1. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Advice for a Query Letter

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Jessica_312, Apr 29, 2011.

    I'm getting ready to send out my (very first!) query letter to a literary agent. While I've done a bit of research on what to include in a query, I am still brand new to this and any advice is appreciated.

    I open the letter by addressing the agent (Dear Mr ___)
    Then I say: Below is a query for my novel
    The next paragraph is a brief blurb that reads like a back book cover (very brief overview, the "hook", I guess you could call it)
    The second paragraph provides a slightly more detailed summary of the plot
    Now the third paragraph is where I really need the help. I know I'm supposed to say a bit about myself, and here's what I said (again, any advice is appreciated)

    I leave open the possibility of a sequel for this story, though this novel can absolutely stand on its own, as the storyline within it is resolved. Elizabeth Griffin (the heroine of my novel) is a very relatable character to me, in that we are both 25 year old females with insecurities and feelings of abandonment related to our pasts. Unfortunately, I have never had a book published before, nor have I ever sought publication. I have, however, been writing creatively since I was seven-years-old - it has been my lifelong dream to become a published author, and I have worked nearly my entire life towards that goal. I read more books every year than I can count, and I have especially always been fascinated with supernatural thrillers. I am constantly having others read my work and am always open to any criticism, which I feel only makes me a stronger writer. I believe that I have a knack for words, a keen eye for detail, and a vivid imagination that translates well onto paper. I would love to have the opportunity to prove my worth to you.

    Thank you very much for your time and consideration. The first five pages of the manuscript are enclosed. The full or partial manuscript is available upon request.
     
  2. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd replace (below is a query for my novel) and replace it with something else - it just doesn't sound right.

    I'd also lose the word 'unfortunately' imo it sounds despondent/negative.

    Could say more but I think this should be in the review section and therefore believe it may be removed. best of luck.
     
  3. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Thank you, Trilby!
     
  4. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    You're almost there. You've got the format, but the bio paragraph needs work. Every second counts with these queries. Agents get WAY too many each day, so you have probably about two seconds until you're given a form letter.

    Here's how it goes.

    Your address block

    Their address block

    Dear So and So: (Be as precise as possible. Research which agent covers your genre and address it to that person, not "Sir/Madam" or, worse, "To Whom It May Concern.")

    1st paragraph: Enclosed is blah blah blah. I wouldn't use "Below is a query for my novel." That's obvious. You're not writing them socially. Nix that intro paragraph and just tell them what you're enclosing.

    2nd paragraph: Short summary of the story. Entice. This is your hook, three sentences long. If you can't sum it up in as few words as possible, they'll wonder how well your story is worded in the first place.

    3rd paragraph: Synopsis. Use shorter sentences. This should be 150 words long.

    4th paragraph: I have included a self-addressed stamped envelope for your convenience.

    5th paragraph: Author bio.

    Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    You

    Encl: proposal, SASE

    Bam, bam, bam. Short. Simple. Your bio paragraph should be a brief list of previous publications, not a blurb about sequel possibitilies. If the book sells, sequel possibilities will come later, but don't get into it yet. It's not the time to tell them about your dreams and how many people read your manuscript. They want facts, a resume. They have a million dreamy authors waiting for publication. Your job is to show them your professionalism instead of your dreams. Don't include opinions about yourself either. They'll know you have a knack for words by reading your cover letter, not by you telling them you believe it.
     
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  5. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Lostinwebspace.

    A perfect example.

    To the mods out there, members regularly ask these Qs about Query letters and synopses. do you think that it would be a good Idea to have a section with a couple of example letters (as above) for members to refer to.
     
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  6. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Thank you! I didn't think about some of these things so this is great! My letter definitely needs some rework.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    should only be 3 paragraphs and the whole thing must fit on a single page...

    1. why you're querying that agent and title/genre/word ct of book

    2. brief summary of the plot... should always be just a single paragraph, unless the plot is too complex to cover in one... in which case, must keep it down to only 2 medium shortish ones...

    3. no bio info [unless it relates directly to expertise in re the book's subject matter or setting], just relevant paid writing credits, if you have any... if you have none, then just mention that you will happily submit full ms or sample chapters on request and thank them for considering your work...

    never say you're enclosing sase, as that's as much a given as that this is a query letter and including either marks you as an amateur right off the bat... especially if you add 'encl.' below the signature...
     
  8. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yip, that's the kind of bio you leave out. Only mention paid publishing credits and attributes which make you qualified to write your book. Everything else the agent simply does not care about.

    Think about how many misguided people would have written a bio similar to yours and the one thing you don't want to do in a query is be ordinary.
     
  9. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Thanks so much everyone, this is all very helpful to a query newbie! I appreciate the advice!
     
  10. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Ahhhh! OK, I took all the suggestions and created a much stronger query letter. Thanks again, everyone! I've just sent my very first agent query in to Donald Maass Literary Agency - I've heard they're a good one. I also submitted to a few others. I am quite nervous!
     
  11. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Good luck. I sent them a query a few years back but got a good ol' form letter in return. Hope you fare better!
     
  12. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Thank you! I'm honestly not expecting much more than a heaping pile of rejection letters for my first go-around, since that seems to be the pattern that I hear about most. So basically, I'm anticipating the worst but hoping for the best!
     

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