Advice is everywhere. You can search for great samples, read agent and editor’s interviews, or swing by Writer’s Digest for the instruction on eye-catching queries. I recommend doing all three in your pursuit of crafting something compelling. But before you do, keep these five elements in mind:
Share Details: It’s amazing how many query letters are void of the most important details required to ascertain whether the manuscript is a good fit for a list. Word count, genre, tropes (if applicable), comparable titles, and yes, contact information. Before you hit ‘Send,’ check your query submissions. Some organizations and publishers will not accept queries void of these necessary details.
Hook Them: This isn’t your synopsis, it’s a teaser, much like a book jacket or longer pitch. You want the reader to have enough information to make an informed decision if the manuscript would be worth reading, align with their taste and list, and of course have the required elements suggesting sustainable sales. But you also want to hook them. Your goal is to make them feel as if they can’t wait one more day to find out what happens.
Sell Yourself: In this case, YOU! Don’t shy away from sharing what you’ve accomplished. Share your qualifications, previous books, or if you’re a new author, what you’ve achieved in the writing world thus far—published short stories, contest wins, articles written, or professional experience in the related field. You don’t need to be a social media influencer or expert in the industry to write your book (although it’s preferred on select non-fiction projects). If you’re still struggling to “sell,” focus on your passion about the work, have a compelling reason why you wrote it, and of course a darn good pitch and manuscript to back it up.
Inspire Vision: Your book has similarities to a movie or a well-known character, so sharing that may help the reader get a vision of what, or who, you’re going for. You might go for a high-concept pitch or a catchy tagline, or a hook that grabs their attention. This also includes being unique in your pitch. While there is mandatory content in a query letter, you have creative license with the rest. So, let your author light shine. Be creative and inspire the reader’s vision in a compelling way.
Be Professional: I can’t say this enough, be professional in your language and in your approach. I just saw a startling post on Twitter where a rejected author posted a disparaging comment about a literary agent who had rejected them. This prompted a cringe-worthy battle string. While rejection hurts and sometimes words trigger, using social media (or any communication channel) is not worth the damage to your reputation. Keep it friendly, professional, and light. Be the person that would make mama proud!
Expert Insights and Resources: