Fear of Query?

July 7, 2011

You’ve written the book. There’s a great plot. You love the characters. The story has arcs, and the climax is perfectly timed. Now it’s time to get it into bookstores everywhere, right?

Okay, well you found out you needed to write a synopsis…and that was challenging, having to condense your two hundred and fifty page book to just a few pages. But, now it’s ready, right?

No, there’s more. Unless you have friends in the right places, you probably have to condense that book one more time to just one page…the query letter.

I actually love writing query letters. When I wrote non-fiction, once I had a few published clips I never wrote an article without an assignment, and to get most of those assignments I had to write a query letter. I’ll admit that I find it easier to write a query for a two thousand word, factual article than for a novel, but it’s really the same process.

Your query letter is probably the first contact you’ll have with the editor, unless you’ve had the opportunity to pitch your book directly. Either way, it’s the introduction the editor reads before she (or he) reads your synopsis and before she reads the book.

If you’re thinking, “I can’t condense my book one more time,” don’t hide your manuscript in the bottom drawer of your desk yet.

Think back of the book blurb. Your query letter is the blurb that hooks the editor and gets her to read it. If you’ve met the editor and she’s asked to see your work, you will want to open with that information, but otherwise open with a hook for your story. Your hook should be the first or second paragraph and no more than a few lines. Introduce your hero and heroine. Tell what their conflict is and how it gets resolved.

In the next paragraph give the facts. Tell the editor the title of the book (if this wasn’t in your first paragraph), how many words and what genre (contemporary romance, paranormal, historical, etc.)

In the final paragraph tell a little about yourself. Do you have any writing credentials? Have you won any important contests? Did you live in the town where your story takes place? If it’s a medical romance are you a medical professional? Anything relevant to your book.

Keep the letter professional, but let your writing voice come through.

Although I’ve written countless queries for numerous published articles, I’m not YET a published author. So, I suggest you check out other sources for advice on query writing. The Harlequin website has a sample query letter posted. And if you’re a member, Romance Writers of America has some great information on writing a query in their member’s resource section.

So have you written a query letter yet? Whether you’re finished with your book or it’s still a WIP, I challenge you to write a query today. Share it with your critique partner or a friend. Ask them if it draws them in and gives them enough information.

Ready, set…write!

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