Elements Of Writing A Great Query Letter

Elements of writing a great query letter. Get your manuscript noticed by editors with a good query letter. What every one should and should not have.

When you begin to mail out a finished manuscript, you'll find that each publisher has different requirements for your submission. Some want an outline and the first three chapters, some want an outline and the first 60 pages, and some want the full manuscript. One thing to always include in your submission packages - even if not requested - is a query letter. This letter will show the overworked editor why he should read your manuscript over the hundreds of others waiting in line.

Since this will be the editor's first glimpse of your writing, you want to make a good impression. The first way to do this is to write the letter in the proper format. It should be typed on good-quality, plain, white paper - 8 ½ by 11 inches in size. Don't write on colored paper or one with prints. This is a formal business letter, and should look like one. It should also be written in standard business letter format, and no longer than two pages. Make the tone professional - neither chatty nor stiff, and address it to a specific editor at the publisher your sending it to. If you can't find the editor's name listed anywhere, then phone the publishers and ask. Remember to get a title also, such Mr., Ms., or Mrs. Never address an editor on a first name basis.

The first sentence of your letter should state why you are sending the letter. For example, "I am writing to submit my Historical novel, "˜Great Plains,' to "˜Great History Publishers.'" Remember to say what genre your novel is, and show that you've researched the publisher. For example, if you're submitting to them because they publish books similar to yours, then say so. Or, if you're approaching them because they have a good reputation, then state this too. But never say something like, "I got your name out of a Writer's Market." If this is all you have to say, then go back and do a little research on the publisher. It's pointless to send a Historical manuscript to a publisher who publishes only Sci-Fi. You're wasting both yours and the editor's time.

When you have finished the introduction, then its time to describe your novel. The first one or two sentences of this description should state the main storyline, setting, main characters, and their crisis. From there briefly describe the rest of your story. You don't need to include too many details, as that should have already been done in the Outline requested by most publishers. One thing never to do in a query letter is state how great you think your novel is, or try to tell the publishers why they should buy it. Some things that you can include in your description are comparisons and endorsements. If your novel is similar to books written by a well-known author, then by all mean say so. State the title of the book and what strengths yours and their works share. Also, if you have endorsements from well-known authors, editors, or experts in the field in which your novel is set, include these also.

After you've described your novel - which should only take a paragraph or two, then its time to explain why you're qualified to write it. If you have publishing credits, then list a few; but do NOT list them if you've only published for low-quality magazines. If this is the case, then state that you've been writing for several years and have had work published in a number of publications. If you don't have any publishing credits, then stress your expertise instead. If you're a history buff and you novel is a historical, state that. Or, if you have consulted with experts in the field, then mention that also. Do not list your unrelated interests, hobbies, or details of your life UNLESS they pertain to the novel. For example, no one cares if you do volunteer work at a homeless shelter UNLESS your novel has something to do with a homeless shelter. Once you've finished the body of you letter, then wrap it up with something like, "I look forward to you reply."

When you mail off the letter (after you've spellchecked it, etc.) don't forget to include a SASE, and state in the letter what your including (e.g. outline, first three chapters etc.) When everything is done, then mail off your submission and wait for the reply.

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