“You’ve written a novel, congratulations! Now what? AKA 8 Steps to Writing a Query Letter”

letter writing sf morning
letter writing sf morning (Photo credit: donovanbeeson)

– by Debra L Hartmann

Obviously you want to get it published and become a well-known best-selling author, right?  It’s a difficult journey that you must now embark upon, especially if it is your first novel.  Your first stop on the road to getting published is putting together a query letter and sending it out to agents/publishers.  Your goal is to get their attention so they want to read your book and offer you a contract. Key words there were “get their attention”.

8 Steps to Writing a Query Letter:

  1. Address them by name – this is a basic in establishing a rapport or connection. You personalized something many people make the mistake of sending out in bulk ‘to whom it may concern’, they will read a little further! Spelling their name wrong kills it right here, so be careful. You can still bulk send your query letter, you just have to change the name to match which email you send it to. You should always send them individually and not to more than one email address at a time!
  2. Get to the point – don’t start off with who you are, they aren’t interested in that yet. Here is where you have to keep their interest by selling the product that is of mutual interest to you both. The hook. Your book has a hook and you need to reveal it in the 1st few sentences of your opening paragraph. The reader is looking for what sells, if your hook sells them, they may view it as a seller to everyone else and that is what they are interested in.
  3. Sell it – Flow right into the synopsis of your book and this should be the same or very close to what you have planned for the back cover of the book. It has to be GOOD! If you are new to this, pay a professional critique or editor to help you because you get one shot with these query letters and a bad synopsis will blow it! This should read like the heart and soul of your book, should not give away the ending but instead make you want to find out what is going to happen next.
  4. Appeal to each individual agent – Always research who you are trying to sell your work to. If you don’t, you will be wasting your time. Agents/publishers choose specific genres to represent and yours should be a good match for them. Mention 1 or 2 of the books they have worked with and why you think yours is a good fit within their track record.
  5. Previous successes – Mention anything you have done or are doing that represents a substantial potential audience for your new book. This translates to existing value and easier work selling your book and makes you more appealing to the agent. Examples would be big twitter following, previously published work, relevant work history, etc.
  6. Research – after you put together a first draft, go to the internet and look up other author’s query letters. See what worked for them and start incorporating it in the second draft!  Search for query letters, book query letters, sample book query letters and of course articles on how to write query letters.
  7. Format properly – they read so many every day, formatting is important so they are comfortable and familiar with layout and not distracted by it. You want their focus on the content, not the format!
  8. READ everything you can find on the internet to perfect your letter.  Take your time with this even though you are probably in a big hurry to start sending the letter out.  Patience and diligence will affect the end result!

So you’ve written, you’ve cussed, you’ve re-written, you got a professional to critique it, re-written again and now you are ready to send out query letters to agents/publishers and then wait with crossed fingers to see if someone will bite? Good luck! In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you need to work on developing a presence on the internet and a following. That is to say, sell you as the author, social network to pique interest in you and your writing. Reputation building, name recognition important elements of your marketing strategy.  Once your published, marketing is next but you really should start that ASAP!

~~~~~~~~~~>Debra L Hartmann, Author, Blogger, Editor http://theprobookeditor.com

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