Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How to Write a Query Letter-A Red Rose in a Desert

Like a Hallmark movie on a lonely day, iced, sweet tea in the blazing heat, a warm blanket in the cold, soft music/crackling fire on a date, ice cream at a carnival, a child's giggle, and the exact gift you really wanted--

So also is a stand-out Query Letter to an agent or editor.

You may have written that very query letter. The one that represents your story and your skills as a writer. And because you did such a fantastic job communicating, the editor or agent sent a rejection.


The publishing house or agency--more specifically, the individual at either organization may have their quota of that genre, may have switched genres he represents, may prefer stories for older/younger readers, may have a specific story in mind to fill a need. There are a hundred or more qualified reasons why a stand-out letter is rejected.

...On the other hand, maybe your fiction manuscript query letter needs to be tweaked. 

First the tips:
1. Spend as much dedicated time to writing a query letter as you did your manuscript. Not months. The qualifier here is: dedication. Think of all the time you spent researching your story, writing, layering, editing...yes...the dedication! This component, more than any other will make your query stand out like a red rose in a desert.

2. You don't want an agent/publishing house who, although your writing is wonderful, cannot get on board with your story/genre/etc. These rejections are a blessing on your future.

3. Short. Keep it short. This is not a proposal--and so should be short. When the letter rambles, the agent/editor closes the email without finishing, possibly without responding. Say this with me--keep it short. No more than one page.

4. Go to the agent/publisher's website and check out their guidelines. Some give detailed lists of what is expected in a query. I love these. I can work with that. The ones that don't, the best we can do is rely on tried and true lists of what is

How to write a short query that is not doubling as a proposal:

1. Introduce yourself. The writing you do in this email must be tight, edited with a fine toothed comb, yet also reveal a bit of your writing style. I say "bit" because the letter is technically non fiction and your story fiction.  I must admit, I prefer writing fiction :)

2. Include a description of your manuscript. Remember the letter is only allowed to be one page. Keep this short yet all inclusive. It does NOT have to tell the ending. The purpose is to intrigue, hook, excite, make the agent/editor cry, wonder, curious, even bummed there isn't more to the point of immediately responding to your email requesting--and this is the big one...a full.

3. Include publishing credentials. If you don't have any, no worries. Use this space to prove why you are qualified to write this story. (a middle-school english teacher has a great idea what his students are interested in reading... Isaac Asimov has the background for science fiction stories...
   For me, since my stories include homeless, sports like rock climbing, etc, I merge my writing training with my sports experiences and work with the homeless. All three are important to me. I also include stories published in periodicals. 

4. If you are writing a query for an agent, the individual will want to know if this manuscript has been submitted to a publisher. Even if rejected. They need to know. This is different from #6 below. This provides status information for the agent. 

5. Include your phone number. Did you see Laurie's post from yesterday? We here on the Alley are so happy she received "the call."  An agent or editor can't call unless they have your phone number. ( sure your cell is, all the time!!)

6. If you have simultaneously submitted to other agents/editors, courtesy demands this information be indicated in this letter. 

Additional tips:

Most agents/publishers want this material in the email--not in an attachment. Do not send an attachment unless asked.

Choose your subject words wisely. To the point. Short. 

The information above should be in the letter. Some agents/editors, though will want more. Be sure to check their website. Also, go to the list of books published through the editor/agent. THEN read a few. This will give you a great idea what they are looking for.You might have your impressions confirmed or realize the books published through this individual don't match your writing interests. In this case, look for a new agent/editor to send your query.

The goal is to have a query letter that stands out like a fragrant red rose in a desert.

To those who have signed contracts with agents and/or publishing houses: please share any tips you learned.

To those who are excited to sign a contract some day to come: please ask questions. What else would you like to know in this topic?

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

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Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. Such adventures can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such a helpful post. :) Although the allegory of a Hallmark movie on a lonely day (for me) only makes me lonelier. LOLOL Similar occasional hopeless feelings to querying. ;) LOL