A query letter is your introduction to catch the attention of an agent or editor - people who can be instrumental in getting your work published. While a query letter should be brief, it should also be detailed and leave the reader wanting to see your complete article or manuscript.
The following is void and null if the publisher or agent has stringent guidelines available for you to use to submit to him/her.
- Make sure the letter is no longer than one page. It should be written in the format of a formal business letter, addressed to the specific editor who will read your query. If you don't know who that person is, call the company and ask.
- Don't attempt to be cute or coy. You are a professional, you are an author. Put your best foot forward which will indicate to whoever you are submitting that you are not an amateur.
- Start the letter with a dynamite opening, perhaps even the lead from the article you intend to write or the book you've written. Make sure this paragraph will grab both the attention and the interest of the publisher or agent.
- Expand on your idea in one or two paragraphs using clear language. Indicate the contents and structure of the piece and explain how it will be developed.
- Give a brief summary of your qualifications for writing about the subject, especially if you've written about related topics before. Also mention if you are a published author.
- End your letter by asking if you can send your entire article or manuscript for consideration. Thank the editor for his or her time and mention that you're looking forward to hearing from them at their earliest convenience.
- Include relevant published clips, if applicable. The publication may request to see these.
- IF USING SNAIL MAIL: Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope so that the editor can return or respond to your query quickly and conveniently.
- Write another query letter to another editor or publisher immediately if your attempt is rejected. In fact, make a list of at least 5 (five) places to query and with each rejection, scratch them from the list. Rejection is a familiar part of a writer's life, but persevering may eventually bring success. IF you are submitting to the fifth person on your list, as you mail it out, immediately make a new list of 5 (five) more possible places to submit.
Tips & Warnings
* If you're pitching an idea to a magazine, make sure the tone fits the magazine. Buy several issues and read them from cover to cover so you have a good grasp of what the publication is looking for.
* Magazines are always interested in articles that are accompanied by pictures. If you have photos, let the editor know this fact, but don't send them with the query letter unless they are requested. Send copies, never send originals.
* You might want to offer a few different options on how the story could be written without getting too broad in your range of choices. A couple of options may work for the editor in case a single approach doesn't.
* If you're pushing a novel, make sure you have it written completely and it has been fully proofed and edited professionally. Very few publishers are interested in novels to be written, they want a finished product.
* Avoid submitting the same idea to several publications simultaneously unless you inform everyone involved. Some publications won't read simultaneous submissions.
And first and foremost - make sure the person you are submitting to actually represents the category your book is!