The Quintessential Query

Ever think about trying the traditional publisher route?  I did, many years ago, before e-books became popular.  It was hard to break into the publishing world back then, given the limited number of books that were printed, never mind nowadays.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

I’m thinking of giving it another try; hence, this post.  If you’re considering it, go for it, and don’t be discouraged or overwhelmed if there are no responses or—drat it all—rejection letters arrive.  They’re a blow to the ego, to say the least.  But take solace in the fact that this has happened to the best.  Many of the greats received rejections: DH Lawrence, Herman Melville, Stephen King, Tim Burton, Ayn Rand, to name but a few.  So, again, don’t be discouraged.  Make Perseverance and Patience your middle names.

A polished, winning query letter takes time and effort: think of it as a sales pitch or a promotional tool.  You’re selling you.  Entice the publisher—to want to read the entire letter and the manuscript.

Do that due diligence.  Determine which publishers you want to approach.  Make certain they represent the genre you’re writing.  Also confirm that they’re bona-fide publishers.  You shouldn’t be paying them to get published, right?  Right.

Grab the publisher’s attention immediately.  Ensure the salutation incorporates his/her name.  If you’ve published before, state this right away.  If not, then—if doable—mention that you’ve met him/her before or that someone’s referred you.  And, if neither of these are possible, then pitch your pitch.  Always include the genre, word count, and target audience. WPbutton2

When pitching your pitch, describe what makes your book unique.  Remember: there are hundreds of writers out there sending similar queries, so you need to stand out.

Give a quick rundown re the plot, main characters, and conflict/tension.  Provide a super-condensed summary (as in one paragraph).  Have a more detailed synopsis on hand, too; you may need it later.

Do you have writing credentials, awards, or reviews?  Provide them.  Or maybe you’re a blogger?  Note this.  What about a huge social media base?  By all means, mention it.

Some quick general tips re your letter:

  • personalize (it shouldn’t sound like a form letter)
  • keep it fairly short, maybe 400 words or so (four to five paragraphs)
  • make sure it adheres to the publisher’s submission guidelines (some may also request a promo plan or an in-depth synopsis)
  • ensure the letter looks neat (the font isn’t fancy or overly small, the wording isn’t excessive/redundant, and there’s ample white-space).

Lastly, proofread and revise as necessary.

Always bear in mind, there’s tons of information on the Internet; use it to your advantage.

As an FYI, here’s a query letter for “Caper”, written before I went for another major rewrite or decided to try e-booking (hey, a new verb).  Is it the quintessential query letter?  Probably not, but as Rey might say: it ain’t bad.

WPquerylettercaper

Dear XXXXXX,

 Welcome to a Wacky Week at the Mysterious Moone Mansion

A reputedly haunted mansion in Connecticut marks the setting for a week-long collect-your-inheritance gathering of weird and wired guests.  The events, comic and dark, are told through the eyes of Jill Jocasta Fonne, a Wilmington-based weather announcer.

“The Connecticut Corpse Caper”, approximately 84,500 words, is an ode to the B&W mysteries of the 30s and 40s.  Murder and mayhem and madcap moments reign as seven people of different backgrounds spend a week in the Moone mansion to receive a share of the inheritance per eccentric Mathilda Moone’s will stipulation.  Two-hundred thousand dollars will be awarded to each person.  If someone leaves, for whatever reason, his or her share will be divided among those remaining.

Curious, out-of-the-norm characters in “Caper” contribute to the humor and absurdity.  It also has an ending that could lend itself to a sequel (and does—I’m in the midst of outlining one).

The audience?  Readers who enjoy the antics of Stephanie Plum and Kinsey Malone, those who like fun protagonists and a bit of dark or campy humor.

In terms of my background, I work as a freelance editor and writer.  In addition to writing weekly posts for my blog (www.XXXXXX) I have started working on a script version of “The Connecticut Corpse Caper”.  As an FYI, in addition to a varied and extensive writing-editing background, I also spent several years as a technical-writing trainer in the aerospace realm.

Recognizing how many queries you receive daily, Mr./Ms. XXXXXX, I’d like to thank you for your time and consideration.  Per your guidelines, attached are the first three chapters and a one-page synopsis.

Sincerely yours,

XXXXXXX