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Thread: Query vs Cover Letter

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Heavenlydemonick's Avatar
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    Query vs Cover Letter

    Hello,
    I'm just starting to query some agents and I'm noticing a lot of agents requesting a query letter and a synopsis or a "cover letter" and a synopsis. Now, I was under the impression that a synopsis is in a query letter, so when they word it like this does that mean they want a separate complete synopsis along with the query letter? And is a "cover letter" any different from a query letter?
    Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
    The moving hand, having writ... AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    I'm no expert, but it seems you've mixed yourself up. Some fast definitions:

    Query letter is a sales tool which tells a little about your book and about yourself as a writer, if there's anything to tell, in hopes of getting the agent to ask to see the manuscript. You're trying to make your book sound fascinating, and the letter matches its overall tone.

    Cover letter explains what's enclosed and who asked for it. It's short and straightforward.

    Synopsis retells the entire story, including the ending, in present tense with no dialogue. These are often written in multiple lengths and at more than one level of depth, so you've got one ready to go that's a single page, one that's several pages, and one long version.

    So while your query might include a paragraph which is a micro-mini-synopsis, it needn't include the ending and is certainly not a complete synopsis.

    Yes, they want a complete and separate synopsis along with the query letter.

    Those who want a cover letter rather than a query are saying they don't need to see the 'sell' letter.

    Maryn, hoping this helps
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  3. #3
    To build on what Maryn says, a query should be written from the POV of the main character and should outline who they are, what their problem is, and what will happen if they don't sort it out. If you have more than one POV character in your novel, pick the main one. If you aren't sure who that is, try picking the one your book opens with. More information and squirrels keen to knaw on you query can be found in QLH (password = vista)

    A cover letter is more typically used by UK agents (while US agents ask for a query).

    The synopsis outlines the plot as it happens in the book.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Heavenlydemonick's Avatar
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    I guess i'm just confused as to why some agents want a query letter AND a synopsis and why some prefer a cover letter as opposed to a query letter.

  5. #5
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heavenlydemonick View Post
    I guess i'm just confused as to why some agents want a query letter AND a synopsis
    Because a proper query letter doesn't include a full synopsis. A full synopsis, as Maryn explained, is a separate artifact from the query letter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heavenlydemonick View Post
    and why some prefer a cover letter as opposed to a query letter.
    A query letter is what you send when you're not sending the full manuscript. A cover letter is what you send to cover a full manuscript, although some agents will request a cover letter for a partial manuscript.

    Think about the meanings of the words. 'Query' is when you're posing a question: 'Do you want to see this?' 'Cover' is when you're telling them what's included: 'Here's my stuff.'
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Heavenlydemonick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie View Post

    A query letter is what you send when you're not sending the full manuscript. A cover letter is what you send to cover a full manuscript, although some agents will request a cover letter for a partial manuscript.

    Think about the meanings of the words. 'Query' is when you're posing a question: 'Do you want to see this?' 'Cover' is when you're telling them what's included: 'Here's my stuff.'
    There's one agent i'm interested in that requests a cover letter with a synopsis, no query letter is mentioned anywhere....

  7. #7
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    A query letter is just that. A one page letter. A synopsis is anywhere up to five pages, and can be single-spaced. A cover letter does just what it says and covers the synopsis. In a cover letter, you talk about yourself, any previous publications, etc. A cover letter does not contain a mini-synopsis.

    If you have a full synopsis, you really do not need the query letter, but some agents and editors read the query in order to decide whether they want to read the entire synopsis, which is not at all a bad idea. A really lousy query letter means you won't read the synopsis. It can be a time saver.

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