The Dreaded Query Letter

Writing a query letter. It is as dreaded a thing as writing a good resume and cover sheet is for any other occupation. And why not? It serves the same purpose in the end. So how do we get over our writing woes about this simple sheet of paper when there are so many differing opinions about the way content should be presented?

The simple answer to this question is research. Check out books about writing a query letter from the library, making sure they are current and not ten-year old books. Dig online to find out what other publishers and agents suggest.

No one wants to spend as much time working on this one sheet of paper as they did writing the entire novel, but the truth is that this is your resume. Without a stellar query letter your months of labor over your book were worthless.

Here is a list of what every publisher and agent tells you to include in your query letter:

  • A personalized opening
  • A tagline for the story (this may be included in the synopsis)
  • The genre, word count, and short synopsis
  • A closing paragraph that includes contact information
  • Any other details or information the agent requests.

What none of them are clear on is how to put all these elements together to write a winning query letter. Everyone says something different. Why?

Because every publisher and agents has different tastes. You will not be able to write one query letter for all submissions you make. Each one has to be personal. Each one has to be written in the fashion that the person you are seeking representation from will relate to. It sucks, but it’s the truth.

Here are three good resources for writing a query letter. Just a little something to help you get started:

As always, before submitting, do your homework. See what sort of fiction the agent/editor has done before. Find out how that specific person wants you to submit. Make it personal!

And of course, best of luck!


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