Before I go any further, let me stress, your query letter will not get you published. It is still the quality of the writing as well as the marketability of the book. The query letter gets you into the door and that is what authors need!
We have to first start and understand what the purpose of the query letter really is. This is simply your first impression you make with an writing professional. It is your chance to show your professionalism, to show you have done your homework and know what you are doing, and finally, to show that professional that your story is the "end all, be all" of writing. You will notice I keep stressing the word "show" here. You cannot simply tell us you have a good story. You have to show us. You cannot simply tell us your story has potential, you have to show us. You cannot just tell us you have worked hard at your writing. You have to show us. You do this with your writing - show don't tell - so do it in the letter.
Let's take a look at some of the things to focus on.
- You book is what the professional wants
Along the same lines, make sure your story is going to the right person. I may acquire historical romances, but there are some things that I am just not that interested in personally. If your story is one of those projects, then you need to make sure to not send it to me. We all have our pet peeves and our preferences. Learn those by visiting their blogs, attending conferences and asking questions (hint - the Spotlight sessions at RWA Nationals), etc.
- You are someone who will be in this for the long haul
- Your story is right for the market
- We know the major elements of your story
I do think too many authors get this section confused with the back cover blurb. We don't want a tease of the story, we want to know the general plot of the story. We need to know who the characters are, the conflict of the story and certainly the general story arc. Don't just leave us hanging with "Will Bob save the universe from the alien vampire bunny attack? Will he get the girl? You have to tell us he will and briefly how.
Finally, we have to know the basics. This includes the title, the genre and the word count. Surprisingly there are authors who leave this out. We use this for logging your information into your databases, but we also use it for making sure the story gets into the right hands. If you tell me your story is an 85,000 word contemporary romantic suspense, I will be able to read your story with a context. I start thinking of potential publishers it would fit with. If you told me it was 53,000 words, I would shift my focus to this being more of a series title.
- We know who you are
So to sum up...
- The BASICS of the book - Title, genre word count and high concept.
- THE BOOK itself - We need that story arc, the conflict and the characters
- THE BIO - Who are you and why are you the next great author?