Writing a Query Letter to a Publisher

Why do I need to write a query letter?

If you’re anything like me, this will be the first thing you say when you find out that you have to write a query letter, whether it be to an agent, or a publishing house.

The reason, I have discovered, is because they ask you to.

Simple, really.

Agents and publishers, generally, do not want you to send in your whole manuscript at once. It’s a process. You usually send a query letter with a synopsis and sample chapters, then, if requested, the rest of the manuscript.

The next thing you’ll be saying is… um, how do I write a query letter?

book-of-autumn

A query letter is a vital part of the process. In the query letter, they want to know a little bit about you and your story, as well as why you believe you have the authority to write about this particular subject.

If your query letter is not well written, you seriously deplete your chances of them reading your book. The way they may see it is, if s/he can’t write a letter, how can s/he write a novel?

So, here it is. This is how I write query letters. I’ve done a lot of research to make sure it’s right, and it’s always a good idea to do the same. It’s important to you, so make sure you discover everything you can from everywhere you can. That way you can compare the advice you’re given. Also, find out if there are any specifications set forth by the agent or publishing house – they may have a particular way they want you to set it out.

Below is an example of a query letter that I’ve written using a novel many people know – Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. It’s easier to use a novel that many people have read, than just make one up. That way you know how much information to put in. Twilight was the first book I could think of that has a wide readership!

 

Submissions                                                                                         YOUR NAME
LITERARY AGENTS R US                                                                      YOUR NUMBER
1, One Street,                                                                                        YOUR ADDRESS
New York, NY
10010

Dear {Name of Agent/Publisher} —– > ensure you go to the effort to find out exactly who you are sending it to. The personal touch! 

Bella Swan hates the small, drizzly town of Forks. She hates the rain, the cold, the ever present cage of grey clouds looming above her and the fact that she has to live with her father so her mother can follow her new husband as he travels for his baseball career. That is, until, she meets a mysterious boy named Edward Cullen. —– > briefly introduce your story.

Aimed at Young Adults and at over 118,500 words, Twilight is romance novel telling the story of how 17 year old Bella Swan came to fall deeply and irreversibly in love with a man who is unlike any other. When Bella discovers the startling truth that Edward, and indeed his entire family, are vampires, she is caught between the web of immortality and the life she has always known. As she discovers more about Edward, Bella is discovering more about herself and the woman she wants to be. But when other, dangerous vampires traipse through the peaceful town of Forks and discover the Cullen’s are harbouring a human, the hunt is on and the Cullen’s have to fight to keep Bella alive. —– > Subtly declare the approximate word count, target audience, and genre, while going into more depth about the story.

A tale of a passionate love that overcomes even the greatest of obstacles, Twilight journeys you through Bella’s life as she encounters a world she never knew existed and a love she could never have imagined. —– > Tie it up neatly. A general coverage.

— Here is where you write a paragraph about yourself. Not what your favourite foods are or what movies you like to watch – just writing! Don’t let the paragraph be too long! Here is what I wrote at the end of one of my query letters.

I am young writer from the Gold Coast, having been writing ever since I could hold a pen in my hands. I recently won the Harper Collins/Girlfriend short story writing competition, an excerpt of which was published in the February 2011 edition of Girlfriend Magazine. I have also ghost-written content for a website development company called Lazy Bear IT Division. My passion is with fiction. {Title} is the second manuscript I have written and I have finished my third, a love story titled {Title}. The fourth, {Title}, sequel to {Title}, is underway.

I have included with this letter a stamped self-addressed envelope for your convenience. Thank you for taking the time to read my work. —- > Always include a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough to send back your pages if need be. That way you’re more likely to get a response. Don’t forget!

Looking forward to speaking with you soon, —– > Finish it off politely, with hope, of course!

YOUR NAME

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