Once you’re comfortable with your research you’ve done on your Dream Agent, it’s time to get down to business.
Find out whether Dream Agent prefers email or snail mail, and make sure you get address, name and spelling of name correct.
I called the agencies before I started, and asked the receptionists if the agent was still at the agency (some tend to change agencies the way some of us change hair color) and how to spell their names.
No “To Whom it May Concern,” whether it’s email or snail.
And don’t get tricky with your query. Email should include no flash functions, no glitzy colors, no funky fonts. The same with snail mail.
And for the love of everything holy, don’t send nekkid pictures of your personal parts.
It should go without saying, but I was talking with a female editor friend, who told me about this wanna-be author who slipped a couple of pictures of her nekkid self in with a query.
“Was her book about body building or something?” I asked.
“No, she just thought it’d get my attention.”
“Did it?” I asked.
“Yep. Her address is now on my auto-delete list.”
Treat an e-query as you would in any professional environment–no cyber-slang abbreviations, avatars or YouTube links to cute kitty videos.
If you’re going snail mail, make a professional-looking letterhead on regular 8×11.5 paper. No glitter, confetti or cute drawings, and for heaven’s sake, no coffee rings–you laugh, but it happens.
Now–Down to Business.
Think of a query as a back cover blurb—the blurb is designed to get the reader to buy the book. A query is designed to get the editor to buy your book.
A query letter is basically three parts and should be no longer than one page–no cheating fonts or margins. The current preferred fonts are Times or Times New Roman in 12 pt in single line spacing with one-inch margins all the way around.
“If you can’t sell me your idea on one page, how is the editor going to sell it with one back book cover?” one agent told me.
Courier font used to be preferred, but several agents have told me that it looks dated.
Questions to ask yourself before you begin:Do you have a hook? If so, open with it. Your intro should get the agent wanting to read more.
The first part of the first paragraph is an introduction to you (see example below). The second part of this paragraph is why you are choosing this particular agent or editor. The third part of the first paragraph is genre and word count.
The second paragraph is the Reader’s Digest version of your book. Make sure you include the Hero, the Heroine, and if there is an antagonist, be sure to include that character. Be sure your internal conflict is clear. Always, always, always tell the agent or editor how the conflict is resolved
TIP: Make sure your voice shines through the query letter—if your book is funny, the query should show that humor.
The third paragraph should sell you—any creds, contest wins, publications, in other words, why you and you alone are particularly qualified to write this book.
TIP: Always close by thanking your agent for taking the time to read your query, and close by saying the subliminal “I look forward to hearing from you soon.”
TIP: Publishing is a small business. Never exaggerate, and don’t name drop unless it’s true.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Tomorrow we’ll look at query letters that worked.