Thursday, August 15, 2013

Anatomy of a Query Letter

One of the questions I get asked most by unpublished (and stressed out) writers is, "How do I get an agent/editor to read my f-ing manuscript?" and because they know I succeeded with a 'traditional' query letter approach, "Will you help me with my f-ing query letter?"

Yes. I will. Read on, my stressed out writing friend!

The Anatomy of a Query Letter (below)  is from a course I gave two different writer's workshops, and it is the backbone of my Writers Pay it Forward program, where we will be visiting each section of the query letter in depth, and showing actual query letters that led to a writer's contract! Here's what I would recommend:
  1. Print out my "Anatomy of a Query Letter" below. 
  2. Join me as I take it section by section. Skip ahead on my blog to whatever you feel is the easy section and write that first, as some will be easier for you to write than others.
  3. When you need to see how other writers have done it, read the Actual Query Letters that Worked from my blog. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss any tips that might help make your query brilliant!
  4. Give yourself time--as one agent I follow so wisely said, writing your query letter should take you as long as it did to write (and revise) two of the BEST chapters in your novel.

Good luck and be sure to subscribe to my blog to get the latest examples and hints for your query letter and your developing writing career!

Happily My Ever After,

Anatomy of a Query Letter

A query letter is your introduction as a writer, your calling card. Unless you’ve previously met the agent/publisher, this is a cold sales pitch in which you are selling your story, your writing talent/voice, and YOU! The query is the way to get your proverbial foot in the door; its job is to entice the reader to request your manuscript!

Follow the basic anatomy of a query letter (in any order):  hook, mini-synopsis, your writing bio or credits, and the call-to-action. Although you'll likely submit via email, when writing your query in Word, make sure it fits to one page, single spaced, one inch margins and standard business letter formatting (don’t forget your phone number and email address!)

  • Hook: Eye-catcher; what sets your book apart from the rest? I'm not gonna lie, this one sucks to write, but spending time here will be well worth it, as this short 1-2 line hook will grab the editor/agent's attention and ensure your query is read. Most queries fail here, so be sure to tune in as we discuss various hook options, and give examples.
  • Mini-Synopsis: This is where you do your market research, and let the agent/editor know how your book fits. Who is your reader? What is your genre? This section will also contain your ‘TV Guide Blurb’ and should give a sense of the overall arc of the book and themes within. Be sure to include approximate word count and using the words, “complete” when describing your novel. By the way, your novel should be complete before you query!
  • Author Bio/Writing Credits: One to three sentences that highlight resume-worthy aspects of YOU. If you have writing credits, contest wins, background or relevant life experiences, list them here.
  • Call-to-Action: The shortest (and usually the easiest!) section of your query letter to write, this is typically a one-liner, indicating what is attached beneath the query (i.e. first 5 chapters and synopsis), or it is a nicely worded plea for the agent/editor to take a look at your manuscript.'ve gotten the Basic Anatomy of a Query Letter I will give you the Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of a Query Letter. Subscribe to my blog so you don't miss a thing!

No comments:

Post a Comment