A query letter is a type of formal letter that is common in the publishing industry. It is generally sent literary agents, magazine editors, publishers or companies by someone who wants to sell or promote his/her finished book, article or a piece of writing. The purpose of writing a query letter is to rope in the most efficient or popular literary agents, editors or publishers to represent you for your finished writing.
Now that you have a decent amount of idea about what is a query letter let's get into the part where we discuss how to write a query letter. Writing a query letter is pretty much the same as writing any other formal letter, except the fact that it is your “pitch letter”. You need to be very cautious about what you write in your query letter. Here are the lists of dos and don’ts that you must follow while writing a query letter.
It is okay if you didn’t know how to write a query letter. You can simply recall how to write a regular formal letter and keep these following things in mind:
Addressing the recipient in a generic format such as “To whom it may concern” or “Dear literary agent” is less likely to help you connect with the person on the other end. Instead, address the person by name. This will help you personalize the letter and also give the recipient an indication that you have done a fair share of research.
In formal letters like this one, there’s no need to beat around the bush. Start with a hook line from the manuscript to get the attention of the recipient right away. You can introduce yourself later in the letter.
To sell the manuscript to the recipient, you need to provide the summary. Make sure the summary highlights the heart and soul of the book. Describe the summary as if you want on the back of the book. This is the most crucial part of the letter. So, spend enough time on it.
Before writing the paper or letter to the person (agent, editor or publisher), it is important to gather enough information about his/her. Details like what books or authors he/she represents can help you make a point while addressing your query letter to the person. You can briefly explain why do you think your book is a good fit for the group of books the person has represented.
Also, if you have a blog that receives a significant amount of traffic, mention it in the letter to showcase your efficiency.
Nobody likes to represent an arrogant person. If you often mention it in the letter that your manuscript is a “bestseller in the making” or the person will be lucky to represent your book – you will seem like an egotistical person. Don’t do that in your query letter.
Mentioning "I know how busy you are" or "Thanks for taking your time out to read my letter" are nothing but a waste of space in the letter. They are running an agency or publishing house. Of course, they are busy. It will be better if you use that one or two sentences on promoting your manuscript more.
Unless you have had a book published already or have your articles published in a reputed magazine or newspaper, it is wiser to focus on just selling the manuscript. Things like you have a master's degree or have worked in a law firm for 5 years are not going to help your query letter.
Again, it is an absolute waste of space if you write personal details in the body of the letter. Mentioning things like your age or your qualifications add no such value to your pitch. In fact, such information can create unintentional bias and make it harder for you to sell the manuscript.
Hopefully, you have a significant idea about how to write a query letter. However, if you still need to learn more about the query letter format and other details, we suggest you go through some query letter examples online. You can also ask for a query letter sample from this website for reference.
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