View Full Version : Query letter confusion

04-08-2006, 09:17 PM
I don't understand query letters yet.

They seem to be suggestions to editors about an article or story or poem, that hasn't been written yet.

Do people not on staff actually get a request from an editor before they committ to the work of writing?

OR: is it a query to an editor about your already written manuscript, to see if they are interested in publishing it? Or both?

For a short short story or a short, how much of the story should I provide (unsolicited) to an editor for his perusal?

Is there a FAQ about Query Letters somewhere?

Thenks, veddy much,

04-12-2006, 10:45 PM
Ted, this is a good question and one that's going to take some research, but well worth it.

There are numerous threads and posts here about queries and you're right it's a tricky business.

While I'm compiling, I'd direct you over to the Ask The Agent and Freelance boards, because I know I've seen topic covering queries recently in both.

I'm on it.

04-13-2006, 12:55 AM
Ted, the Novels board has a lot of discussion about query letters, too. Use the Search function to find the relevant threads before you post something new.

04-14-2006, 07:42 PM
Okay Ted and all, I did a little poking around and there are dozens of threads devoted to query letters. So, if you want to peruse them, do an advanced search for 'query' in the thread title and you'll get a day's reading - at least.

Basically a query is a letter to an agent or editor with the express purpose of inspiring them to ask for the entire story, article or manuscript, in hopes of landing representation or publication of the work. (For fiction, it is generally recommended that the ms be complete and edited to the best of your ability before the query is sent.)

It's also advisable to do your research and target agents or editors who've expressed an interest in the kind of work you're peddling.

The internet is laden with resources about how to compose a hot query letter, but I've found that you're likely to encounter much, much contradictory information. General consensus seems to be:

1) Be prepared. Have your best work at the ready and you ain't ready until it's your best.

2) Know who you are querying. Know their name. Know their literary interests. Know their favorite flavor of ice cream, because bribery helps. Anyway, you get the picture. Query the right people for the right brand of response.

3) Be concise. The people you are pitching get dozens to hundreds of these things a week. They don't have time for a twelve page sales seminar.

4) Be professional. This is a business.

Here are a few links to a couple of good query threads on these boards. And to anyone reading this - please feel free to add to the links or information here. I'm going to make this a sticky (meaning it'll always stay up at the top of this board.) People are always looking for this information.

This one shows an example of a query that got a lot of positive feedback (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9780&highlight=Query)

This one has a good discussion of querying basics (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25548&highlight=Query)

This has a nice overview of querying magazines (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=29601&highlight=Query)

(again, if you have any favorite query letter threads, just let me know and I'll add them here)

04-14-2006, 09:38 PM
Guys, thanks so much.

This is such a huge place, I didn't re-find this topic until it was brought back to the top today!

I shoudah thot that such a topic was done a lot, doh.
I'm on it now!

04-14-2006, 09:42 PM
I should have PMed you! It took me a while to get back to it. Hope it's helpful and great, good luck with your writing!

04-14-2006, 10:14 PM
2) Know who you are querying. Know their name. Know their literary interests. Know their favorite flavor of ice cream, because bribery helps. Anyway, you get the picture. Query the right people for the right brand of response.

Now this got my attention.

My first reaction was, "Great! How!!" Or is it emphatic hyperbole?

04-14-2006, 10:29 PM
Well, the ice cream part, maybe. There are a ton of resources for getting info on agents. Our own Dave Kuzminski has a wonderful resource here (http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/).

You can google literary agents and get an overwhelming amount of info fast. And I do mean overwhelming. The Writer's Market has a fairly comprehensive list with submission guidelines. Many agents and publishers have websites that will tell you exactly what they're looking for and how to pitch them.

One great piece of advice is to look in the acknowledgement pages of works similar to what you've done and get names there.

If you are looking for information and recommendations, don't forget our Bewares and Background Checks Board (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22).

Andrew Jameson
03-15-2007, 04:00 PM
In the Query Letter Critique (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=84) forum there is a sticky thread, Query Letter Resources (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=21248).

In the Ask the Agent (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=58) forum there is a sticky thread, On Queries and Agents: Information Sources (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13531).