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Friday, April 13, 2012

Query Letters

Your query letter to an editor or agent is important. 

Yes, they read them

A query should be a single page cover letter that introduces you and your manuscript.

Let me say this again: a query letter is ONE page and it introduces you and your book. It is simple and to the point and is three paragraphs long. The goal of the query letter is to get the editor or agent to ask for sample chapters or the full manuscript.

Paragraph One is The Hook: A hook is a concise, one-sentence tagline for your manuscript that will hook your reader's interest. It is similar to what you would say in an elevator if you have about a minute to give a VIP a pitch about your great American novel. .Check the loglines of popular books and that'll give you an idea how you should write your hook.

Here's an example:

Bridges of Madison County
When Robert Kincaid drives through the heat and dust of an Iowa summer and turns into Francesca Johnson's farm lane looking for directions, the world-class photographer and the Iowa farm wife are joined in an experience that will haunt them forever. 

Here's another example: 

The Kite Runner
An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present. 

Here's one more example:

Into Thin Air
On assignment for Outside Magazine to report on the growing commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas as a client of Rob Hall, the most respected high-altitude guide in the world, and barely made it back alive from the deadliest season in the history of Everest. 

Paragraph Two is the Mini-Synopsis: Try to distill your 350 page novel into one paragraph. That's what you do in this part of the letter. This will be the longest paragraph and the most difficult to write.  Summing up your entire book in an intriguing single paragraph will be a grueling task, but you must take the time and effort to do it. Condense whatever synopsis you've been working on into 150 words. Give a little more information about your main characters, their conflicts, and how their lives change. Read book jackets of popular bools for ideas on how to write the mini-synopsis.

Paragraph Three is the Writer’s Bio: This should be short and sweet and pertain to you as the writer or expert on the topic you are writing about and should not relate to your family life, high school reunion, or recreational activities. The less you say here, the more you can put in the mini-synopsis. Include writing awards or publishing credits if they are significant and appropriate.

Your Closing: Thank the agent or editor for her time and consideration. If it’s nonfiction, say that you’ve included an outline, table of contents, and sample chapters for review. If it’s fiction, say that the that the full manuscript is available upon request.

Remember that this is a business letter so don't get cute or fancy or chatty. Hook 'em, reel 'em in, and make a fast exit.

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