Learning Query Letters

Two weeks ago was a Twitter pitch contest, #Writepit. I put out four tweets to get a feel for whether my piece might be ready. Three favorites later, I was searching websites for the next step. The answer: send in a query and x amount of pages. Pages I have. A query letter, well, I’m less certain about that. Being nervous about this next step, I fell back on researching the internet. Here’s what I found.

Query Letters: Form

  • Keep it short: Single page cover letter (250-300 words)
  • Three to six paragraphs:
    • Three paragraph form. The hook (read the back-cover-copy or flap copy of your favorite books), the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography
    • Add ons: basic personalization for the agent, request for action
  • Title and word count
  • Contact information (signature block)

Query Letters: Getting into and out of them

  • Start: I’ve seen letters start in two basic ways (with personalization and without): My novel x is y words long and z genre — or — I have seen x where you recently expressed interest in z. Novel x is y words long and z genre.
  • End: bio (with accolades if you have them) and a signature block

Query Letter: The Hard Part

  • Setting
  • Goal
  • Obstacles
  • Show us who the characters are
  • Strong actions, strong ramifications, and lots of emotions tied to each
  • Tone of the story

This is a picture taken from WeddingBee comments


Most of the websites suggest hard work, trial and error, critquing queries, and reading lots of examples. Here is the list of websites I relied most heavily on when researching:

Rachelle Gardner, agent – http://www.rachellegardner.com/how-to-write-a-query-letter/

Jane Friedman, professor – http://janefriedman.com/2014/04/11/query-letters/

Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/query-letter-_n_2434095.html

Agent Query – http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx 

Writer’s Digest – http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter

Query Shark – examples of query letters in process with advice http://queryshark.blogspot.com/


 

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