A friend and client of mine sent me over a query letter to review. It was not bad. But, as I told her, it lacked meat. It lacked the kind of things that, based on the information I’ve found, makes editors and agents drool. I put together a Query Letter Outline and am sharing it with you today as we head into the New Year in hopes that THIS is the year you will get your query letter (and your book) out that proverbial door.
The First Paragraph: About the Book
This first paragraph should give them an idea of what the book is all about and get them excited about reading it. Start with the Concept Summary Sentence (sign up to my email list for my award-winning recipe). Your next sentence should tell them the genre you’ve selected, the word count of the manuscript, and how ready you feel it is for publication. If it’s still just a concept, you’ll want to mention that here. Then, a description of the book’s content. What are they going to find when they open the pages? Last, a little sampler platter of highlights from the book.
The Second Paragraph: About the Market
This is where you will wow them by letting them know you mean business. Talk about the number of books in the genre that you’ve chosen, the niche you’ve selected to carve out for yourself in that genre, and what will make your book stand out from all the other books out there. Prove to them that not only is there interest in a book like yours, but that your book can hook people’s interest. Then, show them you know your readers. Talk about the research you’ve done on the kind of people you feel will be interested in this book. Who are they, how old are they, what are their book buying trends, and what makes your book the kind that is likely to appeal to them. If you have statistics that point to a surge of buyers in this market, or reasons why you believe this market is about to open up in a bigger way, now’s a good time to bring that up.
The Third Paragraph: About You
You’ve impressed them with your book and your knowledge. Now, it’s time to let them know why they can’t just go get this book from anyone else. Start with why you wrote this book. Then mention any previous publishing credits you may have or relevant education and experience that gives you an edge over your competition. If you have been referred to this agency or publishing house by someone who is prominent in the industry, this is the time to bring that up. Last, talk about what you believe makes YOU the ideal writer for your readers.
The Fourth Paragraph: Your Marketing Plan
This is where you talk about all the work you’ve done to build up your audience, develop a network of industry connections, and put together a winning strategy that will do the thing they care about doing the most – sell your books! Your first sentence should tell them about your social media following, the email list that you’ve built, and the organizations that you belong to which are relevant to helping you get your books out in front of people. The second sentence should be any outlets you’ve identified as prospective buyers, any corporations that you have connected with and have shown interest in buying copies of the book. The third sentence should be any industry-recognized leaders that you know who will be willing to help you promote the book, endorse it, or host you in front of their audience. The last piece is for you to talk about your strategic, measurable, actionable, resource-bound, time-limited (SMART) plans to be actively involved in marketing your book.
The Fifth Paragraph: Your Contact Information
Please don’t make the mistake of writing an incredible query letter only to make the mistake of failing to provide them the information they need to contact you. Be sure to include multiple methods of getting in touch with you in case one or more of the methods you provide does not work. You don’t want the reason that you didn’t get the deal to be that you couldn’t be reached.
Before you submit a query, research their submission guidelines. Know what they accept and what they don’t. Do as much homework on your prospective agent or publisher as you did on the market for your books and the audience that will be reading them. Know whether they expect you to include the first few chapters, want the whole manuscript, or don’t want to see anything but a query letter. Each of them will differ in this regard, so don’t mess up your opportunities by failing to find out in advance.
What’s Your Experience?
Are you an agent or editor? What would you say about this article? Are you a writer that has successfully queried an agent or editor? What’s your feedback? I specialize in self-publishing, so what I’m saying here is not something I have personally put into action and tested. It is based on research, but research has its limitations.