query letters

The Query Letter

The dreaded query letter. It makes my entire being cringe, both when I am writing one, and when I am reading some.

Personally, I’ve spent days writing queries. They shouldn’t be insanely long, but they can’t be too short either, you don’t want to bore the reader, but then again you don’t want to come across as overeager either. So what do you do?

There are countless websites that can help you model the perfect cover letter, but no matter which one you select to use as your model there are a few things that you need to include in your query letter.

1. Introduce yourself
2. Brag a bit
3. Talk about your work

Sounds easy, right? Most people do these things, but some include some unnecessary information, or unrelated tidbits.

When you’re introducing yourself to the publishing company it’s okay to tell them what your accomplishments are – but you may want to eliminate the fifth grade writing award you received twenty-three years ago. It’s not relevant, and you should have made large strides in your writing capabilities since then. Stick to the basics: Your most recent education, your experience in the field, and previous publications (if you have them).

As editors and publishers, we like to get a feel for personality. We like to know who you are, so we anticipate the voice of your letter to reflect you in some way. To reveal something about yourself that makes you special. For example, if you used to raise horses, tell us – if it relates to your work. If your book is about aliens and time travel, horses aren’t really related. Unless the “aliens” are an advanced society of intelligent space horses.

Almost every website I’ve visited about writing a query letter, talks about comparing your work to other pieces in your genre. First, make sure you identify your work, and the genre it would be classified in. Second, be well read in your genre; not just the super popular stuff either, read it all! And third, compare your work to current titles in the genre. Really think about what books your work would be competing with. DO NOT use Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, or any other big success to compare your YA Fantasy work with. If you write mystery, don’t compare yourself to Mary Higgins Clark, if you are writing romance, don’t relate your piece to Danielle Steel. In short, utilize your comparison titles to show: You know the genre, and you are realistic about your competitors. Could your book be the next Harry Potter success? It’s possible – but don’t present it as such. Just present the idea, the book and know your market.

After you have introduced yourself and your book, close out your letter respectfully. Too many writers close their letters with things like:

“You’d be a fool not to publish my work.”
“Only idiots would pass up this great opportunity.”
“Don’t make a mistake.”

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me that is an automatic rejection. As a final note, make sure you don’t copy and paste your query letter. If you send it off and forget to change names it does not compel a publisher to accept your work.

So, be yourself, show off a bit, tell the publisher about your work, and don’t copy and paste!

Easy, peasy! Good luck writers!

 

Some helpful links:
WritersDigest.com
JaneFriedman.com
AdWeek.com

 

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Connect with me on Twitter! @AndersonCorinne

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

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Following the Guidelines

As an author, I can understand that it is had to keep up with the latest guidelines with publishers. There are some publishers that make it an egg hunt to find out how to even submit.

If there is one thing I know as an editor, don’t mass email your query to publishers. You can submit to multiple publishers at the “same time”, but do not do it in the same email. Many times, publishers have distinct differences in their guidelines. Mass sending a submission can easily result in a mass rejection.

I have decided to send out a simple email to those that choose to mass email their submission stating, “please resubmit according to our website.”

I won’t spoon feed them the information. I don’t want an author who can’t do research or follow simple instructions based off of a simple to navigate website. It’s not being mean, just setting a standard that we require.

This may come off as “harsh”, but I wouldn’t be writing about this topic if it didn’t happen often. The problem is, is that it happens too often.

So authors, PLEASE! Check the publishers website before submitting. Be sure that your novel falls under what they are looking for and be sure to follow ALL their guidelines. I am trying to save hearts from being broken and dreams from being crushed. To often do publishers reject books simply because the author (or agent) didn’t know what to submit.

 

Before You Submit: Research The Publisher

Submitting your manuscript to a publisher is scary. Will they like it? Will this be it? Will I finally be a published author? Many times authors find themselves submitting over and over again but never receiving anything more than a rejection letter.

But Why?

Before You Submit is a small series of things you should do before sending off your hard work to a publisher. It may save a lot of heartache.

Research the Publisher or Publishers:

One critical thing to understand is that no to publishing companies or houses are the same. The editors, the people behind the submission reading, all go through the same thing. Submission after submission that did not follow their guidelines. Many editors and companies do not respond to those stories that they reject, which can be very hard to take. Others are kind enough to let you know that they will not be moving forward with your story. This at least lets you know you can move on and try another company.

But before you do, you should stop yourself and ask “Why was I rejected?”

Many times authors do not realize that not adhering to publishers guidelines will result in automatic rejection. There are websites that make it great for authors to find publishers by compiling them in a list with some information about the publisher. Many times these websites include both the submissions email and the website.

Don’t submit right away.

Research.

  • What does the publisher request?
  • How many pages does the publisher request? First three chapters? 50 pages?
  • Verify the acceptable list of genres by the publisher.
  • Research about what the company is about. (try to include a little bit about that in your cover letter)
  • Find the submission reader’s name. Address your email to them.
  • If the publisher asks for no attachments, DO NOT ATTACH ANYTHING. (This is many times the reason of a rejection)

From the publisher’s point of view:

If the author can’t follow directions when submitting, then why would I want to work with them any further?

Submission guidelines are not there just to be ignored.

Before You Submit: Understanding What It Takes