Remember: the goal of your query letter/email is to entice the agent/editor, so that you can GET YOUR MANUSCRIPT READ--a partial or (*gasp*) full manuscript request is the ultimate prize for following the query letter rules.
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Query Letter Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts:
- DO double-check the agent’s name and email address and if he/she is still accepting submissions. Be sure to have done your homework and have a list of which agents actually WANT your material. It's not like testing done spaghetti; don't throw your query out there, willy-nilly, to see what sticks. Spend the time doing your research and you are more likely to get a request for a manuscript.
- DO send exactly what’s asked for in the agent’s/publisher’s submission guidelines. Nothing more, nothing less. Yes, that means if they want a synopsis, you must write one!
- DO put your own email address and phone number on the bottom or in the body of your query letter to facilitate a reply. Nothing screams, “I don’t care about my book,” quicker than not enclosing a way for the editor/agent to contact you!
- DO spell check, grammar check and have your query letter proofread by someone with that skill set. So very many query letters that I see from writers fail in this simple step!
- DO thank agents that took the time to consider your manuscript, even if it was a rejection.
- DON’T call your book a “fictional novel” because a novel is fiction.
- DON’T use fancy colors, borders, fonts, etc. for your query letter email. You are a professional writer, so use standard formatting for business letters. What this means in an email: flush left margins, paragraph return between paragraphs, Times New Roman or Courier font, and NO ATTACHMENTS unless the agent/editor has specifically requested them. Your query won't make it through the virus filters of most agencies/publishers with unsolicited attachments.
- DON’T mention in your query how much relatives, friends, etc. loved your book. Unless you are related to a famous writer!
- DON’T take rejections personally, and never retaliate against an agent/publisher for a rejection. File it. Move on.
- DON’T stop writing and submitting your work!
Want some other resources for query letters? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Writer's Market always has some great tips: http://blog.writersmarket.com/
- A treasure trove of information can be found at http://agentquery.com/
- Ready to test out your query...or want to watch as the voracious Query Shark herself devours ones that don't make the cut? Check out http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2007/03/how-query-shark-works.html and beware, it's not for the faint of heart (but it is extremely helpful!).