Query Letters 101

Recently, I saw a comment on the blog of a fellow writer, whom I now follow (because she’s just cool), saying that it’s difficult to know just how to craft a query letter that will work. So much details has to be crammed into such a small space, and it seems every agent and editor wants something different. It doesn’t help, either, that there are literally hundreds of pages out there that tell you how to query, and none of them agree.

So what’s a writer to do?

Listen to me of course! I know everything!

OK, so not really. BUT I have written queries for years now and I have had my queries accepted by both agents and editors (if not my manuscripts, but that’s another can of worms for another day of fishing). Most importantly, though, I have run into the same questions, frustrations, and brick walls that many of you probably have. So instead of formatting this blog as a “to-do” and/or “not to do” list like many do, I’ve decided to make it an FAQ with links to my favorite sites on the web to answer these specific questions. Please note that every link below is NOT owned by me, is NOT part of my personal blog, and all content therin belongs solely to those who own the pages linked. I am only passing on to you what has helped me the most in hopes that it will help you as well, and to give credit where credit is due. πŸ™‚

Let’s get started!

Query Letters 101 FAQs

Q ~ How do you format a query letter?

Agent Nathan Bransford has an excellent blog on publishing which has helped me many times. Even if he DID reject my manuscript twice. πŸ˜‰

Q ~ What should be in the body of my query letter?

Writer’s Digest is a wonderful resource for writers. I hope I don’t have to tell you that. πŸ™‚

Q ~ How long should my query letter be?

The short answer to this one is one page. That is all. Always. The link takes you to a page on AgentQuery.com where they show you how to do that effectively. πŸ™‚

Q ~ I have no qualifications to put in my query letter but I don’t want to sound unprofessional. Help!

AbsoluteWrite is a forum community for writers. I belong to it, but have a lot less time to go there than I would like. It’s a wonderful resource; after reading this thread on qualifications, it would be a good idea to stay a while and look around. πŸ™‚

Q ~ Where do I find contact information for agents and editors?

The link above will take you to Writer’s Market, the largest repository of editor and agent contact information in the world. I would also greatly encourage you to buy a hard copy of Writer’s Market.

Q ~ Where do I find information on the legitimacy of an agent and/or editor?

Predators and Editors has saved my butt more than once. Make it your best friend.

Q ~ I keep reading that you don’t need an agent to be published, but I can’t find any editors who take unagented submissions anywhere! What gives?

I had this question for a long time Then I joined SCBWI. In the first member annual they sent me was a deep list of editors who take unagented submissions. From big name publishers, no less. So above I have linked to a Google search for writers’ societies. My best advice is to join the one that fits you best, because they have all sorts of inside information that, unless you’re a far better researcher than I am, you can’t find anywhere else.

Q ~ What is a query package?

This links to writer Melanie Card’s blog where she gives the most in-depth and still concise answer to this question I have ever read.

Q ~ I want to go over my manuscript and query letter one last time before submitting. Is there a list of major mistakes that I can check against?

Ohh yes. Yes there is. This links to a list by Christin Sander, which I couldn’t have written better myself. It’s mostly for short story / magazine publication, but all of her points apply equally to novelists as well.

Q ~ I keep being rejected but they never tell me why! What do I do now?

Another one by Nathan Bransford. πŸ™‚


Q ~ What are multiple submissions and should I make them?

This links to an in-depth article by by Meg Schneider and Barbara Doyen. Enjoy!

Q ~ How long is too long for a response?

Another AbsoluteWrite thread. πŸ™‚

If your issue isn’t here, please ask in the comments section. I’ll see what I can do to help!


3 Responses to “Query Letters 101”

  1. Tee hee you’re pretty cool yourself! πŸ™‚

    Thank you SO much for posting about query letters – I can’t wait to check these links out!

  2. […] I have written about querying before, but this post focuses on one particular aspect of a query letter and quite possibly the very most important one at that: the synopsis. […]

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