Good morning! Coffee Time with Kara is a new, weekly feature here on the blog where I–Kara Leigh Miller, Editorial Director for Anaiah press–will share tips, tricks, and secrets about writing, querying, publishing, and everything in between. So, grab your cup of coffee and get comfy…
I’ve heard authors say that writing the novel is the easy part. It’s the query letter that’s the most difficult part of the process. And I can sympathize. I mean, how do you condense a multi-thousand word novel into just a couple of paragraphs? It really isn’t easy, and it takes practice to write a stellar query.
So, here are Five Query Essentials:
- A Greeting. A query letter is a business communication; it’s like a cover letter that you’d send to a potential future employer, so it should be treated as such. You wouldn’t send a cover letter and resume to a job with, “Dear Human Resources Person” and you shouldn’t send a query letter with a generic greeting, either. Be sure to include the editor’s name, and if there isn’t anyone specific to address, use the publisher’s name: Dear Anaiah Press.
- Personalization. Publishing is split on this one. Some say personalization is a must while other say it’s optional. Personally, I like it. It shows me you’ve done your research and you know who you’re querying. And this doesn’t necessarily have to be personalized to the editor. I’ve had queries that have included personalization about the publisher–a book we published that they enjoyed or how our statement of faith inspired them.
- Pitch. This is typically two paragraphs and it’s the pitch for your book. It should be engaging and hook the reader into wanting to know more. Focus on the characters, plot, and stakes. There’s no need to give backstory or themes or world building.
- Book Details. This is all the pertinent information about your book–title, word count, genre, and comp titles (optional). I can’t tell you how many queries I receive that don’t include this information, and then I have to guess what it’s supposed to me. Please don’t make me guess.
- Bio and Contact Information. Include who you are, writing awards, professional affiliations, previous publications, social media links, and contact information. If you don’t have any prior publications and don’t belong to any groups, that’s okay, too! It’s fine to state this is your first novel.
Like your novel, you should never be satisfied with the first draft of your query letter. Don’t be afraid to write it and rewrite it and even write a couple different versions of it before sending it out to agents and/or publishers.
Be sure to come back next Monday when I’ll be talking about scene breaks and when/how to use them properly. In the meantime, if you have any questions or have a topic you want me to address, leave it in the comments.
Keep on writing 🙂