Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tips on how to write a query letter

When I was shopping for agents and publishers for my book, I struggled with the query letter.  Unfortunately, it's a tedious task, but a necessary one, nonetheless.  Agents and publishers see thousands of queries every week from writers, so it's important to make your query letter stand out and make the person reading it say, "I need to know more about this book!"  I'm no expert when it comes to writing a query letter, but I did a ton of research before developing my query letter for Coincidence. There is a substantial amount of information online (and probably from experts in the area) on query letters and how to write one, but I thought I would throw a few tips out for any aspiring writers who are looking to write one. And, here they are:

  • Make it grab the attention of the reader right from the start!  What's the hook?
  • Don't query unless you have a completed and polished manuscript.
  • Describe your book in a few sentences, but don't give a whole summary of the book in the letter--that's what the synopsis is for, which will usually be requested if an agent or publisher has read your letter and has found your book interesting.  
  • Keep the query letter to one page.  
  • Ask permission to send sample chapters of your book.  
  • Describe the length and genre of your book.  How many words is it? Is it romance? Horror? Mystery? Sometimes it can be difficult to fit your book into a genre, but it has to be done.  Some publishers and agents are only looking for particular genres and you certainly don't want to query a science fiction publisher about your romance novel--it will make you look like an amateur and uninformed and who wants that? 
  • Talk a little bit about yourself.  Do you  have any other published works? What is your background--anything relevant to writing that would be useful?  What gives you the credibility to write this book?
  • Make sure you are spelling the person's name correctly.  If you are sending a letter to Jane Doe, make sure Jane Doe spells her name Jane Doe and not an alternate way, like Jayne Doe.  I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have your name constantly misspelled and believe me I know!  My name is spelled Lesley, yet I'm all the time seeing it spelled Leslie, Lesli or Lesly...even after I correct them!  More than likely, if you misspell an agent's/publisher's name, your query is going straight in the trash. 
  • Last but not least, thank the person reading your letter for actually taking the time to read your letter.  It's easy to forget such a simple step. 
Below, I've included the query letter I sent out for Coincidence.  This letter eventually got me published by Wings ePress, Inc.  Coincidence was released in November 2010.


Ms. Jayne Doe
Name of Agency/Publisher
Street Address
City, State, Zip
Dear Ms. Doe:

So, what’s the craic? Have no idea what that means? Neither did Samantha “Sam” Montgomery the first time she was asked that question. Little did she know on that hot, humid summer night, that it would be the question that would change her life forever.

I am seeking representation for my first novel—a completed 98,000 word contemporary romance novel.

Coincidence is a story about Sam Montgomery, a typical twenty-eight year old single woman who, stuck in a boring job and with a string of bad relationships under her belt, isn’t where she imagined she would be at this point in her life. Additionally, she has to cope with the sudden death of her beloved grandfather who passed away just weeks after beginning to investigate a letter belonging to his mother—a letter which only fuels questions about his mother’s mysterious past and why she suddenly fled her homeland of Ireland in the middle of the night nearly eighty years ago.

Sam, desperate for some much needed relaxation after the past several months of grieving her grandfather’s death and her unlucky in love past, heads away on her annual girl’s beach trip with her best friend, Kate Mason, only to discover what awaits her at the beach is far from relaxing. When she, a charming Irishman named Sean and an angry red-headed woman cross paths, Sam finds her sanity slowly spinning out of control as she stumbles, falls and laughs her way through a mission which takes her across the Atlantic Ocean in search of love and answers to her family’s puzzling past.

Now, a little about me. With a fianc√© who is from and lives in Ireland, I travel back and forth frequently, which allows me the opportunity to know the people, places and culture of what I write about first hand—Ireland is not just a place in the book, it becomes a character as well. I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing and a master’s degree in criminal justice. In July ’09, I wrote Wintergreen, a humorous travel piece profiling Derry, Ireland, which was published in the Charleston Sunday Gazette newspaper. Additionally, I am the Charleston Budget Travel Examiner for, an online local news guide, where I’ve written articles on how to travel on a budget both nationally and internationally.

I would love the chance to send you my partial or complete manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Your name
Your contact information

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