So, borrowing from a few of the points made in the article, here are some things to keep in mind as you put together a query letter that will invite your dream editor or agent to (in dating terms) explore how a relationship between the two of you might develop.
- Be compelling. You’d make your dating profile as intriguing as possible, wouldn’t you? So open your query with a hook that sets the tone and grabs the publishing pro’s interest in the project—and in you. It might be a one- or two-sentence blurb about your book, or you could craft your opening as a provocative story question.
- Be confident. Not falsely overconfident, but in a professional manner that reflects your qualifications and passion for this project. You might mention your inspiration for the story or anything from your personal experience that makes you the right person to write it.
- Be true to yourself. If you pretend to be something you’re not in a dating profile, you can bet the truth will come out the first time you meet each other in person! So in your query, just be honest about your background and qualifications; don’t claim bragging rights you haven’t earned. It’s okay if you haven’t yet garnered previous writing credits, contest wins, etc. Every writer has to start somewhere. See #2 above and focus on what’s relevant to this particular story.
- Avoid too many “I” statements. We’ve all had encounters with people who couldn’t stop talking about themselves, and it can be a real dating turn-off. Likewise, too many “I” statements in a query can come across as egotistical or self-absorbed. Count how many of your sentences begin with the word “I” and see if any of them can be reworded.
- Use proper spelling and grammar. Consider this your “dress-up and makeover” for that personal photo you’d post on a dating site. Since writers are supposed to be wordsmiths, “glam up” your query by checking for typos, faulty grammar, or spelling mistakes. Such errors might be all it takes for an editor or agent to reply with a quick NO. And don’t rely exclusively on your word processor’s spelling and grammar checker. If you don’t trust your own skills, consider having a trusted colleague proofread your query before you send it out.
- Don’t make demands. In certain respects, there has been movement in the industry toward the more realistic view that a writer’s time is as valuable as an editor’s or agent’s, so (except in specifically identified situations) simultaneous submissions are almost expected these days. However, be realistic about the agent’s or editor’s response time. Don’t put a hard deadline on an answer to your query unless and until you have received clear interest from a competing house or agency. And then—as always—be courteous and respectful in asking for a decision.
- End with a polite request for action. For example, “If my Old West romantic suspense about alien vampires sounds like a story that would appeal to you, please let me know if I may submit the manuscript for your consideration.”
What other tips would you offer for crafting a compelling query? Share in the comments! One lucky visitor to today’s blog will win a $10 Amazon gift card!
Other great Seekerville blogs on query letters:
Though Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, she now enjoys living amidst the scenic beauty of the Carolinas, but she does miss real Texas beef barbecue! Empty-nesters, Myra and her husband share their home with two pampered rescue dogs. Myra's awards include the 2005 RWA Golden Heart and two ACFW Carol Award finals. When the Clouds Roll By, book 1 of the historical romance series “Till We Meet Again” (Abingdon Press), won the historical fiction category of the 2014 Christian Retailer’s Best Award. Book 2, Whisper Goodbye, and book 3, Every Tear a Memory, both received 4½-star reviews from Romantic Times. Her latest release is the novella Settled Hearts, included in Barbour’s Oregon Trail Romance Collection. Follow Myra on Twitter at @MyraJohnson and @TheGrammarQueen, and on her Facebook author page.