Tag Archives: book query letter

Display Natural Talant in Your Query Letter: 3 Tips

Sometimes people have a knack for writing their own query letter. Often they don’t.
It’s not because they can’t write well; it’s because the query is a sales tool and few authors, fiction or nonfiction, are trained in sales techniques.
Queries have a second obstacle built in: until an author is published, they often don’t know what the publishing industry expects them to include in the query or the book proposal. They don’t know the buzzwords, they aren’t sure how to position their work in the market, they don’t know what trends are current and what is fading rapidly away. The mistargeting of only one of these items is enough to make an agent or publisher stop reading and move on to the next query.
Practice is fine. Publishing industry savvy is much, much better.
Display natural talant by:
–Reading industry publications: Publisher’s Weekly, Writer’s Digest, etc.
–Read industry blogs: Huffington Post has several, and up-and-coming authors often blog about their experiences.
–Subscribe to industry newsletters. Publisher’s Weekly has a free e-newsletter, as does Writer’s Digest. There are tons of free e-newsletters out there. I sift through a few dozen every week.

3 Common Flaws that Sink Query Letters

In the twenty years I’ve been connecting authors with agents and publishers, I’ve rewritten a lot of query letters. The most common flaws that keep writers from capturing an agent or publisher’s attention are:
–Lack of a tagline. This is a single sentence that encapsulates the protagonist’s journey, the story’s universal appeal, the audience, and the category. Although queries can succeed if they don’t have taglines, the agent/publisher will have to read the entire first paragraph (or more) before their interest is sparked. That’s too long. Taglines captivate in ten words.
–Descriptions that confuse and/or fail to evoke an emotional response. The one or two paragraphs that describe the story need to relay the protagonist’s journey and the universal aspects of the story. In order to do this, these paragraphs must be clear, concise, and evoke the emotional tone of the story. Too much detail, inclusion of details that aren’t important at this initial review stage, and the wrong details are just some of the ways the description fails to open the door.
–Skipping any information about the author. Writer’s don’t have to be celebrities to get book deals. They do have to make a connection with the agent or publisher, however. This works two ways. First, it makes the agent or acquisitions editor a champion for the manuscript. Second, it proves that the author can find ways to connect with readers.
Avoid these three common flaws and improve your chances of being offered a contract.