What the Crap is a Query?

Ahh the query letter. I know for some of you, who’ve just finished NaNoWriMo you haven’t even begun to think about queries, or maybe you have, I really don’t know. But...
For some of you, I can see your eyebrows raise, you reach up and scratch your head and wonder, “What the crap is a query letter?”
Well today, I’m going to answer that question.
Obviously, there are many of you that know what a query letter is, how to write one and who to send it to, however, we all started somewhere, at the beginning when we too scratched our heads and stared blankly at the word query not having any idea what it means.
In short, a query letter is your one page super awesome “blurb style” cover letter that you send to agents or for that matter, publishers.
This is usually your one and only chance to make a great impression, share your story, a hint of your writing style and voice, while giving the agent/publisher all the necessary information about who you are.
A query letter should be one page—at the most—singled spaced and a simple type font like Times New Roman 12pt. Do not cram as much as you can, choose a small font and make the size even tinier. This will only result in your query making a fast exit from the inbox of a super awesome agent/publisher and into the trash can.
So what do you include in a query letter?
Well, to start, a nice simple salutation, “Dear Mr. Or Mrs. Or Ms. Super awesome first and last name of agent. Do your research. There is no reason why you can’t track down the first and last name of the agent you want to query. “Dear Agent” is one of the worst mistakes you can make. If you don’t know who they are, why do they care who you are?
Publishers are a little different, some rely solely on Acquisitions Editors, these are editors within said company that as an extra part of their job read submissions and find new talent. Sometimes it’s hard to find the name, the last name, so... if you must, you may not have a choice, Dear Acquisitions Editor is the way to go, but, at least make it a little more personal and include the publishing companies name.
What goes in the body of the e-mail? How do you show that you are a great writer, your story rocks and the agent/publisher will die if they don’t read any more?
Simple, write a kick ass blurb. Think the back cover of a book, a few short paragraphs telling you what the novel is about, it’s always done in a way that leaves you slightly hanging but let’s you know what you can expect from the novel. It introduces the main character, it tells you what that character is trying to achieve, it tells you what’s at stake, and it tells you what happens if the MC fails.
Carmen is a fire-breathing, people eating dragon—only she doesn’t like the taste of humans. In order to save her kingdom she must swallow back the need to gag and chomp down on every human that’s set out to destroy her species. But if she can’t learn to protect her family, filling her belly with humans and fighting for a kingdom that wants to make her queen, she’ll die.
Now, obviously that’s not perfect, but, you get my point. And no, my latest story isn’t about Carmen a fire breathing, human eating dragon. But, it does answer those three questions, in a slightly better than a blah voice. Right?  Carmen needs to save her kingdom. What’s a stake? Her life, her family and her kingdom, and what happens if she fails? She dies.
The body of your query should only be about 250 words, three shortish paragraphs. Usually the first sentence, or first paragraph is your hook line, it’s what propels the agent/publisher to move to the next paragraph because it’s done in such a way that leaves the reader wanting more.
Remember to always, always, always, include word count and genre. If this is a middle grade or young adult query, I’ve heard most agents like to know the age of the main character.
At the end, remember to close your query with a nice end salutation, something like Sincerely. Include your full name, phone number, address, e-mail... just to cover your bases.

You might think, wow, that sounds easy, but the extent of writing query letters is a fine art, it takes many drafts to perfect and is often times harder than writing and editing an entire novel. You have to sell yourself, and your work with one page. The pressure is huge.
However, there are many great sites out there that can help you, just as they once (and in all honestly, still) helped me.  Here are a few of my favourite places to learn how to hone your skills when it comes to writing queries.
Absolute Write – They are a forum, with thread upon thread about how to make your query sparkle, and if you become a participating member, you can also post your query to gain helpful feedback.
Query Shark – Need I say more? This site is the go to for all things query. If you read this from start to finish you’ll know just what it takes and how to achieve your query writing goals.
If this isn’t enough informative material, simply type in how to write a query! You aren’t the first, nor will you be the last that needs help with this.

Writing Query Letters is something we will revisit, for sure, because you can never, ever gain enough information about this topic. Nor is one post ever enough to share all the great tips and tricks to writing a great query letter.

Also come back on Thursday! That’s when we start the super awesome, mouth watering, festive giveaway known as the 13 Days of Christmas Giveaways. For 13 Days you’ll get to learn about some great Authors, and they will be GIVING things away! Like books. And who doesn’t like books? And, and, there is also going to be a massive, super huge GRAND PRIZE giveaway!!

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