Wednesday, May 9, 2018

How to: Query letters

I once worked in a publishing company. I was in charge of the slush pile - i.e., the huge amount of queries, synopsis, chapters, and sometimes whole manuscripts sent to the publisher. I got a lot of query letters. I also write, so I wrote a lot of  query letters. In this day and age, most submissions are by email, but one thing hasn't changed - the person reading your query letter is most likely overworked, underpaid, and in a hurry.

If you have the green light to query (Submissions Open, send query to...) then send something clear and concise. Here is a quick query for a first contact:

Dear ________(the name of your contact, correctly spelled) 

I would like to send a_______ (genre) novel for possible consideration by ________ (name of publisher - again, spelled correctly, please).

(Here's where you include the Blurb: ________a 100 word or so blurb about the book) 

Attached is a synopsis, first 10k words, and my bio and social media links.

Thank you for your kind consideration,
_______(your name) 

And that's it. Nothing flashy or complicated - something clear and straightforward. Oh, I forgot. For the synopsis - no more than one page. Include the whole story. Don't be coy about the ending. The slush reader wants to be able to grasp the whole story at a glance.

There are a few things you can do to make your query stick out. Are there authors in the company that you admire? Books you have read? Mention them! When I was readinng queries, the ones that mentioned books or authors by name caught my attentiion. It meant the author had done his homework, and that it wasn't just a shot in the dark. Also, it gave me an idea of what the proposed manuscript could be about if the letter included examples of books that were similar.

here is the query I wrote to Accent Press, asking them if they would consider my series, where I mention my infatuation with Jodi Taylor's books and admit to being slightly scatterbrained - it's best to get these things clear in the beginning... :

Dear Accent press,

I fell in love with your company through Jodi Tayor's books, and thought that my time-travel series, Time for Alexander, would be a good fit. I stumbled across Jodi Taylor's books and was hooked (I devoured every single one during the holidays – she's just going to have to write more.) I wanted to submit my series (7 books, all set to go and edited) directly to you, but through a quirk of fate (dyslexia, really) I sent off my query to another publisher. I hope it doesn't count as a simultaneous submission. (I hope they don't mind me raving about the Chronicles of Saint Mary's.)

Please forgive my rambling – herewith is the blurb, synopsis and first three chapters.

Very best wishes,

Jennifer Macaire  

Ashley is a one of the elite, a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world that that believes her road in life was paved by her parents' money and her title.

After winning a prestigious award she is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day to find and interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. 

And that is that! You send off your query, then you sit and watch your inbox for a week go about your usual business.

 Good luck, and when you hear back, let me know!


  1. hahahahahahahahaha. (JUST thinking of my 108 versions of the same query and no requests for fulls)

  2. I must have sent off at least a thousand queries - honest - I used to joke that my rejection slips could paper all the rooms in my house...I still get rejection slips, it's all part of writing. (the part I like the least - I admit)


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