First of all, let me say that, despite what some say on the internet and in workshops, your query letter will not sell your book. Your query letter will not get you that mega-contract. I have seen those workshops and articles and I am sorry to say this, but if you believe that, then I have a bridge to sell you. With that said, I do have to say that your query letter, while it may not get you a contract, will certainly prevent you from getting that editor or agent to read your manuscript.
That query letter is your way into the editor's or agent's office. That letter needs to demonstrate that you are the best person ever and that your story is well worth the effort of the editor or agent. Too often, however, I read letters that do absolutely nothing. It may tell us the title, the genre and the word count, but that is far from enough. Adding a brief blurb of the book is also not going to do it. The query has to SHOWCASE your writing, your professionalism and your writing career. Remember, we are not just signing a book, but signing a package of an author and their writing.
Let's work through the parts of that query letter. While I am talking about standard business letter, this also applies to the email format:
THE HEADING - This is where you would be including who you are sending the email to. Make sure that you have made it very clear who you are sending it to. Make sure that the spelling is correct and their title is correct. If you are simply sending it to Dear Editor or Dear Agent, you have blown it. This is simply saying you have mass mailed the letter. You really don't care enough. This equals a REJECTION
THE BASICS - This is generally the first part of your query letter. This includes the title, genre and word count of the book. This section should also include the high concept of your story. This is a single statement that, in come way, showcases the uniqueness of the story and how it stands out among all of the other stories out there. Telling me it is a coming-of-age story is not a high concept. You might also want to add to this first section why you are contacting that editor or agent. Did you meet with them? Did they request seeing something from you before? Just telling me that you are sending it because they acquire your genre is not enough.
I will also add here that submitting a project that is not representative of your genre is going to lead to a rejection. If you don't know what you write, you have no business being a professional writer. I will also add that if you are making up a genre, or claiming your genre is multiple genres, just to show you are reaching a wide audience is not going to work. Hello, Rejection!
THE BOOK - This is that blurb about the book. It needs to cover the following:
- Who are the characters?
- What are their Goals, Motivations and Conflicts?
- What is the central conflict of the story?
- What is the basic plot (all of the way through the conclusion)