Saturday, February 25, 2012

Query Letters that Sell--6 things you may not know

We may love 'em, we may hate 'em but query letters are necessary in opening the way for you to sell your work.

When I began writing I had no idea that query letters were even in existence, and so when I realized I'd have to write one or two, (smile) I studied them out. I practiced. I discovered that there were some similar elements in writing a query letter that most writer's knew about, and that's where I started; i.e, always making sure I had a specific editor listed to begin my letter, single spacing the document and double spacing in-between paragraphs because it was important in making my document look professional, getting the editor hooked by my first paragraph through dialogue or an engaging summary, and so on. What I'm going to tell you now may be a surprise, but I hope it's a pleasant one because query letters that sell have as much to do with the editor as with what you have written.

Here's what you need to know in no particular order:
  1. Feel like your book should be on the next best sellers list? Maybe it will be, but the editor is a human being with good days and bad days. I know that you might not think of an editor as being "human" but they are. I once heard someone speak about an editor getting a divorce. The first manuscript on her desk the next morning was, you guessed it, about divorce. Although the plot sounded intriguing and the characters were well-developed, the editor passed. She just couldn't get through a book with divorce as the main element--at least not right then.
  2. A positive rejection from an editor really means something. If you get a typed-written response with hand-written notes in the margins, count yourself lucky. Do something about what is written in the margins before querying the next editor.
  3. Editors frequently move from one publishing house to another and so if your query is rejected, keep tabs on the publishing house, tweak your query as needed, and re-send when the new editor hits the desk.
  4. If you're a new writer, don't tell the editor you're a new writer. Don't beg, either, for the editor to publish you. Be professional, and the editor will see you as a professional.
  5. Let the editor know of your professional experience outside of writing. If you're a nurse and your book is primarily focused in a hospital setting, let the editor know you have experience in this arena. if you've cleaned houses for a living, like I have, and your book is around a murder in an old hotel where the main character is the cleaning lady, like mine is, it's a good idea to tell the editor briefly of your cleaning experience and working with others in this field.
    Photo by Kanamas, courtesy of Flickr
  6. Do your publishing house research. Just because your book is great doesn't mean that it fits in nicely with the other titles the publishing house has published. Check this out! This means going to the library or bookstore and actually reading (or skimming through) their most current titles. Your query letter then reflects what the publishing house has already published and how you fit into this niche. You can also find out right away if your book doesn't fit into their niche and can focus your attention on submitting a query elsewhere.

A query letter that sells has to be written succinctly and correctly, but it also has to land on that editors desk at just the right time and at just the right place. Make sure you have a winner by remembering and applying the points above.




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