What Is a Query Letter?
A query letter is the first piece of written communication from an author to a potential agent or publisher. Even if the author has met them face-to-face at a conference or similar event, the potential agent or publisher will want to see a query.
This one page letter should be written in a professional business document format. The author should make sure the query covers the topic of their book and their industry experience in an inviting and professional manner.
The query letter will set the standard for future business transactions. Make sure to address the query to the proper person and send it to the correct address. Many publishers have multiple addresses with specific offices handling specific projects.
Don’t send a magazine query to the fiction department. Make sure the query is well-written and contains no typos or errors. Check spelling and sentence structure. Set it aside for a few days and read it over one more time before sending.
The first paragraph of the query should be used to reel the agent or publisher in and to get them excited about your article or story. If the manuscript is a fiction book proposal, this paragraph will read much like a blurb on the back cover of a book.
It’ll introduce the characters, the conflict, and give a basic story line. Spend some time to make the paragraph as tight as possible. This isn’t the place to elaborate or add in extra details.
The second paragraph should tell any necessary details about the book or article. Explain whether the project involves a short story or a magazine article. If you’re sending a book query, tell whether the manuscript is non-fiction or fiction.
The query should state how far along the project is. If the manuscript is complete and ready to send out, state this fact here. If the project isn’t complete, give a projected finish date and include projected word count. Does the project compare to another project already out there?
The bio will tell about the author, particularly in reference to the particular piece of work the author is trying to sell. This is the place to list writing awards, contest wins, and a list of previously published work. Explain why the personal experience information is relevant to this project. If the project is non-fiction, tell what experience you have that allows you to write this manuscript. Make sure the writing is tight and relevant.
End the query letter with a brief personal note. Thank the agent or publisher for taking the time to look over your query. Let them know you look forward to hearing back from them. List your contact information; name, address, phone number, cell, and e-mail. If you have an agent, their information will go here instead of your personal information.