3# The Query Letter

The Query letter is an art form.  A hellish art that breaks some aspiring writers.  Authors who refuse to cater to the query letter sometimes review their options and pursue self-publishing.
The subject line:QUERY: [your book title] …

…and add any additional instructions the agent gives.  You will need to check their “submission guidelines” to determine this.  You would send this for the basic emailed query on initial contact.

FOLLOW UP: [your book title and your name].

If the agent permits it, you may send a follow up.  Check the submission guidelines on their website for details.

OFFER OF REPRESENTATION: [your book title and your name]

When an agent offers you a deal, you should send a notice to all other agents reviewing your query letter.  It’s courteous, respectful, and professional and there is a chance you will be running into them at future conferences.  Through my research, I learned that novice writers, are horrible at this step.

On one literary agent’s website, the agent explained that it is common for a writer to immediately accept a deal then “brush off” all other agents.  What ends up happening in that case is the writer receives another offer from an agent they would have preferred over their current agent and so the writer “dumps” them.  No call, no contact, no show.

What results is a trail of sour relations and bad professionalism associated with the author and all who come in contact with them.  Her advice?  Politely delay your response to your first agent, ask for two weeks to contact all other agents and send an “offer of representation” letter to all currently queried agents.  Give them a very subtle and polite dead line of two weeks.  Then, if no other agent asks for your manuscript or makes an offer, take the deal.

Here is what a query letter looks like.

Dear Agent:I am currently seeking representation for Dolor and Shadow, which is an upmarket fantasy of 133,000 words and depicts the Viking Era from the elves’ point of view. Inspired by my studies in medieval European history, historical linguistics, and theology, Dolor and Shadow presents a unique interpretation of the Celtic and Nordic myths while braiding together the historical events of 995 A.D. This is a simultaneous submission.

Kallan’s quest to avenge her father, lands her in the mountains of Norway with her father’s murderer, Rune.  Forced to brave  the uncharted terrain of Ancient Scandinavia, Rune and Kallan must set aside their differences to band together.  While battling their prejudices — and each other — they begin to uncover the truth beneath a web of lies.

 In 2009, after completing two courses through Long Ridge Writer’s Group, my articles appeared in the May through November issues of Kritter Kronickles Pet Magazine. Although I have few credentials, I maintain a professional and dedicated work ethic. I thrive on self-motivation and have committed the last five years to the research and writing of Dolor and Shadow and its sequel, Lorlenalin’s Lies, both of which were written simultaneously and are complete.  I can be reached at [email protected] or my cell 123-456-7890.  Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Angela B. Chrysler

That’s it really.  It’s a mini resume that includes a book summary.  It must be clean, tight, and perfect (or almost).  I can not emphasize this point enough.  The query letter is a resume.  Yes, you are selling your book.  But mostly, you are selling you.  You have one chance to make a first impression and show off your professionalism.  Make it a good one!  Also, always, always, always address a query letter “Dear Mr/Ms/Mrs [agent’s surname]:”  Every time…no exceptions.

Here is what a rejection letter looks like.

Dear Author:
Thank you so much for sending this [Really Awesome Agency] your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. On average, we receive nearly 500 email query letters a week and despite that, we do read each and every query letter carefully. Unfortunately, this project is not right for us. Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match. Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.Sincerely,

[An Agent]

I have grown to dislike the word “unfortunately”.  This sample is a form letter.  Here is a more personal one.

Dear Angela,  

Thank you so much for allowing our agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate. Again, thank you very much for allowing us this chance to consider your material, and we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.

Sincerely,

[A really awesome agent who took the time to welcome any future work I may have!]

Seriously, this one made me happy .  This one, is what you want to see:

Hi Angela,

I’d be delighted to take a look at the full manuscript. Will you please send it to me as a microsoft word doc?

All best,

Agent X was reading my manuscript at the time that I wrote this article back in 2014.

Yeah!  Now it’s time to prep for Stage #3!  The Platform!

For more reading on how to build a query letter, Brain to Books recommends:

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/successful-query-letters

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-10-dos-and-donts-of-writing-a-query-letter

http://www.writersdigestshop.com/query-letter

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23tenqueries&src=tyah

or search “@tenqueries” on Twitter to view hundreds of tweets from literary agents.

9# The Query Letter… Revisited

by Angela B. Chrysler
Originally published on: 9 November 2014

“You’ve already written an article on the query letter. Why are we going over this again?”

Because I had an epiphany last night, that’s why.  I received another rejection letter. This one was wonderful:

Dear Angela,
Thank you so much for sending through the first chapters and synopsis of Lorlenalin’s Lies.  I enjoyed what I read and thought it had some obvious strengths. Unfortunately, however, we have decided that it’s not quite what we’re looking for at the moment.

Given the large number of submissions we have received, we are unable to give feedback, but I’d like to thank you again for thinking of us.  I wish you all the very best in your search for representation. I’m sorry not to be of more help in this instance.

Kind regards.

This was for the 250,000 word Book 1 and 2 before I divided the book into two parts. Since I sent out this query letter, I read an article (for the life of me, I can’t remember where), that said this on query letters:

[My first query letters were bad. I kept receiving form letter after form letter entitle, ‘dear author’. So I rewrote my query letter and rewrote my query letter. And I got better. Then I noticed the rejections were personalized, more formal. Although they were still rejecting me, I was seeing that they were having a harder time rejecting me. They were apologizing and some invited me to send more or took the time to tell me what they liked.]

And that is what I realized. You are not supposed to get a form rejection letter. If you are getting nothing but form rejection letters back, you have a bad query letter and need to rewrite it. You should see responses with your name on the header. You should see comments like, “I enjoyed what I read and thought it had some obvious strengths”. If all or 90% of your rejection letters are saying, “Dear Author. Thank you…unfortunately…” then there is something wrong with the query letter. You are still going to see form letters. But 50% of them, at least, should be addressed to you and not to “Dear author”…unless your name is “Author”.

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