As previously stated, this week I've been busying myself by learning the unique art of writing query letters. For those of you who don't know, a query letter is basically a sales pitch to an agent or publishing agency. In a query letter you are to describe your book (tell them the basics about it: length, genre, structure) and try to pique their interest with a brief description. Tip: don't be modest! Be as loud and enthusiastic as you can be, but still be professional, don't use caps because, after all, no one likes to be shouted at.
When I first learned about query letters, I was very nervous because it seemed like writing an exciting query letter was a gift given to only a chosen few. However, upon further reading, I discovered that actually, query letter writing is an art that can be mastered with practice! Query letter writing has a structure and a do and don't list--much like an essay or a book report! I'll be the first to say that I am no expert in writing these letters, but I am willing to share what little knowledge I have in the hopes that it will help other authors in their pursuit of publication!
So without further adieu, put on your thinking caps and let's get started!
Part One: Structure
Like everything else in writing, query letters have a structure. Parts of this structure can be interchanged of course, because their actually are a lot of parts and some agents and or publishers may ask pacifically for certain parts, but the basic structure is as follows.
1) The address
At the very first part of a query letter you must acknowledge who you are trying to reach. Always address queries to a specific person. Tip: names can usually be found on the publisher/agent's website. There they will tell you exactly what that particular person is looking to publish/represent (sci-fi, fantasy, Y/A, children's, thriller, and so on.). Remember to be professional and address your chosen subject with a very respectful attitude! Never be too casual!
This is where you give your reader a brief glimpse at your novel. Here you will state the length, genre, and subject matter (do so especially if the publisher is interested in fantasy and your book is a fantasy novel!). Also, try to relate your work to others. If your style mimics Suzanne Collins's, then say so! It gives the editor an idea of what they are getting!
My 53,000 word novel Happy Whovian is a psychologically intense thriller in the same style as James Patterson with the supernatural elements (this is where you can hint at what genre/subject matter the book has) a la Stephanie Meyer.
3) Book Jacket
Have you ever picked up a book solely from what the book jacket described it as? Of course you have! Book jackets give readers a glimpse into the story and pique their interest. The same is true in a query letter! To help pique your readers interest before you describe the story to them, think about how you would like your book described on a book jacket and then put it down! If done correctly, this will make your editor want to read the synopsis and see what your story is all about!
Benedict Holmes is at the top of the police force in Hogwarts, Ohio, but that's until a late night murder in the city's Half Blood high school is linked back to him. Armed with only his sharp wit, Benedict must find a way to prove to both his colleagues, the victim's family, and the love of his life, that he is innocent. But a dark power moves in the shadows and conspires to not only destroy Ben, but the people he loves as well.
4) The Synopsis
This is a fairly easy enough part, you know your story; now you just have to tell it, only in a very condensed form.
The synopsis is what really helps to sell your book, it tells your reader exactly what they are getting, so be exciting! All of my sources have said to give it an 'on the edge' feel and remember that you are trying to sell your story! So be bold!
Benedict Holmes has a secret; one that could destroy everything he loves if it ever came to light. Centuries ago, his family were warlocks, an ancient group of enhanced humans given the task of killing all otherworldly creatures and protecting the human realm. But that was before the accords were signed, declaring peace between all worldly and otherwise creatures. Since that time Warlocks have become known as war criminals and Ben has dedicated over twenty two years to hiding his heritage, but when a late night murder at Hogwarts Ohio's Half Blood High School is linked back to Ben, he's thrown into a world he never wanted to enter.
Pursued by the victims angry and vengeful brother, Loki Haig, Ben must escape Hogwarts and discover the truth behind the murder. However, his plans are thrown awry when he meets a talented young witch named Lily Severus who claims to know about his family's secret, and about the murder. Joining forces, Lily and Ben escape into the Misty Mountains, but Loki isn't far behind.
Upon arriving, Ben is greeted by the dwarf king, Bilbo the Grey, who reveals to him that his family's past enemies may now be conspiring to eliminate the last of the Warlocks and rule over the human world. Faced with the destruction of all he loves, Ben must take up his rightful duty and not only protect his world, but redeem his family.
5) This is Why
This is where you tell your reader why your book is special and what qualifies it for their consideration. This doesn't mean that you tell them your book should be published because it's 'awesome'.
Attack of the Monster Shew should fit well with your other titles, such as Monster Garbage Man and The Hamburger that Ate a Man. Your website mentioned science fiction as a current interest, so I hope that this is a good match.
6) Mention Your Credentials
Editors, agents and publishers are more likely to look at a writer who has already done some professional work, so if you have written something and had it published previously then mention it! If not, then leave out your 'writer's bio', you don't have to tell them that you are a first time, they'll figure it out. Besides, this leaves more space for your synopsis in case it runs long!
7) Thank Your Editor
Always remember to thank who ever is reading your letter. After all, they've taken the time out of their schedule to do so. Always try to be respectful, professional and courteous in your dealings with editors, agents and publishers! You don't have to be overly gushy, just keep it nice, simple and polite.
Thank your for considering Super Hero in the Works
82 Thor Road
Potter, New York, 98009
Part Two: Read!
Whenever submitting things for publication, make sure you have read the submission guidelines thoroughly. Each publishing agency has its own list of dos and don'ts that authors must meet or, in most cases, they won't even read your letter. So be careful to do your research because what's right for one agency may not be right for another.
Part Three: Research the Market
The market changes from year to year and publishers and agents wants and needs change as well. Keep up with what's 'trending' and what certain agencies want. It's not that hard to find out because they will tell you either on their website or in the most recent edition of The Writer's Market. Utilizing tools such as The Writer's Market and the internet will help you find what publisher or agent is right for you!
Part Four: Rejection
Every author gets rejected, even J.K. Rowling! Just remember that rejection is not a personal attack! A publisher or agent may turn your work down for many different reasons, but that doesn't mean that you are a bad writer or that your work is horrible! Take rejection with a pinch of salt, and remember to never be rude to an editor, publisher or agent in retaliation! Doing so can have a ripple effect, where one agent may tell another about his or her's bad experience with you, therefore damaging your professional image!
Part Five: Be Prepared to Work Hard
Nothing worth doing is easy, so be prepared for a long haul when it comes to trying to get published! In many ways, getting published is harder than writing! Finding the right agent or publisher could take months of research, rejection slips and editing! But it is do-able! Not to sound cliche, but keep working hard, trust in the Lord and eventually you will see the results!
I hope that this post was a help to someone! Again, I am not an expert. I'm just sharing a few tips I've found through my reading and studying! If you have any questions let me know and I'll do my best to answer them!
Thanks for reading!