How to Write Captivating Query Letters

Using John Grisham as an example, this is how your headline and subtitle would look:

A Time to Kill
“An unspeakable crime
A town ripped apart
As the nation awaits a verdict…”

The meat of your query should paint a picture of your book’s characters, plot and subplots. Make an editor’s mouth water for more.

Some people are nervous about disclosing too much about their book. They fear an editor will steal their idea. Ultimately, they leave out particular details that could’ve sold the book.

Trust editors. They’re in business to publish books. Not rob from you. Leaving out key components of your book doesn’t benefit anyone.

Conclude your letter with any relevant credentials. Your experience isn’t as important for a fiction novel as it is for nonfiction. All that really matters is solid construction of your book from beginning to end.

Nevertheless, if you’ve published other books, articles or short story collections, let a publisher know. And if you’re trying to publish a detective novel and you spent 20 years on the force, then be sure to mention that too.

Maybe you don’t have published works to brag about. Perhaps you’re trying to sell a science fiction manuscript and you’re an accountant.

The solution is simple. Just skip this paragraph. Don’t mention any experience at all.

In the past, authors have made the mistake of saying, “While I haven’t published anything yet…” It leaves an editor on a negative note. Be positive throughout your query. Be confident.

Try to close your letter with something besides Sincerely. A majority of queries contain this salutation. There’s nothing wrong with it but try variations like Respectfully, Cordially or Best Regards.

Breathe a sigh of relief. Your query is finished. Only one more step and you’re completely through. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with your query.

When an editor’s ready to give you a decision, she won’t have to search for your address, an envelope, a stamp. Plus, it’s a professional courtesy and most publishers ask for a SASE in their submission guidelines.

Before you go to the post office, take one last look at what you’re sending out. Use these checklists for your own records.

My query is:

Addressed to the right person

Typed on one, single-spaced page

Free of spelling and grammatical errors

Straight to the point

I have:

Included a SASE

Included my address, telephone, fax and e-mail address

Noted the publisher and date sent