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How to Send a Query Letter

Struggling to get noticed for your writing talents? Craft a professional calling card that will help you sell that first project to a literary agent or publisher.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Address your letter to the right person Address your query letter to the right person by name. Get the most up to date reference lists you can to avoid mailing someone who has left the agency or from using the wrong title.
  • TIP: Don't hesitate to call an agency or publishing company and ask who deals with new talent or where to send a query.
  • Step 2: Open with the concept Open your query with the concept of the story in one to two concise sentences followed by the title and genre. If it's a novel, tell the reader how long it is and if it is completed.
  • Step 3: Pitch your story Pitch your story in a brief paragraph next. Cover the characters, conflict, and action from the beginning to the very end. If you have relevant knowledge to your story or subject, you can also share it at this time.
  • Step 4: Tell them your qualifications Tell them about your qualifications including any referrals, education, and if you won or placed in a contest. If your resume is a little light, you can skip this part.
  • Step 5: Tailor your letter Tailor your letter for each person you send it to. You don't have to create a new letter from scratch each time, but tweak the wording to focus on what the reader is looking for -- and don't lie.
  • Step 6: Send them only what they want Send the reader only what they specifically ask for. Some agents may want to see a sample chapter, a short portfolio, or just a one page letter, so do your research.
  • TIP: Send along a self-stamped and addressed post card so the recipient can easily respond to your inquiry.
  • Step 7: Be professional Be professional and use plain letterhead and a conservative font such as courier or arial. Above all, don't let rejection deter you from your writing goals -- it's a marathon, not a sprint.
  • FACT: The Pony Express sent its first letter between Saint Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, in 1860.

You Will Need

  • Recipient name and address
  • Concise writing skills
  • Plain letterhead
  • Self-stamped and addressed post card (optional)

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