View Full Version : Quary Letters

07-02-2005, 06:11 PM
Okay I get the gist of what a quary letter is. But how does one even go about wrighting one?

Cathy C
07-02-2005, 07:16 PM
Hi, dreamfoggy.

Actually, a query letter is quite simple to write once you understand the basics. The purpose of a query letter is to try to interest an agent or editor to ask for your book to read and decide if they want to buy it. So, how do you do that? Well, first you need to know the proper format for a business letter. (We'll start from absolute scratch, just in case some people reading this have never written one.) There are two primary business letter formats, block and modified block.

A block letter has all lines up against the left hand margin, with no centering or tab stops.

A modified block letter has the date and signature block in the center of the page and all other lines against the left margin, except for one tab stop at the beginning of each paragraph.

On to the letter:

First, you should center at the top of the page the following information in bold type (Note: This isn't part of the letter, but part of the paper -- as though it had been preprinted as letterhead stationery. Therefore, it's not included in whatever format you want to use for the letter. If you already have printed stationery, ignore this.)

Your name (and your pen name if you have one, such as: Tom Brown, w/a Bobby Jones)
Your street mailing address or post office box
Your city, state, zip (or city, province, postal code and country)
Your daytime telephone number
Your e-mail address (if any)

Next, the letter should be dated in one of two styles:

January 1, 2005 (American method)
1 January 2005 (European and military method)

The letter should name the addressee along with their address against the left margin.

John Smith
123 Main Street
New York, NY 10010

Drop down two lines and put a "reference" or "regarding" line, such as

Re: New book query

Next is the salutation, or greeting:

Dear Mr. Smith: (Note: NEVER address an agent or editor by their first name in a query, unless you've been given permission to do so -- such as if you are already friends or you met them at a conference.)

Now, you're starting the meat of the query. What do you say? Well, again, you want to interest the editor in your book, rather than you personally. You can do this in one of two ways. Some people try to draw the editor/agent into the story directly by quoting a bit of the book in the body of the letter. I prefer to keep mine more business-like and sell it like a product.

But in either method, you generally want to use the first paragraph to give them basic info, the second (and/or third) paragraph to tell about the book, and the final paragraph to tell about you and your previous writing credits (if any). Here's the one that I did for our first novel (I write with a co-author). The query sold the novel and it's on the shelf now.

I am in the process of completing an historical fiction novel entitled, Road to Riches--The Great Railroad Race to Aspen, which I would be interested in submitting to your company. The book will be approximately 90,000 words and contain 15-20 historic black and white photos.

In 1887, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, led by David Moffat and William Jackson, put together a mixed race crew of track layers such that the State of Colorado had never seen. The goal was Aspen. The trophy was survival. The race of the century had begun. The competition to the south was the Colorado Midland Railroad, owned by millionaire J.J. Hagerman. To the north, the enemy was the powerful Union Pacific Railroad. In a letter to his Board of Directors, who were still stinging from the recent bankruptcy of the Denver & Rio Grande, William Jackson stated, "You cannot afford not to build."

By the time the D&RG entered the fray, the Midland had built a standard gauge line halfway to Aspen from Colorado Springs. The U.P. had surveyed the full route from Grand Junction. Starting in March of 1887, the Denver & Rio Grande started building a combination narrow and standard gauge track bed from Redcliffe, near what is now Vail. Using over 1,000 rusteaters of mixed nationalities and 600 draft animals, they plowed through plains, mountains and the solid granite of Glenwood Canyon, up the Roaring Fork Valley. They reached Aspen, 87 miles later, on November 1, 1887, a full three months before the Midland. Road to Riches tells the story of Luke Ballister, a fictional character hired to lead the spur project as gang boss. I have placed my character side-by-side with the real people doing the real jobs. The actual day to day details include multiple saboteurs, misdirected supplies, starving animals and range wars. I have spent many hours reviewing the actual records and telegrams to and from the canyon construction project, engineering documents, articles, books and biographies of the parties which give the reader the true feeling of ‘being there’.

Please advise whether you would be interested in this novel by replying in the enclosed, self-addressed stamped envelope. Thank you for your consideration.

After you've finished the letter, which should be no more than a single page, you should close the letter with your name and signature (signed between the two lines).

Very truly yours,

Tom Brown

Note that we didn't state our credentials, since we didn't have any at the time. But because the story fit the editor's line, they weren't concerned with our background.

Does that help?

Andrew Jameson
07-02-2005, 08:29 PM
In addition to Cathy C's excellent example, you might wish to peruse the thread stickied near the top of this very forum: On Queries and Agents: Information Sources (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13531). It has links to more examples of query letters, dos and don'ts, and step-by-step how-tos.

07-02-2005, 08:54 PM
There's no way to say this tactfully, so I'll just say it. A query letter is not a "quary" letter, and a query letter with mis-spellings will not be read.

- VIctoria

07-03-2005, 01:47 AM
There's no way to say this tactfully, so I'll just say it. A query letter is not a "quary" letter, and a query letter with mis-spellings will not be read.

- VIctoria
*giggles* I realized I made the mistake after I had posted, and as I was getting
ready to leave didn't have time to correct it. Thanks.:D

07-03-2005, 04:33 AM
. But how does one even go about wrighting one?

And after you correct "quary"....