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Query letter--something unconventional

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SRHowen

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OK, there has been a lot of talk on this thread about query letters. I once did the conventional sort, then, after a ton of rejections I tried something new. Now with this one I got rejections, but they praised my query letter--I got things like WOW, wish all queries were this easy to find the info I needed, can I barrow your query as an example of how a query should be? Info easy to find--and so on.


While many still turned down the ms, their list was full etc, I got personal responses. I got letters that said, I bet I am going to be sorry for turning this one down but I wouldn't know how to market it and so on. So, I thought--here goes--I'll share my format.

First off you need a one line plot summary. Yes, it's hell to write, but if you can't summarize your book in one line how will you ever talk about it if you hit the big time?

Next you need at least two already published books to compare it to.

Now the letter:







S.R.Howen

Assistant Editor​
Wild Child Publishing
Texas Town USA
Phone: (111) 123-4567 E-mail:


March 30, 2005​





The Agent Company, Inc.
100 west 10th St., Suite 10
New York, NY 10023-4366

Dear Mr. Agent,

I found you agency listing at Publisher’s Market Place, and visited your web site. Both your agency and your web site have the professionalism I have found lacking elsewhere. drop in some praise about them (we all like some praise)(and it shows you did some research) At Publisher’s Market Place, I noted your sale of the novel "BREED", by Owl Goingback to Signet Books and thought you might be interested in representing my current work. compare your book to something they have already agented--again shows research and that you didn't pick them willy nilly Below, please find the details of my novel, "TITLE OF YOUR BOOK". If interested, sample chapters, detailed and expanded synopsis, or complete manuscript are ready to be printed and mailed. this says the book is done, the synop is done, anything they might need is done and is ready to send--shows you are a professional who knows the needs of an agent or publisher.


TITLE: YES, I use this--I put a heading in just like an outline, in fact the query is formatted like an outline--"YOUR BOOK TITLE"

PLOT: This is where you put that one line plot summary


GENRE: Novel, Native American Mysticism with time travel.

WORD COUNT: About 91,000 words---finished

EXTRA INFO: this is where you need those novels to compare it to, not published by an author reped by the agent The novel combines the feel of Orson Scott Card's "PAST WATCH" with a mix of William Sarabande's "THE FIRST AMERICANS SAGA"---with a twist of light horror.

DESCRIPTION/SHORT SYNOPSIS: this is where you put in that very short synop/blurb about the book, give away the end--yes give away the end, they want to know you can wrap up a good story.

AUTHOR BIO; PREVIOUS PUBLICATIONS: self explanatory--yes? If no previous publications, then list schooling, what have you, relevant to your novel.


CONTACT INFO: Include every way they can get ahold of you.

SASE enclosed or I can be reached at [email protected] (personal e-mail), or through Wild Child Magazine at [email protected], or at (111) 123-4567 (TX number)---any time, day or night. If the machine picks up, the greeting will say you have reached Written Solutions Inc., leave a message. I check my messages frequently throughout the day.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

And that is exactly what my letters looked like, bold headings off to the side outline style and all.

How hard is that to write? In fact it's very very simple--anyone can do one. And agents and Editors like it because it gives them al the info they need right there, no digging. It shows respect, gives praise, and shows you are a pro who did research and didn't pick their name from a hat.

Hope this helps some of you--

Shawn
 

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Awesome. I am going to save this one for sure. So simple and logical.
Thank you!
 

dragonjax

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Terrific idea, Shawn! It's like a press release -- it gives the information to the agents EXACTLY how they want it: easily, and in a pithy manner. If authors want to be unconventional yet professional, this is one of the ways to go about it. (Humble opinion, of course.) :hat:
 

maestrowork

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Shawn's letter is a good template. If you don't want to do the "list" format, you can still follow hers to make sure you have everything covered: genre, word count, synopsis, title, contact info, etc.
 

SRHowen

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It also takes some of the fear and loathing out the query letter--simple to the point info in a simple format--no making it blend together.

It also makes a good note sheet--like Ray said, to make sure you have all of it covered including the research and "praise" part. Feed them a little word candy.

Shawn
 

JuliePgh

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Thank you, Shawn. I like this very much. I do have one question though... Do you keep your queries to one page each? When I followed your format, my spilled over onto a second page. I don't know if my synopsis is too long, or it's my generous use of margins and tabs. Thank you.
 

JuliePgh

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Okay, that begs the next question: just how important is it to have on one page? If the person sees the heading of "SYNOPSIS" towards the bottom, then he/she would understand why the letter spills over onto a second page.
 

Anaparenna

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Thank you for this. It's a wonderfully unique approach, which I predict might become a fad. :) It also challenged me as a writer, and renewed my own flagging interest in my piece (after a tough rejection by a noted agent after much consideration and interaction, the closest I've ever gotten).

I like what I ended up with, feel it's professionally useful, and am recommending it widely. Excellent innovation, and thanks for sharing your formula with us!
 

azbikergirl

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I tried this format and I got the entire query on one page by leaving out the author bio (I have no relevent publishing credits anyway). My blurb is fairly short, but it doesn't give away the ending. (Whether a query should reveal the ending or not depends on who you ask, so I went with not simply because to reveal the ending would take another large paragraph.)

I used it for my last assignment in a query letter course I took online, and the feedback I got was all negative. Nobody liked the format because it was "ugly." Putting myself in the shoes of a busy agent, I think I'd appreciate the format even if it is non-standard.
 

SRHowen

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azbikergirl said:
I used it for my last assignment in a query letter course I took online, and the feedback I got was all negative. Nobody liked the format because it was "ugly." Putting myself in the shoes of a busy agent, I think I'd appreciate the format even if it is non-standard.

LOL

A query or manuscript is not meant to be pretty. The reaction to Times vs Courier is a big one as well--many say, but C is ugly!

I got a lot of complements on this letter--I send only one page. Why? The synop in this query is meant to mirror the type of thing you would do in a five min face to face at a Conference. Quick, to the point, the basic plot and that's it. It's mean to make the agent or editor ask for more.

One line plot summary expanded to five or six lines--or fewer.

I taught this at writer's Conferences in Germany when I lived there--an afternoon workshop that everyone walked away from with a query and a basic synopsis--2 pages (the synop)

Remember, this letter is your sales pitch--the buyer (agent or editor) likes a tip sheet, or a new product fact sheet--What is it? Why should I care? Who is going to buy it? Where do I get more info? How do I get a hold of the author?

Shawn
 

Roger J Carlson

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Very Nice! I tried it too. I posted the results here:
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=208076&postcount=11
if you're interested.

The thing I like about it is its conciseness and professionalism. My first query letters were more like business letters. But everything I read said it should have a hook, or be quirky, or grab the reader by the throat, or some such. So I tried to do that without visible success.

To me, this was a breath of fresh air.
 

Jamesaritchie

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Query letter

I wouldn't call that query letter unconventional at all. It's pretty much perfect, in my opinion. If there's anything unconventional about it, it's that most writers don't take the time and trouble to write such a query.
 

JuliePgh

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Do you think this query is better suited for novels, or would it work well for children's manuscripts as well? At first I thought novels only, but now I'm starting to think it could be a good approach for the picture book queries and magazine queries. Does anyone see a negative side?
 

Jamesaritchie

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Courier

One thing about the Courier font. It is without any doubt the best font for editing, and only writers care about ugly or pretty in a manuscript. Editors care about ease of editing and how much faster Courier is than other fonts.

But this is only for editing. If it's going to be edited, use Courier 12. But if it isn't going to be edited, Courier is the wrong font to use. Query letters are not edited, and should be treated like any other business letter. Times New Roman, single spaced thorugh the body, and double-spaced only between paragraphs.
 

SRHowen

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No I did not use Courier in the query letter. Times and I used .75 margins as well.

I don't know how many times to say it or say it again, but courier is the wanted
font. When I first switched to it on my computer when Times was the preset, I thought oh man this is ugly, now I see tmes and I think--what the heck?

It's all in what you are used to and you have to remember that what your ms looks liek has nothing to do with what the printed book looks like.

Shawn
 

Euan H.

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Just thought I'd add my 2c. I've been using Shawn's letter as a template for my query. I've sent out 14 queries in the past three weeks or so.

Results so far:

Form rejects: 3
Request for partials: 2

So there y'go. It can't be my writing--they haven't seen any of that yet--so it must be the letter.
 

arkady

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Euan H. said:
Just thought I'd add my 2c. I've been using Shawn's letter as a template for my query. I've sent out 14 queries in the past three weeks or so.

Results so far:

Form rejects: 3
Request for partials: 2

So there y'go. It can't be my writing--they haven't seen any of that yet--so it must be the letter.

That's the question I've been wanting to ask -- not whether or not it "feels" right, but whether anyone's gotten results with it. Thanks, Euan. Anyone else who's had similar real-world experience with this format, please chime in.
 

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Roger J Carlson said:
Very Nice! I tried it too. I posted the results here:
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=208076&postcount=11
if you're interested.

The thing I like about it is its conciseness and professionalism. My first query letters were more like business letters. But everything I read said it should have a hook, or be quirky, or grab the reader by the throat, or some such. So I tried to do that without visible success.

To me, this was a breath of fresh air.

Roger, I noticed that you eliminated the "say-nice-things-about-the-agent" paragraph, presumably so you could squeeze it all on a single page. I wonder how many others have chosen to eliminate some of the items in the template, and if so, which ones.
 
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