All writers face the dreaded query. Did I put enough information? Did I put too much? Did I have a great hook? Am I submitting to the right publisher or agent?
These are just a few questions that run through a writer’s mind when mailing or clicking the send button for the query. So, how do you answer these questions and the many others that go along with the job of crafting a query?
Well, the first simple response to this question is to READ the publisher’s or agent’s guidelines.
Okay, that’s not accurate-you need to STUDY and FOLLOW those guidelines precisely.
Items to watch for when reading those guidelines:
1. What genre does that particular publishing house, agent, or magazine publish?
2. Does the publisher/agent accept simultaneous submissions?
3. Is there a specific word count involved if querying for articles?
4. Does the publishing house accept unagented queries?
5. Does the magazine only accept specific themes, if so, is your article on target?
This list is not complete, there are obviously more items to watch out for. So, we go back to the main rule for querying: FOLLOW the GUIDELINES!
But, following the guidelines is just part of the querying process; you also need to know some inclusion essentials.
Six rules to use that will help you create a winning query:
1. Be professional. Writing is a business just like any other – it’s important to treat it as such.
2. Be sure to include your contact information: address, telephone number, email address and website.
3. If you were referred by someone, include it in the query. Every little bit helps, but be sure it’s a referral from someone the editor actually knows.
4. Write tight – be specific and jump right in. You want to provide enough information to motivate the editor to want more, but you need to keep it to one page.
5. The first paragraph is explaining that you’ve visited the company’s website and found they are accepting your genre. Or, you might simple state that you are submitting your manuscript for her review.
In this paragraph you can include the genre and the word count. And, it’d be a good idea to mention a published book that it might be similar to.
Dear [Editor’s Name],
I’d like to introduce my 15,000 word fantasy chapter book, WALKING THROUGH WALLS, for your consideration. It is in the flavor of A SINGE SHARD by Linda Sue Park.
6. The second paragraph is the pitch. Within a couple of sentences you need to hook the editor or agent. Give a brief description of the story – just the essentials.
EXAMPLE of a first sentence for this paragraph:
In 16th century China, Wang works in the rice fields with his father, but this is not the life he wants.
In just one sentence, the time period is established along with the setting and conflict.
7. The third paragraph is about you. Again, keep it brief and include your credentials. Limit personal information unless it adds to your credentials as a writer qualified to write for this publisher or agent.
This is also the place you’ll briefly mention your marketing platform.
I had a client, who at the time she was querying agents, had around 45,000 Facebook followers and around 15,000 Instagram followers. She also had a website. These are things that are definitely worth mentioning!
Publishers and agents appreciate when authors already have an author platform up and running. In fact, if a contract is between ‘platformless’ you and another author who is equally qualified, but does have a platform in place, guess who’ll get that contract.
8. The fourth paragraph is your conclusion. Thank the editor/agent for his time and mention if you are enclosing a SASE (self-addressed and stamped envelope) and if the query is a simultaneous submission.
A good way to practice for queries and pitches is to write a one sentence ‘out of the ball park’ description of your manuscript. This will help you to think and write tight and choose the perfect words to hook the reader and convey the essence of your story.
MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN
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A version of this article was originally published by Karen Cioffi at: