Sample Query Letter
A USEFUL TEMPLATE: YOUR HANDY-DANDY SAMPLE QUERY LETTER
(First step: use business letterhead with your complete address, phone number, email)
Editor’s Name (Make sure it’s spelled correctly!)
Editor’s Title (Is it the most current job title…assistant editor, editor, senior editor, etc.?)
Imprint Name (Doublecheck spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.)
Publisher Name (Ditto the above…get it right!)
Address (Is it complete, with street, city, state, zip code? Is it up-to-date? Don’t trust old information. Even if you’ve submitted to this editor or publisher before, look it up in the latest directory or market guide. Publishers move and merge all the time.)
Dear Mr. or Ms. (fill in the blank):
(Provide this information in roughly this order)
HOW I KNOW YOU AND/OR YOUR PUBLISHING HOUSE
(The best possible introduction here is that you’ve met at a writers’ conference or other industry meeting. Other possibilities include: you were referred by another writer, a published author who knows the editor or is published by the editor’s employer; you found the editor’s name listed in an industry directory or market guidebook; you read an interview with the editor or an article written by the editor; you saw a thank-you dedication to the editor in a published book which is similar to the one you’re now querying, etc.)
DESCRIBE YOUR MANUSCRIPT OR BOOK PROPOSAL IN 1-5 SENTENCES.
(Think sales pitch/flap copy here! Try to give the editor a hint of your writing style in your description of your project. This is where you present the major hook(s) to your book. What makes you uniquely qualified to write this book? What’s the genre? What is/are the readership(s) in terms of age, interests, socio-economic groups, and potential sales? Is your title similar to, yet different from, any best-seller title?)
LET THE EDITOR KNOW THAT IF THE PROJECT IS OF INTEREST, YOU WOULD BE GLAD TO SUBMIT IT IN ITS ENTIRETY. ASK HOW HE/SHE WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE THE MATERIAL: SNAIL MAIL/USPS, OR VIA INTERNET AS EMAIL ATTACHMENT? LET THE EDITOR KNOW HOW TO CONTACT YOU: WITH EMAIL OR VIA AN ENCLOSED STAMPED, SELF-ADDRESSED POSTCARD? MAKE SURE YOUR EMAIL IS WRITTEN ACCURATELY. THEN, THANK THE EDITOR FOR HIS/HER TIME IN READING THIS LETTER.
(You can say you look forward to hearing from him/her, but don’t give a deadline on when you expect to get a response: ‘at your convenience’ is a good generic phrase…)
YOUR SIGNATURE LINE
WHAT’S THE POSTCARD ENCLOSURE SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE?
It’s a plain white postcard with sufficient return postage applied, and addressed to you, Ms./Mr. Author. On the ‘message side’ of the card you hand-write the following:
(Your manuscript of book proposal title)
(Submission info…editor name and imprint)
PLEASE CHECK ONE:
____yes, I’d like to receive a copy of this work for submission.
_____no thanks, I’m not interested in receiving your submission at this time.
ROUND TWO: THE COVER LETTER
(this is sent with the complete manuscript or proposal in response to a request from the queried editor. Format is the same as the query letter, basically. An outline of the kind of information needed after the address lines and salutation line follows.)
THANK EDITOR FOR REQUESTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT OR BOOK PROPOSAL.
REPEAT HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SALES PITCH USED IN YOUR QUERY.
ENUMERATE THE ENCLOSURES THAT ACCOMPANY THE SASE FOR YOUR SUBMITTED MANUSCRIPT OR BOOK PROPOSAL…WHICH IS PROVIDED FOR THE RETURN OF THE MATERIALS, IF NEEDED.
(Make sure the return postage is sufficient to return your material. Err on the side of too much postage rather than risking too little. Small details are important. They’re what make you look professional and make the editor want to read your work.)
ADDITIONAL ENCLOSURES ARE MENTIONED.
(This might be a ‘clip file’ of writing samples or a publishing resume complete with ISBN’s. If your project is nonfiction, a resume of your education or job experience in a specific area might be included as an expansion of the query letter’s ‘why I’m very qualified to write this’ section.)
THANK THE EDITOR IN ADVANCE FOR THE TIME SHE/HE IS TAKING TO READ YOUR WORK AND TO CONSIDER IT FOR PUBLICATION WITH HIS OR HER PUBLISHING HOUSE. LET HIM OR HER KNOW HOW MUCH YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THEIR INPUT, TOO.