A query letter is your introduction to an agent or editor. It tells mainly about the writing project you are asking them to look at, and a little about your background and how it supports the piece of writing you are introducing. Agents and editors read queries to find new writing projects, so it is vital that your query is professional, and conveys your message in a precise and engaging manner. The goal of the query letter is to get the agent or editor to request a partial or full manuscript.
A query is a single page, double-spaced introduction letter.
It should have three paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your biography.
This is a one-sentence description of your book, meant to pique the reader’s interest. Think of it as a description of the setup. The important elements are: who and what. A popular formula for writing the hook is the “when” formula:
When [the instigating event] happens, [your main character], a [description of their age/occupation/character] must rise to the challenge and solve the problem in their own unique way.
For e.g. When his parents die in a car crash, Jason Gilliam, a recent college graduate juggling girlfriends and a burgeoning career, becomes a single parent to his two young siblings, aged five and seven.
In one paragraph, describe the essence of your book. This is probably the most difficult part of the query. It requires patience and practice to do this well. In essence, start with what you wrote in your hook, and give a little more information about the characters, and the main story problem. Look at the back covers of your favorite books to see how to craft a juicy paragraph that really sells the story.
To do this well, write out a description of your book, and then trim, and revise until you have about 150 words.
This is the easiest part of the query. Write a little about yourself along with any expertise or special knowledge you have that makes you the person uniquely qualified to write and promote this particular book.
Finally, thank the agent or editor for their time, and let them know that the full manuscript is available at their request. In the case of non-fiction, let them know that a complete TOC (table of contents) and sample chapters are available.
The most important thing in writing a query is to be professional and give the agent or editor a reason to ask you for more.
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