If you are reading this article, you probably need to write a convincing query letter to get your work published. For those who don’t know, a query letter is a formal letter written to an editor or a publisher. The writer offers a story or content to get it published in a magazine, book, journal or some other media.
Since the query letter delivers the purpose of your work and how it would benefit the editor, you need to write with utmost care. Here you will learn how to choose the right words and patterns to get the most manuscript requests.
Format to Write a Query Letter
Even though the query letter is different based on the type of work you are writing, multiple elements remain the same. Your letter should include the following points to make it look presentable.
- The opening paragraph, which contains the genre, title and word count of your book.
- The main idea of the story. Describe it in around 200-300 words. Make it as interesting as possible and focus on what happens in the story.
- Then introduce yourself in 50-100 words. Mention any previous notable works or your achievements that are relevant.
- One closing and thank you sentence should be enough. Avoid using excessive words like, “I beg you to have a just at a few pages.”
Tips to Write an Impressive Letter
Here are some things you can follow to write a query that stands out and gets chosen on the first try.
Things to Know before your Start
You undoubtedly have the best storyline in mind and would like the audience to go through the experience of reading it.
But before you hit the send button for the query email, make sure to do your research. Your choice of wordings will determine whether it ever reaches the public or not. Below are some points to keep in mind:
- Check if the publishing company has specific guidelines for writing a query letter.
- Write according to who will be reading it.
- Whether the genre falls into their interest or you should look for another agent.
- Look for the recent success of the publishing company to help you understand the stories that are most popular.
Write About What Sets your Story Apart
As a writer, you should better know the unique potential of your story that sets it apart from others. Offer the audience a piece of work that they would want to buy and even borrow from others. The main agenda of a query letter is to point out the selling point of the story that would make them money as well.
You can search the web for query letter examples to better understand the selling point. If you are still unsure, try condensing your story into two or three-sentence lines to see if it can spark the reader’s curiosity.
The Right Time to Query
You cannot rush into writing a query when you haven’t finished the manuscript yet. Complete at least half of your story in a presentable way before the query. The editor might ask for the manuscript to see the story development.
Take your time to finish the draft and the storyline. Even if you have the complete draft ready before the query, it is best to get it checked with a professional to know the book’s weak points. You could make changes before and enhance your chances of getting the book published.
Write it in a Positive Tone
Even if the genre of the book is more on the negative side or a tragic story, the query letter does not necessarily need to generate the same vibes. The query should itself be inviting and written on a positive note to draw the reader’s attention.
Avoid statements that bring down your writing, like self-deprecating statements. The information you provide should be intuitive, convincing and formal at the same time.
Things to Avoid When Writing a Query Letter
Here is a list of things you should avoid when writing a query that can hinder the process.
Use of Indecisive Words
Making use of words like maybe and could will sound like you are doubting your work. The query might not appeal to the agent this way.
Be confident in what you have to offer and convey what’s unique about the storyline. Use precise words to explain what will make your story exciting and worth reading.
Using Space for Unwanted Words
Since an ideal query is around 500 words, it is best to utilise the space for meaningful words. Avoid wasting the opening paragraph by introducing yourself. You can write it down later in the letter. Start with a paragraph that can grab the attention of the editor.
Unless you have noted and well-acknowledged works in your credit, there is no use in mentioning them. Do it by introducing the interesting part of your book. Writing anything that does not make you an authority on your topic should be avoided.
Not Proofreading the Letter
Make sure to proofread the letter multiple times. It is inevitable to make mistakes, but your job is to point out the typos before submitting the query letter.
Read the paper over and over again for grammar mistakes. Get a professional editor to review your query or run the document through software for spell check. If the publisher notices grammar mistakes in the letter, they can form a bad impression of your work and decline the offer.
Unnecessary Discussion of the Marketing Plan
You just need to offer the selling point of the story by writing it in the description section. Mentioning the marketing plan of the published book is not necessary for the query. Having a well-established blog might make a good impression, but it does not necessarily mean that you are a good writer.
Some Other Things to Avoid Writing
Since editors and publishers are busy reviewing writings, there are not interested in reading your personal information. Avoid writing how many years and effort you have put into your work.
Mentioning how a famous writer has acknowledged your work would not be a good idea. It would make the editor wonder why they didn’t offer you their agent.