Maybe you don’t feel like reading an essay about queries. Why would you? You need to get one written, RIGHT NOW OMFG EMERGENCY NOW NOW NOW. Okay, yo. Cool. I can give you a short ‘n dirty query bulletpoint list so that you can skim it real fast and get back to work.
- A query letter is a BUSINESS LETTER. If you’re sending it by postal mail, format it exactly like your standard business letter. That link there will take you to Purdue University’s guide.
- If by e-mail, you’re going to start with the salutation and leave out all contact information with your signature except your name, your e-mail address, and your URL.
- WRITE IT LIKE A BUSINESS LETTER. Don’t print it on sparkly paper, don’t enclose confetti, don’t scent it with your favorite Axe spray, don’t. Don’t enclose food, bugs, hair, MONEY, character family tree– seriously. The only thing that goes in that envelope is the letter and SASE.
- WRITE IT LIKE A BUSINESS LETTER. Do not attach documents, pictures, totally cute cat JPGs, no GIFs, do not doge or lolcat the subject line, do not ask people to follow links to your query letter which is elsewhere, do not ask them to read the book that’s posted on your website.
- WRITE IT LIKE A BUSINESS LETTER. Don’t tell the agent about your aunt Suzie or how much your kids like your book. Nobody cares.
- Do tell them if Oprah Winfrey personally promised to endorse your book and include her assistant’s e-mail address so they can verify that.
- Your characters cannot sign contracts. Do not let them write your query letter.
- Don’t write a query letter that’s longer than a page. If in e-mail, 3 substantial paragraphs should do it.
- Paragraph One: My name is FROG WOBBLER SR, ESQ. I am querying you about my novel SNOT ROCKETS. It is a MIDDLE GRADE novel, complete at 45,000 words. I read in BABBLE DAILY that you’re especially looking for SNOT-RELATED MIDDLE GRADE, so I think this might be a good fit.
- Paragraph Two: Concisely, in ONE paragraph, tell us who the protagonist of SNOT ROCKETS is, their conflict, and the resolution.
- Do not explain your themes, the important lessons children will learn, discuss the symbolism, etcetera.
- Don’t talk smack about other books. SNOT ROCKET may be middle grade for smart, discerning kids who don’t like paranormal garbage like SHADOWED SUMMER, but that’s something you say in your inside voice. You don’t know who the agent represents, or everything they love.
- Only talk about what IS in your book, not what ISN’T.
- Paragraph Three: My work has been published in (name of publication, and not “my mom’s gardening newsletter,” either.)
- If you have REAL, substantial awards, mention them here. I am a PUSHCART PRIZE NOMINEE. Do not include super-local, dinky things. If the agent has to Google the SOCIETY OF LITTLE FREAKY FROGS OF THE MIDWEST to find out if it’s real, it really doesn’t count.
- Paragraph Three (II): If you don’t have publications or real, substantial awards, then wrap this up short and sweet. This manuscript is available for your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
- Paragraph Three (III): Even if you do have publications and awards, wrap it up nicely; see above.
- FROG WOBBLER SR, ESQ, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.frogwobbler.com
- And now…
- THE RULE THAT SUPERCEDES ALL RULES FOREVER AND EVER AMEN:
- If the agent’s submission guidelines contradict this, DO WHAT THE AGENT SAYS. It is a test. It’s a test to weed out people who don’t pay attention, aren’t concerned with guidelines, and probably will be a pain in the ass to work with later because they’re just gonna do what they want alllllll the time and have to be wrangled and jeez, they only get 15% for this, and it’s not ENOUGH AND…
That’s it. Nothing else. No bells, no whistles, no foolin’ around, no extraneous detail. It’s a business letter with three paragraphs: about you, about the book, about your gratitude. The end.
(Get back to work, slacker!)