1/21/10

That Dreaded Query Letter!

Query letters. Sometimes just the word can make us cringe! 

Just how important are these letters and do we always have to write one when we submit our work to publishers/agents? Well we all know the simple answer is Yes. Some of us know how to write a query quite well while others struggle. I don't know about you, but I had to practice, study and learn how to write a query letter, and I'm still perfecting that part of the craft. I call it a craft because, like writing a synopsis, it is a learning experience. And of course I'm always still learning.

A few days ago my good friend, Linda Banche posted a very informative blog about writing query letters. Go check out her blog linked to her name for the complete post. She gives an example of her latest submission query to Wild Rose Press for her novella, Mistletoe Everywhere. (The story was contracted and will release next Christmas.)

Linda explains the paragraphs involved and goes on to tell us how she did it. Generally, a query letter goes something like this:

Always address an editor by name unless the guidelines say not to do so. In the first paragraph, introduce the story. Then the title and word count and then tell why your story is right for this line/publisher. The second paragraph and third if needed, tells your story in blurb or pitch form. The last tells a bit about you and your writing credentials, etc.

There are many sites that share query letter examples. I'm going to share a friend's query to an agent:

Dear Ms. (Literary Agent),

I am an author in search of a literary agent. Since I am familiar with several writers whom you represent, I though that you also might be enthusiastic about my contemporary romance novel, Building Bridges. The completed novel is approximately 125,000 words long and is one of five finalists in the Laurie contest sponsored by the Smoky Mountain Romance Writers.

Kate Chilton, a widow raising two boys alone, is happy to live her life by the rules until the day she discovers that her dead husband was unfaithful to her. Randall Johnson, self-made millionaire and committed ladies’ man, seems like the perfect candidate for Kate’s revenge: a one night stand that she can walk away from without a backward glance. But Randall perversely refuses to accept the limits of his assigned role. When he brings his considerable resources to bear on the lady’s defenses, the battle rages from suburban soccer field to the girders of the George Washington Bridge.

I am a member of  Romance Writers of America and the New Jersey Romance Writers. I graduated from Princeton University with a degree in English and Creative Writing.

Enclosed please find a brief synopsis and a self-addressed stamped envelope in accordance with your requirements in the Romance Writers’ Report.

I very much appreciate your time and attention, and hope to have the chance to work with you in the near future.

Sincerely,
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 The above query was written a few years ago and the author went on to sign with that agent and later, a two book deal with Berkeley Sensation.

Do you have trouble writing queries? Study how other authors do it. It can't hurt and it can possibly help you get you own books published or agented.

Kaye

13 comments:

Debs said...

Thanks for this advice. It's always difficult to know exactly what to write.

Helen Hardt said...

I don't have trouble with queries, but I do hate doing them, lol! I'd rather be writing ;).

J.A. Saare said...

Condensing an entire story down into a blurb and placing it inside a query is never fun for me. You want to convey what you're selling, but only have a limited amount of space to do so.

I'm not sure if the process ever gets any easier (unlike Helen, I detest them)but I certainly hope so.

Suzanne Jones said...

Terrific advice, Kaye. Thank you.

Kat said...

Great post Kaye.:-)

Cari Quinn said...

Great advice, Kaye. I'm that weird person who not only doesn't mind query letters, I actually like doing them. Writing a blurb for a story is fun to me...it's like taking away the cake and just leaving the yummy chocolate chips. Good stuff. ;)

Synopses on the other hand...not so fond of those!

Catherine Bybee said...

Queries are job interviews. Make 'em work for you... Land the job!

I don't know anyone who likes asking for a job!

But it beats being unemployeed.

Sarah Simas said...

Excellent post, Kaye!

I like what Cari said about writing queries. You do have to step back from your story and focus on the need-to-know. Ha! That's hard for this detail oriented newbie! LOL Thank heavens for rough drafts!

Thanks for the kick a** info! You made my day! :)

Christina Phillips said...

It took me a long time to get a handle on how to craft a query letter, and even longer to grasp the concept of pulling a blurb together. I don't mind doing the query or blurb anymore - it's a necessary part of this business - but like Cari I'm not at all fond of writing the synopsis!!

Kaye Manro said...

Great comments everyone! Thanks for stopping by to share your ideas on query letters.

Just like most, I had to practice writing a query. The blurb came a little easier for me.

Now, about the other dreaded part--the snyopsis. That's a topic good for another blog post soon.

Thanks to all!

Linda Banche said...

Hi Kaye, thanks for the plug. And that's a good example of a query letter to an agent.

Shelley Munro said...

I think that having to write blurbs is good training in writing a query letter. The best advice I can give is not to hurry the process. Write your query letter and work on it until it shines--for several days if necessary. Get a friend to look at it. Your crit partner, maybe. Don't send the first version you write!

Kaily Hart said...

Thanks Kaye. Query letters are so important. It's the first impression an editor/agents gets about you. Kinda like the beginning of a book, you only have so many words/so much time to get that person's attention and answer their question 'why should I care?'