Saturday, August 2, 2008

Writing a 'Grab 'em by the throat Query Letter'

Being a selling writer means acquiring several skill sets. One is the craft required to put together a compelling story for 400 pages. The other is to market it effective to the people who might be interested in publishing or representing it. The first step is an engaging query letter.

Let’s start at the top. I’m assuming you’ve done your homework and know that the particular editor or agent you’re targeting edits/represents work similar to yours or is actively looking for it. You can find this information on agency or publisher websites, through networking with published authors, reading trade magazines or the acknowledgement page of their authors’ latest release. Make sure you have the editor/agent’s name spelled correctly. And be certain of their gender. Chris Keeslar, senior editor at Dorchester, tells of queries he’s received that start “Dear Ms. Keeslar,” and then the writer proceeds to ‘remind’ him of when the writer supposedly met ‘her.’ Guess what happens to those queries.

Start with a brief reminder of how you met the editor/agent only if you have. Writers’ conferences are invaluable for this sort of networking. If you haven’t, you might give them a short and sincere compliment about their other clients’ work. Don’t fake it. Don’t say you’ve read something if you haven’t.

Then launch into your sharpest blurb-style pitch of your work. Only tout one manuscript per query unless you’re pitching a series.

Tell the editor the word count and sub-genre of your completed manuscript (oh, yes, it must be finished before you submit.) In the final paragraph, list your publishing credits. Here’s where you put your contest wins or short stories you’ve had published. If you don’t have any publishing credits, just let them know how they can contact you to request the full manuscript.

Don’t say your mother likes your manuscript. Don’t tell them you’re the next Nora Roberts or JK Rowling. Keep the query short. Absolutely no longer than one page. Remember agents and editors read constantly. Use 12pt or larger Courier New or Times New Roman font. Smaller font equals eye strain, which equals fussy editor, which equals rejection. Be professional. Be patient.

And start writing your next story. Because if the editor/agent wants this one, their first question will be “What else have you got?”

Good luck!


photoquest said...

I signed up for your contest. I am a huge Pirate Romance Fan.I was so happy to see a new one out it's not everyday you can find one to pick up.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Photoquest! I love pirates, too and writing this story was great fun. Hope you enjoy PLEASURING THE PIRATE!