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The All Important Query Letter

All suggestions listed on this page are based entirely on my opinion. I follow these particular rules when I am writing a query letter. You will see several examples and copies of query letters and hear how to write them from several sources if you are doing your homework. Take the best from all that you hear and form your own opinion on what you think should go into YOUR query letter. Meanwhile, soak up a few of my opinions on the topic!

What's in a good Query?

*Be informative. Tell them what your story is about.

*Be focused. Don't write a lengthy Query letter, it turns them off. Keep it to one page if at all possible, so you do not bore them and they throw it out because they lost interest. This also means not being repetitive, say something once, and say it clearly.

*Do you have a hook? "The Plight of the Handicapped Eskimo"...why will an audience grab this book? Hopefully because it is different!

*Include a resume. Your resume should list other publications your work has been in, if at all, what prior writing experience you have etc... Give them qualifications, credits, etc...this builds you.

*Include a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). This is the professional thing to do. If you are not going to include this with your query, don't bother sending one, because you may write the best query in the world and you never hear back from them simply because there was no return envelope...and that means you're an amateur. So always include one.

*Give them a reason why you have chosen them. If they have published "Day in the Life of an Eskimo", Great! That will help you.

*Be personable. You don't want your letter coming off cold.

*Have the current name of the contact person. If you are writing the Editor in Chief, make sure they are STILL the Editor in Chief.

What NOT to do!

*Remember to spell check!! Don't have any spelling or grammatical errors. This one's important because we all tend to either spell wrong, or hit the wrong keys and if you're going to write the letter, take the time to re-read it at least twice before you send it out...just in case!

*Don't be too wordy. Keep it to one page or less.

*Try not to be vague. Example: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. You'll get a letter back saying "Thanks, no thanks." because you idea wasn't clear enough...and didn't have anything special to hook them.

*Dont' ask them to respond too soon. By giving an unrealistic deadline such as, "Lemme know by Friday!", you're asking to get returned.

*Don't fax the query letter UNLESS there is something saying they accept them that way. Mail it regular mail. It's have to wait're thinking "Their fax is right there in the book, they must expect people will fax these in, why can't I?" Well, because it's not acceptable to most publishers and they'll throw you on the slush pile. It's too bad, but they have policies too. Follow them. Along with this means, No EMAILING either!

* Do not make a request for guidelines from them WHEN sending a query. You should have done this long before sending this in. It not only shows you are unfamiliar with the publisher (another taboo) but that you are sending this letter in cold and uninformed.

*Don't forget to include your address, phone number, name, etc...there are actually plenty of writers who do this...and I think that is where "Anonymous" came from! The publishers went ahead and published it because they couldn't reach the author!

*Don't let your query letter lose it's sense of "you." You will see examples of queries, you will hear about how to write them...and you can follow every one of them, but if the letter doesn't have a feeling of coming from you, then it is missing something only you have. Anyone can write a textbook example and ship it out...that isn't what makes it special.

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