As an author, a query letter can be one of the hardest things to write. As an editor, it can be one of the biggest decision makers to read. Believe it or not, it's true when you hear the claim that your query letter must contain your best effort, or you'll get rejected before you even get in the door. Unfortunately, this knowledge makes authors freak out--and then they tend to do stupid stuff.
Here are some tips on how to write a query letter that leaves you looking professional and publishable.
If you're letter contians a bunhc of errorz, we r not going to b empressed w/ u. Txt tlk and basic grammer mistakes will b the death of ur stuffs.
Blurb Versus Synopsis!
There is a difference between the two. Nothing makes you look like a novice writer more than giving us a blurb when we ask for a synopsis. Or the other way around. Most pubs ask for both, but the key is putting the right one in the right spot.
Which brings us to:
If the publishing company tells you they want a 3 page synopsis separate from the main manuscript document, and a blurb in the body of the e-mail, then by golly that's what you do! If you aren't professional enough to read and follow our guidelines, then why should we enter into a working relationship with you?
I've done this with e-mails before (though never with a submission e-mail, thankfully!). People do it all the time, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable. Make sure your document(s) are attached before you hit send! I know authors get nervous when subbing, but it's annoying to get multiple e-mails because the author forgot to attach their stuff before hitting send.
Breath, Reread, Send!
Before you hit that send button, stop. Maybe walk away for a minute. Regardless, take a breath, and slowly reread your query e-mail. Did you say what you needed/wanted to? Is your letter free of spelling errors? Do you have the name of the correct editor? For god's sakes, make sure the manuscript is attached! Now, if everything checks out, you can hit send.
Please, please, please! Don't ever lie. If you have been previously published then, by all means, mention it. We do like working with people who know their stuff. But if you haven't been, then just don't say anything about it at all. And I can not stress this enough: Don't LIE! We have the power of search engines at our command, and we do know how to use them. You will get caught, sooner or later. It will cost you and publisher's/editors do talk. You have been warned.
It is, in my opinion, far easier to read a simple query letter that gets to the point than a long drawn out thing. Do not brag to me, you will not get brownie points because you have three books out that made this or that top selling list. I do want to know you have three books out, but I don't really care if they got their best seller star or not. Maybe some pubs do, but I'm more interested in what you are sending me now. A good format to follow is:
Dear (Acquisitions Editor)
I have attached my (word count) manuscript, (title), in hopes you'll consider it for your (line/antho call/special sub call, etc).
(Previous published history, if applicable)
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.
Now granted, some publishing companies specify a format that they want their query letter to follow, but that just brings us back to the whole reading guidelines bit. With all that in mind, I have one thing left to say to authors wanting to sub: What are you waiting for?! ~ D. F. Krieger