Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Query Letter Formatting

The Head and Shoulders commercial had the slogan at one time, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." I love this slogan. I think it works for so many situations out there, and yet, I find far too many people forgetting this and then wondering why they aren't getting what they want. In the case of query letters, that first impression is so important. I know there are many of you who have been led to believe it is only the manuscript that matters, and yes, that is true. But, for the editors and agents to get to that manuscript, it takes getting their attention. That is where the well formatted query letter comes into play.

Whether or not you are using the snail mail approach or the email approach, showing that you are professional and you know the proper etiquette for correspondence helps a lot. Below I have two sample letters. The first is for regular mail and the second is for email. I think there are several things to note here that are great reminders:

  • Make sure to address the query to a specific editor or agent. "Dear agent" or "To Whom It May Concern" simply tells us you are just mass mailing this to everyone. 
  • Addressing an individual is also important considering how many agencies and publishers have interns and assistants opening mail first. If you want it to land in the hands of a particular person, you have to put their name up top.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward. Now rambling
  • Be professional. This is not the time to demonstrate your amazing gift of word choice or voice. That is what your manuscript is there for.
  • I recommend putting title, genre and word count at the top. This gives the agent and/or editor a chance to think of the story in a particular context or to think about placement of the story. Too often, we have no clue where the story would fit until we hit the end of the query. This is especially the case with YA and New Adult.
And yes, you can use the standard letter approach for emails. There will be some repetition with the subject lines but it isn't going to kill you.



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