What to Include in a Query Letter

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To many publishers, the query letter is the introduction to the possibility of working with you as a writer. Before you get too far into all the details of what to include in one, however, you need to make sure that the publisher to which you are submitting your idea prefers a query letter to an actual proposal or the full manuscript.

While many publishers are just fine with a well thought out, one-page query, there are those who prefer much more and are willing to spend the time to read 10 to 100 pages.Once you’ve determined that the publisher you’re considering allows or prefers query letters, then it’s time to ensure you’ve got a checklist that accounts for all the necessary components.

Consider this your cheat sheet:

The Date – A publisher will want the date listed on the letter for their records.

The Status – Let the publisher know whether or not you are submitting the query simultaneously to different publishers (check to make sure the publisher allows this). Also include the percentage of manuscript completion (i.e., completed, near completion).

The Hook – How are you going to grab the publisher’s attention? You need to start with a strong hook. A good hook for a book about cyber bullying might go as follows:

More than half of all young people have admitted to being cyber bullied in some form or another.

In such a short amount of space, you are telling the publisher about your topic while at the same time informing him/her of the potential appeal or market reach.

Keep in mind that you never want to use your hook as an opportunity to introduce yourself or ask the publisher for sympathy because you’ve never been published. Keep it professional and confident.

The Pitch: What are you prepared to offer the publisher? Here is where you tell him/her that you have ten chapters written of a book about cyber bullying and include a very brief summary in a sentence or two. Including a title or working title is beneficial.

The Body: In two or three paragraphs, you want to take your hook and turn it into an informative breakdown on how your book is going to read

The Sale: While the idea for the book is crucial, who is behind the idea is just as important. The publisher is going to be making an investment in you, so let him/her know why you’re qualified to write the book, the research you’ve done on the market, and how you plan to help sell it to the masses.

The Close: Kept short and sweet, the letter’s close should simply include a sincere thanks and your full name and contact information.

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About Author

Amy Day

Amy Day is the Associate Publisher and a contributing writer for Strategy Magazine. She has an MBA in Marketing Communications and Strategic Leadership from Southern Methodist University and has been on staff with Strategy for nearly a decade. She is an award-winning business executive with customer service credentials from the Disney Institute. In addition to editorial oversight, her regular beat includes business, customer service, publishing, and family/child wellness.

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