agents and publishers is the annual Writer’s Market. Realize that much of this information is six months old when the new book is released at the beginning of each year. You can purchase it online, which is a better deal because they update it throughout the year. However, still confirm that the person is still there and in that position. People change positions quit often in the publishing world.
5. The best book I’ve found on book proposals is W. Terry Whalin’s Book Proposals That Sell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success. It focuses on nonfiction, but some of the same rules apply to fiction. Fiction must be completed when you submit a query and proposal whereas nonfiction only needs the first three chapters, outline, and synopsis. Each agent and editor has specific guidelines that they expect us to follow to the letter.
6. Make your synopsis complete but brief. Include main events and characters.
8. Include a thank you at the end of the letter. An editor wants to be grabbed by the first couple of sentences or he will move on to the next letter.
9. Be specific as to who your audience is. It is a mistake stating that your market is all ages or everyone. Research who reads your type of book to find out.
10. Briefly give your background, knowledge of your platform, savvy marketing ideas, and willingness to work hard at selling your books.
11. Read successful examples in magazines like Writer’s Digest or get a good book on how to write a query letter.
Dianne G. Sagan
Author of Tools and Tips: What Every Writer Needs to Know to Go “Pro”