Crafting the Perfect Query
A query letter is your first introduction to either an editor
or an agent, and don't underestimate it's importance. It can get
you in the door, or have the door slammed shut on that manuscript
forever. More and more houses aren't looked at unagented manuscripts,
so a query is more important than ever.
So, now that you're feeling
the pressure, what's the secret to having a great query? Getting
their interest right off the bat. This doesn't mean bombs going
off, dancing girls singing, etc. It means writing a blurb that
catches their eye, and says, "Yes, I can write."
in your blurb? The character(s), the goal, and the conflict.
The stronger your conflict, the stronger your blurb. Here's the
from my first book, Touched By Fire.
Touched By Fire – The
hero from his childhood stories personifies the man Colin Wescott,
Earl of Haverwood wants to be. As a spy for England, he believes
that if he chases Napoleon’s dragons, the evil blood of
his father will remain at bay. Afraid he is wrong, he won’t
let anyone get close enough to find out.
So, what else can you
to a query? If you've won contests, list those. If you have
credentials (i.e. daughter to the Prime Minister of Ireland,
for example), list those. If you've entered a contest and received
a great quote from a published author, you can use those, however,
make sure you get the author's permission first. I had two
quotes from Stephanie Bond and Rickey Mallory when I was trying
my manuscript. Both Stephanie and Rickey were very gracious
about letting me use their name. Again, make you ask first. Publishing
is a small world and dishonesty gets around.
When you format
query letter, I always started out with an opening paragraph
that was about the agent or the editor. I let them know why
in them; it was a way to personalize the letter. I tried
to include names of clients that I admired, or if it was to an
mentioned books they had edited. You don't want to go overboard,
just a sentence
or two, because you don't want this to look like a form letter,
Some people use the opening paragraph as an introduction
to themselves. If you have a strong introduction (see the daughter
Minister of Ireland, above), go with that.
Use good paper,
stationery, and letterhead is nice. Microsoft Word has
some very good templates to create your own. Keep your queries
pages, unless they ask for a short synopsis. Some agents
email queries, but check the guidelines before you do this.
Lastly, keep superlatives and opinion to a minimum. 'Show don't
is just as applicable in query letter writing as it is
in your manuscript.