Writing the ALL IMPORTANT query letter
SO, you’ve fallen in love with an agent. Nothing creepy. You just check their twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr and website a thousand times an hour and have their profile pic as your desktop wallpaper. Now you just need them to fall in love with your manuscript.
If you’ve followed my tips for finding an agent, then you won’t be trying to submit a story about cowboys in space to an agent who represents contemporary romance. In your query letter you should tell them this up front—not that you have a space cowboys story in your bottom drawer, but that you have done your research, e.g. I understand from your website that you’re actively seeking contemporary romance novels for young adults and I believe you could be interested in my debut novel—Live With Or Without You.
This is where you should tell them a little bit about your book.
FIRSTLY: Your logline. This is a couple of sentences about the main characters and conflict.
SECONDLY: A short synopsis. And when I say short, I mean just three or four paragraphs MAXIMUM. Think of it as the blurb on the back of your book, but with a bit more information. You need to give the agent a good overview
THIRDLY: Tell the agent a bit about yourself. Make sure you keep it relevant, for example, include any relevant higher education like a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing, but leave out the award you were given in year two for writing a poem based on the Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe. Also include any previously published works. If you have no formal education or previously published works that is A-OKAY.
FINALLY: Lastly, you should let the agent know you have attached the first three chapters (if that is what they’ve asked for in their submission guidelines), e.g. As per the submission guidelines, I have attached the first three chapters of my manuscript, which is currently complete at 82,000 words.
There are a few websites that are EXTREMELY helpful when it comes to examples of good query letters. The two that I swear by are:
- Query Shark
- Miss Snark (no longer being updated)
Ernest Hemmingway famously (and arguably) said that writing was like cutting open a vein and bleeding onto a page. Sheesh. I shudder to think what he would have said about getting published! Every Tuesday, I dust off my creative writing degree (yes, from an actual, real-life university) and share my learnings about the process of writing and getting published (yes, I know learnings is technically not a word, but I worked in public relations for a number of years and we like to make words up. Helifordite?). You can check out all of my Tuesday Tips here.