When you submit your manuscript to a book publishing company, you usually need three things: a cover letter, a synopsis of your manuscript, and a query letter. While a cover letter and summary are pretty straightforward, a query letter is slightly trickier. Here are a few tips on how to write a query letter.
First and foremost, research where you are sending your manuscript. What are the guidelines the publishing house uses? Are there certain requirements they are looking for? Will your genre be accepted by the publishing house? Make sure you always look into what the publishing company is looking for. If everything fits like a puzzle, then it’s time to get writing – again. Keep it short! A query letter should only be about three to five paragraphs and no longer than one page.
Query Letter Part One:
This is like an introduction to everything you are about to put forward. Don’t start it with, “To Whom it May Concern” like you will be apt to doing. Instead, personalize it. Mention the name of who you’re sending it to, or at least the name of the company. Try to make a connection with the publisher. Then, talk about your novel. Include the title, word count, and genre to inform the publishers of where your novel fits.
Query Letter Part Two:
The sound bite! Now, what exactly is a sound bite? The sound bite is an interesting clip from your story designed to hook the reader. It is not a summary or a synopsis. The sound bite is supposed to attract the agent/publisher and make him or her want to learn more about your story. Have this be a hook to draw the publisher to your manuscript. It can be a simple sentence or even a question.
You might include a synopsis after your sound bite, but it’s not always recommended since that can be sent as another file. Here are a few things that are needed if you do include it in your query. The summary is where you really start to sell your book. Make sure to have a nice hook in this part as well – whether it is in your query letter or not. It needs to be about 100-200 words. Also, be sure to not include the ending of you novel! You want the publishers to be intrigued and want to know more about your book.
Query Letter Part Three:
This is a short biography about yourself as an author. Notice how I said “as an author.” While including experience and expertise in your bio is good, if it doesn’t fit with your novel or pertain to writing in anyway, then don’t mention it. Just because you owned a pet goldfish for twelve years, does not mean that it is relevant. But if you’re writing a novel on psychology and have a doctorate in that program, then be sure to mention it. But do mention your degree and where you got it from – simple basics. Make it about you, but not unnecessarily so.
If you have any previously published works, related writing experience, awards, and credibility. This part should only be about two sentences unless you have a lot of experience under you belt. Even then, keep it short. Talk about the most important or highest ranking things you have done.
Query Letter Part Four:
Lastly, end your letter with a quick thank you and closing. Keep it short and sweet.
A few more tips for you overall query letter:
• Make your letter easy to skim through. A publisher will receive hundreds of letters a day. They are not going to want to read the whole thing nor have the time to do so. Use short sentences and paragraphs so it is easy to digest.
• Try to use the same tone as your novel in your query letter. If your manuscript is funny, use some humor. If it’s old-fashioned throw in popular words and phrases from that time period. Doing this will give the publisher a feel of your novel. Still be careful with being too wordy. You still have a page limit to get all of this down.
• Keep these tips in mind when submitting your query letter. And make sure to read the submission guidelines for each publisher you are sending them too! Take a look at this post to see what Indigo River requires to submit! And take a look here to look at our submissions page. Make sure to read it!