A query letter is the writers one shot at impressing an editor and signing on with a publishing company. This is a lot of stress on a writer and for some of us our OCD comes out in full effect during this process. We write, rewrite and rewrite this resume so many times by the end we could write it with our eyes closed. Below I've written a format on what I find works for me and has helped me publish articles, short stories and sign on with my publisher, Imajin Books twice.
The first bit of advice I can give you is to research the publisher you’re going to be submitting to. Each publisher will differ and therefore you need to study them individually. What books they publish, authors they’ve signed, and what they’re looking for. Read their guidelines for submissions more than once. Print them out and tack it to your office wall.
Respect them. They could end up being your boss.
Find the editors name and direct your letter to him/her. Do not address them as 'To Whom It May Concern' unless you want to end up in the slush pile. Take the time to find out who the Acquisitions Editor or Editor in Chief is for your genre. Phone the company or send a polite email if you have to.Go fishing.
Make your query stand out and hook them with your first line. This part can be intimidating I know. Use a quote from your book. Tie your novel up in one strong sentence. Ask a question about a captivating moment in your book. If you had ten seconds to choose between your life or another’s what would it be?
The idea of the hook is for them to want more— to read on.Once you’ve mastered your hook introduce your novel by word count, genre and name. In a small paragraph give the synopsis of your book like back cover text. Rewrite this paragraph at least ten times. Make it tight, concise, edgy, and intriguing.
If you are unsure on how to do this, pick up a few books and read the back. This is what sells the book, makes you want to buy it.
You’re doing the same thing with a publisher—sell them your book. Give them a reason to offer you a contract.
In your next small paragraph tell why you’re qualified to write this novel. Give your credentials and other publications if you have any. Do NOT say I’d be an asset to your company or my book will be a bestseller. There is no room for arrogance in a query letter. Remember you are one in a million and the slush pile is an easy fix for an editor not wanting to deal with an egocentric author.Wrap up your query by letting the editor know if you’ve had your manuscript professionally edited or critiqued. Sign off with your name and contact information, website, blog, facebook, and twitter handles.
Good luck!Good books on Query Letter Writing:
The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters, by Wendy Burt-Thomas
A Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals, by Moira Anderson Allen
The Novel Proposal from Creation to Contract, by Blyth Camenson & Marsall J. Cook