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Components of a Good Query Letter

Components of a Good Query Letter

by Joan Y. Edwards

A query letter is a letter sent to a publisher, editor, or agent asking for permission to send a full manuscript, first three chapters, synopsis, or proposal for a writing project. A query letter can be sent by email or snail mail. It should be single-spaced.  Check the submission guidelines of the publisher, editor, or agent before sending one. Get the correct names and snail mail address, phone number, and email address. I put all this information in the heading of my draft letter.

Publisher A:
Favorite Publishing Co., Inc
Arnold Q. Like, Editor
350 Broadway
New York, New York 10001

We do not publish children’s books.
We publish adult fiction and non-fiction.
Query us first through snail mail.

Publisher B:
Books of all Kinds Literary Agency,
Susie Q. Doddikins, Agent
5400 Literary Lane
Racine, Wisconsin 33333

We only represent children’s and adult books.
Query through online form.
We do not accept snail mail submissions.
We will respond within 3 months.

Publisher C:

Short Works Publishing Co.
4444 Jim Dandy Lane
Spiderville, California 77777

We represent children and adults short works.
We publish fiction and non-fiction
We publish picture books, chapter books, short stories
We do not publish middle grade, young adult, or adult novels

Email complete manuscript as Word document (doc).
Snail mail is accepted.

Quiz for you:
1. If your manuscript is a fictional children’s picture book about butterflies.
Which publisher/agent above is right for it? Choice A, B, C, or None of these.

  1. If your manuscript is an adult novel, where could you send it?
    Which publisher/agent above is right for it? Choice A, B, C, or None of these.
  2. If you have a short story, where could you send it?
    Which publisher/agent above is right for it? Choice A, B, C, or None of these.

Components of a Good Draft Query Letter

  1. Follows the guidelines of the publisher or agent
  • Heading: Gives all your contact information

Phone Number
Email address

  1. Heading: Gives the name, address, and phone number of agency.
    Gives the exact name of the Editor or Agent you are querying

Name of Agency
Name of Agent
City, State, Zip Code
Phone Number
Email Address
Guidelines (copy link and text of guidelines into the draft query, take them out in final query to be sent)

  1. First paragraph: Contains your 25 word pitch
  • Second paragraph: Contains a short paragraph similar to the following: I hope you’ll publish my book or I hope you’ll be my agent. I believe you’re right for this book because:
    Tell three reasons or choose the best reason why you want this publisher or agent.
    Tell about your favorite book the publisher or agent published.

You believe Name of Agency or Publisher is the right agent or publisher for your manuscript because

Reason 1. You love the fill in the blank: humor, information, mystery of a book that they wrote or helped get published.

Reason 2. Tell how your book is similar to one of their successful publications.

Reason 3. If the guidelines mention certain interests of publisher or agent, mention it, if it is related to your book.

  1. Tell 3 reasons or choose the best reason why you’re the best person to write this story.
    Give writing credits.
    Tell why you wrote this story.
    Mention your website and/or blog with number of visitors/subscribers each month or year.
  • Question: May I send you? and Thank You Paragraph.
    Thank you for considering my work. May I send you (Name of your manuscript)? I understand according to your guidelines that you will respond in three months. I look forward to hearing from you.
  • Sincerely yours,
    Your Name

SAMPLE QUERY LETTER (Purely Fictional names, addresses, and books)

Stanley Success Bradford
7331 Long Road
Euphoria, Texas 89899

Books of all Kinds Literary Agency
Susie Q. Doddikins, Agent
5400 Literary Lane
Racine, Wisconsin 33333

Re: Bradford -“The Pig That Won the Race “

Dear Ms. Doddikins:

Porky hated racing, but entered the race to help save Farmer in the Dell’s farm. He didn’t realize that all contestants had to take a bath. Can a bubble bath entice him to follow through to save the farm or will all the animals be sold?

I like the high quality books and authors you represent as an agent. I especially enjoy the humor and the organization tips in the New York Best Seller, “Feng Shueying Your Pig Sty” by Lisa Swineberg. I read in your blog that you grew up on a farm.

I grew up on a farm, too. We raised pigs. I’ve studied pigs for three years at the University of Pigdom and documented my findings about getting pigs to bathe. I have written ten books on the Best Seller List. My website, www.StanleySuccessBradford.com  and www.bloggingaboutpigs.wordsexpress.com  blog have a thousand visitors each month.

Thank you for considering “The Pig That Won the Race.” May I send you the complete manuscript? I understand that you will send your decision in three months. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Stanley Success Bradford

Here are four other sources with samples and/or information about eye-catching, heart-touching queries.

  1. Allena Tapia. About.com. “A Sample Query:”
  2. Charlotte Dillon “Query” http://www.charlottedillon.com/query.html
  3. Agent Query.com. “How to Write a Query Letter” http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx
  4. Joan Y. Edwards. “Components of a Good Query Letter:” https://www.joanyedwards.com/components-of-a-good-query-letter/
  5. Query Shark http://queryshark.blogspot.com/ 

Good luck with writing your successful query letter.

Never Give Up!
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2011 Joan Y. Edwards and her licensors.




Linda Andersen Is Proof That Pub Subbing Works


Linda Andersen is holding a notebook that contains a story she wrote during PubSub3rd Fri 2010. It captures the adventures of her niece at a marine science camp. The cover was designed by Laura Reeves http://www.reevesartworks.com/specialty-artwork.html. This notebook was presented to Tiffany as a gift from her Aunt Linda. A copy has been submitted to a children's magazine.
Linda Andersen
In the photo above, Linda Andersen is holding a notebook that contains a story she wrote during Pub Sub 2010. It captures the adventures of her niece at a marine science camp. The cover was designed by Laura Reeves http://www.reevesartworks.com/ This notebook was presented to Tiffany as a gift from her Aunt Linda. A copy has been submitted to a children’s magazine.

Here with me today is Linda Andersen. She is one of the early birds who joined me in the Pub Sub plan at its birth in October 2009 and planned for the first Pub Sub together with others on February 15, 2010. She has been very successful at getting writing assignments by sending out queries and submissions. Thanks for being here and allowing me to interview you, Linda.

Joan, let me be the first to congratulate you!  It’s official.  Happy 1st Birthday Pub Subbing!  You have created a quality program that encourages writers as they travel on submission journeys.  What a privilege to share some of my writing experiences and how Pub Subbing has been a positive influence.  Thank you for inviting me.

1. During 2009, how many submissions did you make? How many writing jobs did you get?

My records indicate that I made eight submissions in 2009.  From 2006-2008, I submitted far more frequently due to regular freelance writing.  I wrote activities for Celebrate and Adventures, Christian magazines for children.  In 2009 the magazines were closed to submissions; therefore my numbers decreased.  I accepted one writing assignment— to create an online teacher’s guide for the May issue of AppleSeeds. Because I submitted less in 2009, I was able to spend more time on my writing craft.  Both are crucial to the writing success.

2. During 2010 with Pub Sub encouragement each month, how many submissions did you make? How many writing jobs did you get?

I sent forty-one submissions in 2010, which is a huge increase over 2009.  Twenty of these submissions resulted from two contracts.  These were awarded based on satisfaction with earlier assignments.  This proves that you should always do your best, even when payment is small. One contract was to develop six units for a Christian curriculum under development and one was for creating two years of online teacher guides for Cobblestone magazine.  Cobblestone changed its policy from assigning one guide per year to assigning an entire year.  Needless to say, I was very excited and honored to get these contracts.

3. What are your submission goals for 2011?

I intend to contact at least one agent this year. I will submit a manuscript to an editor who spoke at the Fall SCBWI-Carolinas conference.   Even publishing houses closed to submissions often allow conference attendees to send one submission following a conference.  I will request a paid critique on a manuscript.  I am also determined to get a magazine credit this year; so I will submit to several magazines.  I will enter at least one contest.  In addition to submission goals, I plan to improve my technology skills by setting up a website and blog.  I have friends who have agreed to help me through this process.  It’s important to have a web presence and to market yourself.

4. How do you keep track of your submissions?

I display information about submitted projects on a bulletin board as well as update a computer spreadsheet.  PubSub3rdFri certificates are also a great source for tracking submission, as well as a motivation tool.  I have modified the system somewhat.  Instead of printing certificates, I simply draw smiley faces on my calendar to match the date of submission.  I considered applying stickers, but drawing works just as well.  I write PubSub and the name of the magazine or publisher beside the smiley face.  Having smiley faces on my calendar cheers me every time I glance at my calendar.  It works for me.

5. What do you think are the three best things you achieve from submitting once a month or more, using the PubSub3rdFri philosophy?

  • My confidence level increases with each submission.  My chance of being published also increases.
  • I am more willing to try other new challenges such as volunteering to be a member of the planning team for a Christian conference called Write2Ignite.  http://write2ignite.com/ This has helped me stretch and grow.  I wrote a blog for the first time.  “Thrift and Gift.” I presened a breakout session for one of their conferences.
  • Being part of community. Writing can be a lonely venture.  Being part of PubSub3rdFri and the Write2Ignite planning team has helped me reach goals while enjoying the companionship of others.

6. Are the steps listed on Joan’s PubSub3rdFri blog posts helpful to you? Why? How?

Yes, the steps are helpful.  Here is why/how:

  • Week 1:  When beginning a manuscript, check writer markets for guidelines—especially word count.  Some magazines have theme lists. There is no need to submit if the submission doesn’t match what the editor has requested.
  • Week 2: Book List—handy reference.  I like to buy my own personal copy of writing craft books.  I tend to highlight heavily.  If you’d rather check out a copy, libraries offer some titles.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, ask about inter-library loans.  The title may be available for a small fee.
  • Week 2:  Incubator. Don’t send out work too soon.  When you’re not “in love” with your work, you are more likely to spot sections that need to be strengthened and spot careless mistakes.  WARNING:  Don’t forget about your work and leave it in the incubator indefinitely.
  • Week 3:  Read aloud. If you stumble over the words, your manuscreipt needs to be revised.
  • Organization tips are appreciated—although I’d prefer a personal secretary.  Wouldn’t we all?
  • I like that PubSub3rdFri has a raincheck policy.  Great idea! I haven’t gotten one of those at the grocery store lately.  Have you?

7. How do you reward yourself for submitting?

I draw a smiley face on the calendar, call a writing friend or email her about my submission.  I have been known to sing and dance a bit, but in private of course.  I give thanks for my gift of writing.  Sometimes I suggest to my husband that I’d like to go out to eat or I shop at favorite stores.  Other times, I reward myself by registering for an upcoming writing conference or workshop.

8. When you receive a rejection, what are three things you do?

I call a writing friend, or email her about my rejection.  I pray and give thanks that God will help me grow from this.  I don’t usually update my computer spreadsheet right away with rejection status.  I try not to make any hasty decisions regarding the manuscript that day.  I usually work on another project while I decide what to do with the one that was returned.  Usually, I revise and send to my critique group and then begin the rounds again.

9. What kind of manuscripts do you submit?

I enjoy writing shorter submissions such as activities, rebuses, picture books, fiction and nonfiction magazine articles and stories.  I write Christian curriculum and online teacher guides for educational magazines and Christian curriculum.  I also have a book of educational riddles that I plan to submit again soon.

10. Name three books that have helped you learn the craft of writing?

There are so many excellent titles out there but I’d like to suggest The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen.

11. Name three workshops, classes, or conferences that have helped you learn the writing process.

I am still learning the writing process.  Three experiences that I especially benefited from include John Claude Bemis’ Writing Novels for Children, Lisa Wheeler’s Picture Book Bootcamp, and the Institute of Children’s Literature course.  Another valuable tool—submit a manuscript for a paid critique as part of the workshop or conference experience, if offered.  It most likely will be the most valuable experience of all.

12. What is your personal advice on how to get published to writers of books or magazine articles?

  • Start where you feel comfortable.  I started by creating activities for the back of the children’s bulletin for my church.  It wasn’t a huge jump to creating activities for Christian curriculum.
  • Remember that magazines need fillers such as game ideas, rebuses, poems, trivia facts.  This is one way to get published and build credits on your resume.
  • Search for theme lists with magazines like Pockets, Clubhouse Jr., AppleSeeds, Cobblestone, etc.  Challenge yourself to write to a theme. Submit.
  • Think professional!  Join a writers’ organization.  Subscribe to a professional magazine.  Study a current Market Guide.  Join a critique group.  Read craft books and quality titles in the genre of your choice.
  • Enter contests.  Decide in advance if you are willing to pay to enter.
  • Write about topics that stir your emotions.  Listen carefully to children you know and observe their behaviors.  Perhaps something said or a reaction  will trigger a story idea.  It will also help you learn character’s voice.
  • Keep ongoing files as writing ideas occur to you.  Sometimes, you might jump right into writing a story or you might “save it for a rainy day.”  When you’re ready for a new writing project, refer to your list.
  • Take a risk.  Submit a manuscript for a paid critique.  Revise.  Submit to a carefully selected editor or agent.
  • Of course novel writers can’t submit works as frequently as those who write shorter manuscripts.  Set realistic goals you can meet such as word count, research deadlines, etc.  Consider sharing a chapter each time you submit to a critique group.

What do you give PubSub3rdFri for its birthday?  Another submission of course!

Thanks for having me.  It was a pleasure!

Linda Andersen

You’re welcome, Linda.

Wow! You can see that Linda Andersen is very talented. Thanks, Linda for sharing about your Pub Sub experience. Best of luck with all your publishing dreams! Thanks for being my friend.

To those of you who are reading this. Thank you. I am honored.

Feel free to share a link to my blog with others.

Never Give Up! Take Action toward Your Goal!
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2011 Joan Y. Edwards.