Thirty Tips to a Better Query Letter
edited: Monday, December 05, 2011
By Cindy A Christiansen
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, December 05, 2011
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Learn how to write an awesome query letter that will help you sell your book.
The query letter is the first thing an agent/publisher sees of you and your writing abilities. It is essential that you put your best work forward. Let's address that quarrelsome query letter with some easy to apply tips:
- A query letter is just one part of your promotional packet, but the query hook can be expanded for pitches, a cover blurb, website listings, and other promotional materials. It is the most important part, and you should take your time to come up with the best possible hook.
- Your query is a promise to a potential agent/publisher of what you will deliver and you need to prove you are up to the task.
- Write your query using the same flavor or feeling as you wrote the book (i.e. humorous, serious, suspenseful, or emotional).
- Come up with an extremely enticing, tight hook to keep the agent/publisher reading.
- You must define your main character(s) in one clear sentence (hook) that states what a reader should expect from the character.
- Randomly write down several descriptor words for each main character and then pick the one that bests describes the character's emotional journey through the book. You want the agent/publisher to know the emotional journey of the character, not a blow-by-blow of what he did each day.
- In creating your query hook, what character type is your main character(s)? Think occupation, station, abilities (i.e. a businesswoman, Duke, cowboy).
- Use archetypes to help define your main character(s). Check out: The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Cowden, LaFever and Viders.
- Turn your book idea into a story question that will be resolved by the end of the query.
- Figure out what motivates your main character(s). Use strong action verbs.
- Don't be vague with descriptive words and find words that reflect your writing style (i.e. fun words for humorous story).
- Determine the premise of your story, that common truth which resolves the conflict at the end of the story.
- What is the main driving emotion of each of the main characters?
- What epiphany does each main character come to by the end of the book?
- For your query hook, use one or two strong descriptor words and the character type to describe your character(s) as they relate to the story.
- Combine the character traits, the story question, premise and major plot point to come up with a one or two sentence hook.
- Try to find the correct name of the agent/publisher in addressing your query letter.
- If you can find out something interesting about the agent/publisher, include it in your query letter. If you've pitched to them, state it in the beginning paragraph.
- If you don't know who to address your query letter to, use "Attention Submissions."
- A query letter has three parts: the main message, the body of facts, and the closing statement.
- Your first paragraph should be that hot hook you constructed. Then state your title, word count, target market and whether the agent/publisher requested it. If this is your first book, the manuscript must be completed. You can not pitch ideas. State whether the book is completed or not.
- Next in the body, expand on your story to generate further interest, including character, GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict) and enticing verbiage.
- In expanding your story, describe the emotional journey of the main character(s), not a blow-by-blow of events.
- Also in the body, tell the agent/publisher why you are an expert on this subject. Remember, they'll be thinking about marketability.
- Now include your credentials (i.e. groups, contests winnings, other writing credentials, book sales).
- The final paragraph is where you state the action you want them to take (i.e. to contact you by phone or email, etc.) and also to reaffirm if you had any previous contact with them (i.e. it was nice to meet you at the conference, etc.).
- For submitting your query online, double space between paragraphs and keep it under two pages.
- For submitting your query by snail mail, make sure you include a SASPostcard and a SASEnvelope.
- Have as much fun writing the query letter as you did the book.
- Consider taking an on-line class about query writing.
Good luck and much success with all your writing.
Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Comedy, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at: http://www.dragonflyromance.com
Web Site: Cindy A. Christiansen
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