The Query Letter: What is it and how do I write one?

The Query Letter: What is it and how do I write one?

This tool is the author's first step in attempted publication. The query letter is often bemoaned as more difficult to compose than the actual novel it represents, but, there are definite guidelines to help you compose your query in the correct way. Below, we have included an example of a strong query letter representing a novel. It consists of a few sections, each serving its own purpose.

Paragraph one is your hook. Your first paragraph is vital to drawing in an editor from the start. After the intro, which includes the length, title, and genre of your novel, you should include one or two strong sentences that are similar to something you would read on the flap of a novel cover. For instance:

Dear Ms. Burnett,

I am writing to seek publication of my historical romance novel, The Widow of Chamber Place, approximately 90,000 words in length. The Widow of Chamber Place chronicles the life of Ruth Farris, a young widow who overcomes the darkness of war-torn Europe through the strength of a brave new love.

Paragraph two is meant to be a mini-synopsis. Yes, this does seem like an impossible task, condensing an entire novel and its whole complex plotline into one short paragraph, but it must be done. Note how the details are sparing in the below example, but the general idea of the book is still clear:  

Ruth has suffered in the silence of an empty home for five years since her husband's death. In silence, that is, until the bombs began. Now that Europe is under siege by Nazi forces, Ruth can no longer hide in a mess of dusty rooms. The country is at war, and she must find the will to live again. Her greatest inspiration comes in the form of a handsome American Lieutenant named Andrew West, who reawakens not only her passion for love, but her passion for life, as well.  

Paragraph three is a bio. This should consist of only the most relevant material, those credentials which would lend authority to your work. If you have previously been published, have professional writing experience, education in a writing field or a field related to the topic of your novel, feel free to mention it here. However, if you do not, it is best to skip this section of the query letter. Publishers would rather there not be any bio paragraph than to suffer through several lines about your cat and bonsai hobby. Save that for the back cover of your book. 

Paragraph four is the closing. If you've gotten this far, you're in the home stretch! Your closing paragraph should include two important things. First, be sure to thank the editor for their time and consideration, and second, inform them that a manuscript is available upon request.  This is, of course, assuming the full novel is complete. Never query an editor unless you have the edited work ready to be forwarded. Don't forget to sign your letter and give all required contact information.

A few more tips/reminders


-Do keep your query to one page only.

-Do remain professional.

-Do include all relevant contact information, according to Omnific submission guidelines.

Do Not:

-Do not shrink the font of your query or synopsis in order to fit more on a page.

-Do not praise your own novel. Let the content speak for itself.

-Do not include excerpts from your novel in the query letter.

-Do not apologize for having never written a query before. 


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