Do you know how many ways there are to write a query letter? According to Google, approximately 2.16 million. Adding the word successful into your Google search bumps that number up to around 3 million. So, apparently, more people know how to write a successful query letter rather than just a query letter. Amazing, right?
For those of you who just read the words query letter and are subsequently staring blankly at this screen, perhaps with a little drool peeking out from the corner of your mouth, because you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to provide you some background. A query letter—as defined by good ole’ Merriam-Webster—is what you sell your soul to the devil for in order to obtain a literary agent and/or publishing deal. No, I kid. A query is only the first step in acquiring said agent/publishing deal, so I highly doubt you have to fork over your entire soul for it. More like…just a sliver.
Okay, really. For those who don’t follow the publishing industry, a query letter is what you write unsolicited to agents to pique their interest in your work. In order for an agent to request to see any portion of your manuscript, you must first submit a query letter to them. Similar to a cover letter written when applying for a job, it serves as a gatekeeper of sorts, separating the good writers from the not-so-talented. It’s your introduction. It’s your foot in the door. In other words, if your query letter sucks, no agent is going to want to read your work, let alone want to represent you.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m in the midst of developing my query letter for Jaded. I say develop because a query letter isn’t just all about the writing. Yes, writing serves as the majority vote, but there’s also research and reading and research and googling and more research involved throughout this whole
Every writer/agent/publisher out there—including your cousin’s mother’s uncle’s great-grandmother’s last of kin—has advice on how you can write the Best. Query. Letter. Ever.
Now. So you don’t have to, I’ve collected a few of my favorite tidbits of advice I’ve found while sifting thru Google’s 2.16 million answers on how to write the best query*:
By including everything the editor needs to know about your novel and about you—in one page.
Oh, that’s it? Well, shit. I’m totally done researching, now. That explains it all. No one told me it was that easy!
It must demonstrate that you can write effectively.
There should be no spelling or grammatical errors.
Oh I ain’t thought agints lycked it wen I show’d ’em mah collage edgukashion sckillz
Do not give your social security number.
Be sure to show them your voice, your personality.
Okay, good. Got it.
Don’t show too much personality. Your query letter should be formal.
Screw you, Google.
The problem is that there is no magic query letter formula. There is no A + B + C = getting signed by an agent. I can research as much as I want, but eventually it will come down to my own skill as a writer to hook my own agent. What may work for Writer A might not be the best thing for me and vice versa. Also, I eventually have to hit send. As far as technology has come these days, agents can’t actually read e-mails still stuck in my drafts folder. Such a shame.
So, I’m working on it. I’m reading some books (see PS below). I’m researching what agents would be the best fit for me. I’m proofreading. I’m deleting. I’m starting over.
I’m working on it.
Maybe one day, after I’ve signed with an agent, after Jaded has hit bookshelves, after, after, after…I’ll let you read my first attempts at
Satan’s spawn my query letter. I mean, we all deserve a good laugh every now and then, right?
– lindsey archer
PS – All joking aside, I have found a few books/sites helpful during my query adventure. I’m currently reading Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract, Guide to Literary Agents and How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters. I’m also a huge fan of Janet Reid and her Query Shark site.
* I did not make any of this shit up. I found each and every one of these gems on actual query advice websites.