Monday, February 7, 2011

On Queries

For my newest blog post, as well as my first post in 2011, I’d like to discuss something that we haven’t really been talking about thus far: queries. As our first impression of you and your writing, query letters are incredibly important for a new writer hoping to be published. A bad query letter could disguise a fantastic manuscript, so it is definitely a good idea to take the time to make sure that your query is intriguing enough to merit a second glance (or a request for a partial).

With that in mind, here are a few tips for writing a successful query letter:
  • Language: this is a kind of cover letter, so make sure you maintain a level of formality throughout the letter. Cover letters that begin with “Yo Elaine,” for example, do not make me optimistic about reading the rest.
  • Plot summary: remember my previous blog post about using details in manuscripts? The same thing applies to queries—we’re not looking for an incredibly detailed description of every major and minor event in your story. Just give us an overview of the major plot elements as well as an idea of who the characters will be.
  • DO include your contact information (name, address, etc.) as well as any accolades you have received as an author.
  • DON'T include the first few chapters of your manuscript in the body of your email—we will request that from you once your query is screened.
I know that writing query letters can be difficult and confusing, but it’s worth it to take the time to write a good one, since a good query letter is that much more likely to be requested as a partial.

Happy writing, and good luck!


AE said...

I have a question that I hope you'll be able to answer. My query has been turned down by some and received some requests. However, that was about six months ago. I have since looked at my book and am not sure it's living up to perfection. Do I still send what they've requested for late? Or do I revamp and then try to still send it? Or query again to those I already got a "yes, we want to see more" from?

Naomi said...

Everyone will probably tell you different things on this, but I'm of the firm opinion that you should never send in something that's not your best work. (Note the difference between perfection and your best work.) If you're doubting the quality of your work because you're scared to see your baby go out into the world, send the requested manuscript out and let it go. If you're doubting the quality of your work because you've found serious problems, fix them before sending your requested materials in. You'll only get one shot at having your materials reviewed; you want make sure it's your best one.

AE said...

Thank you! I don't have "serious" problems, I have ones where the words don't seem to flow right. The plot works, the characters are strong. But because of this readability issue in some areas, I keep erasing and redoing. Do you have an entry on when to say "enough is enough"?