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Sunday, 18 July 2010

What is a Query Letter?

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Word of the day; 
query – 
a question, of course, but, for writers, this has a special significance, so I’m devoting the whole blog to the dreaded Query Letter.

So, what is a query letter?
It’s a single page document, single spaced, in your very best English (or whatever language you’re writing in), telling the agent who you are, what your book is about and why he or she should bother to read the rest of your submission. The stuff accompanying your query letter is for a different blog. Let’s just concentrate on that all important letter. This is your sales pitch, your foot in the door, your one chance, with this specific agent, to get your name and your book noticed. Skimp on this and all the months, maybe years, of work on producing your novel, non-fiction masterpiece or biography will be for nought. So, it makes sense to spend a good deal of effort and time on this part of the process. 
Agents laugh (for the wrong reasons), cry (generally with frustration) and tear out their hair at some of the letters they receive. This is a showcase for the writer, so why should an agent bother to read any further if the letter is full of poor grammar, bad spelling and rambling inconsequences? The writing of this all important letter is a skill entirely separate from every other aspect of your writing, so I’ve attached a couple of links to expert advice as given by professionals in the field. My own advice is that you read, read and read again before you put finger to keyboard, pen to paper or lips to phone.
I could put the advice into my own words, but why do that when the masters have already done such a good job? So, I direct you to the sites below for the real thing.
But, before you start, I suggest you also have a read of a very good piece about the premise sentence on Word Play, K.M Weiland’s excellent resource for writers. 
You’ll need this information because the premise sentence is the one that will explain your book to everyone and help you sell the idea to the agent.
Here is a link to the blog; The Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog.
And, finally, has the definitive and comprehensive answer to the question of how to write a query letter to an agent.

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