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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Query Letter: The conclusion

And we’re back for Part 4 of my query letter workshop. As always, remember what worked for me, may not work for you as all agents are different and want different things.  ALWAYS read the agents/editors guidelines for their recommendations.

Let’s talk about your bio.  First the things you can and should include .  Other manuscripts, short stories, poems, articles that you’ve published.  List the title and whom you sold it to.  If it’s a book, make sure to list sales numbers.  They’re going to want to know you write something that sells. 

Also include if you belong to any writers groups like the RWA (Romance Writer’s of America), the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), MWA (Mystery Writers Association), HWA (Horror Writers Association), SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers association), etc. (I suggest joining one or a few of these organizations, because they offer great support and information.  My RWA chapter gives wonderful workshops once a month, which has really helped my writing.)

If you’re an expert in something that’s pertinent to what you’ve written.  For instance, you were in the army for 20 years and went to Afghanistan and you’ve written a book about a corporal in the Army who’s been deployed to that same area.  They’re going to want to know that. 

Things NOT to include in your query:  what your English grades were in school.  That this is your first ever “fiction novel”.  That you’re the next JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Steven King, etc.  That you’re in prison.  This list goes on and on.

When in doubt, leave it out.  If they offer representation and want to know, they’ll ask. 

If you have no relative experience, you’ve never published anything, don’t belong to any official writer’s groups, and therefore have no official bio, leave this area blank.  It’s better to not list anything than to list the fact that you’re a newbie.  

At the time, I was considering a contract for my book, THE EXILED (then titled FALLEN).  Since it didn’t work out for various reasons, I never signed, but this is what my bio looked like when I queried my agent.

My young adult book, under the working title FALLEN, has been offered a contract from XXX publisher. We are currently undergoing negotiations. I am a member of the RWA and CFRW.

And now onto the salutation.  All you want to do here is thank them for their time and let them know you look forward to hearing from them.  Don’t add what you have to offer them, like an offer for the full or partial, or a synopsis.  They know—or hope—that you have a full manuscript ready and polished for them and they’ll request whatever it is that they normally request. 

If they want a certain number of pages, make sure to let them know you’ve followed their guidelines and have included xx number of pages. 

Here’s what mine looked like:

Per your guidelines I have enclosed a synopsis and the first 50 pages.  Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Then you want to close the letter with “Sincerely” and your name and contact information. 

Then include whatever they’ve requested and you’re done. 

Tomorrow, I’ll show you what the whole thing should look like, if  you’ve followed my advice and  a list of resources you can use to help you write that letter if you don’t want to follow my advice, including my own agent’s template for how she wants to see queries. 

Until tomorrow…