Congratulations! Your manuscript is ready to be viewed by the world. We’re proud of you. But now it’s time to get back to work and write the most important part of your future best seller: the query letter.
Knowing how to write a query letter is important because it acts as a cover letter to your work; it lets agents know why they should want more. If your query letter doesn’t pique their interest, chances are neither will your manuscript. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of items that a killer query letter should include (you can thank us later).
- Personalized Effort: Agents read tons of query letters; they know if a query letter has been written specifically for them or if it’s been sent to a dozen others too. Write unique query letters, address them to specific people (names spelled correctly), and end them with gratitude.
- A Hook: The query letter hook should be one sentence that sums up your whole work—who does what and why that should interest readers. Don’t worry—you’ll get more room to expand on this, but the hook lays the foundation and draws the agent into reading the rest of your query letter.
- A Descriptive Paragraph: Following the hook (and before you’ve said anything about yourself), provide a more detailed synopsis of your work. Don’t get carried away though; too many details and agents won’t feel the need to read the manuscript.
- Your Credentials: The final paragraph gives you the chance to explain why you are in a position to create this work—writing experience, previous publications, real-world experience, and so on. Avoid apologizing for a lack of any of these things.
Once you’ve got your query letter, check the publisher’s submittal guidelines to see if they prefer snail mail or e-mail and how much of the manuscript, if any, you can send with the query letter. For books (but not for articles), the manuscript should be completely finished before you send your query letter.
Finally, remember that every author has been rejected, even the best-known ones. A well-written, well-developed query letter could make all the difference!