HOW TO WRITE A QUERY LETTER
We are going to take a few threads and discuss the industry.
Writing a novel takes a lot of work, as we all know. We put so much time in the writing, the rewriting, the editing, the critiques, and…the rewriting. But once the work is done, we’re far from finished.
Why? Because we have to market our works. Very few make a living writing, and even fewer get rich. That’s the sad truth about the industry. But there are ways that we can overcome these hurdles so that we can be successful in the industry.
Oddly, I have read countless non-fiction books in preparation of selling my fiction. Let’s begin with the query letter.
The query letter is only needed if you are going the traditional publishing route. The query letter should include the following:
1. Your name
2. A salutation directed at the person you are querying (don’t use the general Dear Agent).
3. The fast and quick of your novel in a way that the agent wants to read more. This is not the synopsis. It’s a back-of-the-book blurb requesting the agent’s representation.
Here’s an example if you’re writing a romance:
Dear Marilyn Chase,
I am seeking your representation for my 86,000-word romance novel, SACRED ROSE, written for people between the ages of 18 and 36.
Well-to-do CHRISTIAN SEPHER has just been fired from his position as an investment banker for the Fiola Corporation. Upon his dismissal, he realizes that his fiancée, ELLA ROSE, has been offered his former position, and she has one month to accept.
The tension between the two of them tightens, and behind the violent arguments and the threat of calling off the wedding lies the truth: Ella was responsible for Christian losing his job.
Now, the two must decide what’s important, their marriage or their careers.
I have currently been working on the outline for my next romance, and I have two other ideas for novels in the making.
I am prepared to send my completed manuscript of Sacred Rose upon request.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Notice the word count at the top. Agents want to know how many pages your work will be when it’s in print. Note that novels are expected to be between 70k – 120k words. Deviations from that are usually frowned upon.
The letter above shows three things: the setup, the conflict, and the desired outcome. This is important for any type of query letter. You must state who your characters are (keep it to one or two).
Show what the characters were doing (Christian was an investment banker).
Show what has interrupted the character’s life (Christian was fired).
Those two points are not enough for a story. Where’s the conflict?
What has his firing done to his life? You don’t necessarily want to explain why he got fired, in this case, because that deviates from your quick blurb.
Ella was offered his position, and now we see that she has four weeks to accept the position. The clock has just been set. Everything that happens will happen within 30 days.
All of the tension is right there in the blurb.
The last statement should show the stakes.
What are the stakes here? Will Ella choose her career, or will she try to remedy her relationship with Christian?