I’m not an agent, editor, or master of query letters. I haven’t even written one query letter. However, from reading different articles and books and hearing things people in my writers group have said, I’ve compiled this list with some of the basic rules of writing a query letter.
1. Follow the rules.
If the agent/editor asks you to write in 12 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced, do it. If the agent/editor asks for only email queries, do that. If the agent/editor asks only for certain genres, make sure yours is in it. The agent/editor won’t take one look at your manuscript if it doesn’t follow their rules.
Research query letters. Research your agent/editor. Research for your book. Do all kinds of research and make sure you know, and aren’t just guessing.
3. Sell yourself, as well as your book.
You don’t need to just present your book, you need to present yourself, too. The agent/editor needs to know why you’re as good as your book. They need to know why they should take on not just your book, but you.
4. Keep it simple.
Don’t go extravagant and over the top. A query letter is generally only one page, and that’s double spaced, too. Keep the insignificant details away, let the agent/editor know what they need to know (the protagonist, the characters, the plot, the theme, etc.), and don’t add anything else that won’t aid in your plea.
5. Show your worth.
Why should the agent represent you? Why should the editor take on your book? Why should your book be the next bestseller? Why will you be a favorite author among thousands? Don’t tell them this: show.
6. Don’t scare yourself.
I’m scared of writing a query letter. I really am. More scared of it than I am writing my actual story. I’ve never been very good at selling myself or my book, and maybe you aren’t, either. However, you need to put your fears aside, and write. Write your story. Write your query letter. Send it in. Don’t worry. Just do it. Even if you don’t get accepted, the editor/agent might send back a note of what you need to improve. Follow this. And maybe tweak your story a bit more.
7. Have confidence.
You are worthy of being published. You can do it. You don’t have to be afraid, scared, fearful, intimidated, daunted, overwhelmed, or whatever. You have written a funny, thrilling, captivating, beautiful story, and if you really want to, someday you will be accepted.
Thanks for reading, and have fun writing that query letter!
~ J. Dominique