Monday, February 26, 2018

Checklist for a Great Query

What makes a query letter stand out from the pack?

Obviously a good summary of a great story is important. Writers need to cover the who, what, when, where, why, and how in just a couple paragraphs. They need a great hook. They need a quality story worthy of querying.

But beyond the synopsis, what else can a writer do to insure his query is the best it can be? It’s all in the details, and those little things are important.

Here’s a good checklist:

  • Make sure the publisher accepts your genre. Don’t just judge by what they publish or a list elsewhere. Check their submission guidelines.
  • Is the publisher currently open for submissions?
  • Do they accept works that have already been self-published?
  • Do they accept queries via email, snail mail, or through a form?
  • Select the right editor or agent for your query. Get a name and spell it correctly.
  • What do they want in a query? Query only? Synopsis or outline, too? Marketing plan? Other details? Send ONLY what they request.
  • Make sure everything is the proper length and includes all details. A query letter should only be the equivalent of one page. A synopsis should be double spaced and 2-5 pages in length. An outline is also double spaced and 3-10 pages in length. A marketing plan should be one good-sized paragraph to one page and cover online and offline plans along with social sites and real-world memberships. A writer’s bio should be between a line or two to one paragraph.
  • Include name, address, and email address in the query.
  • Do they accept attachments? If not stated, assume they don’t.
  • Send only one personalized query at a time - no mass emails.
  • If mailing, send on white paper with black ink and include a SASE.

Beyond that, personalize each query according to what the publisher or agent requests or likes:
  • Would comparing the manuscript to other published books be a plus or a minus?
  • Are they open to author illustrations? (Most aren’t.)
  • How much success with other publishers or self-published books should be noted?

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll give your query the best possible chance.


I also had an article on Friday at Frugal Book Promotions - Ten Tips For Formatting a Book


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42 comments:

nashvillecats2 said...

Some good tips here Diane. Must remember them in the future.
Have a good week.

Yvonne.

The Cynical Sailor said...

As always, great tips for us newbie writers. Hope you have a wonderful week. Ellen

Chrys Fey said...

Great checklist! :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Such important info! I know you wish you had more queries that followed these guidelines. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good checklist and I really lucked out with my first query.

Chemist Ken said...

Thanks, Diane. I still haven't decided if I'm going to self-publish or go with an independent press. I've bookmarked this post for later.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Good reminders. I printed them so I won't forget anything the next time I query. Thanks.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Elizabeth, some weeks I wish I just had one that followed these guidelines.

Spacer Guy said...

You've done all the homework, now all we have to do is make it so! Of course its always vital to get the name spelt right!

Tamara Narayan said...

These are all essential ingredients to an effective query. For me, personalizing the query can be the hardest part. You want to person to know that you picked them for a reason, but agonizing over the best way to say it can take a lot of valuable time when the outcome is most likely "thanks, but no thanks" anyway.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

All important points to consider. Often, they AREN'T accepting submissions, so it's a waste of time to bother.
Thanks, Diane.

J E Oneil said...

Ugh, do people really still go for snail mail? Email just seems so much faster. Anyway, those are good tips :)

Sandra Cox said...

That's a great checklist and will be very helpful to anyone sending out query letters.

Pat Hatt said...

Great list indeed. I can't believe people actually think mass emails would work, pffft.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great tips! I learned so much about writing queries from Agent Query Connect - it's such an important piece of writing!

Liz A. said...

Ah yes, the query-go-round. So much to remember. But that separates the pros from the amateurs.

Karen Lange said...

Great stuff! Thanks so much. The query is one of my least favorite parts of the process. This helps.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I don’t think we can ever learn enough about queries; they are the hinges that make our marketing work. More in bit.ly/GreatBkReviews. Love this, Diane!

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing them. It took me a long time to "master" the art of the query letter, and I still need help with them.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for all the tips. Query letters can be so maddening to get right. I swear that I spent about 40 hours on one once.

Michael Di Gesu said...

These are so simple yet very effective. Its amazing how many ignore the basics when crafting a query letter.

Thanks for the reminders, L. Diane~

Loni Townsend said...

Great tips! When I was looking at queries a few years back, I got confused between a query and a synopsis. It helps to have a checklist!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - thanks for this thorough post ... and as you mention it's essential that all guidelines are followed ... cheers Hilary

Gina Gao said...

These are great tips! They'll be helpful to my writing process.


www.ficklemillennial.com

Sandra Cox said...

Heading over to Frugal.

dolorah said...

It always sounds so simple, until you actually sit down to write the query, lol.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Great tips! Also a reminder to me that it's past time to return to querying my novel. I set it aside during NaNo submission season, but intended to start back up in February.

Elsie Amata said...

Interesting. I didn't think about submitting something that has already been self-published. I thought since I self-published it was done and over for me. You gave me something to think about. Thank you!

Elsie

Arlee Bird said...

Wise advice. I wish I'd had more access to this kind of information back in the seventies when I was seriously submitting a lot of stuff hither and yon. I was mostly doing things wrong, but then again a lot of the stuff either wasn't around then or I just had no useful guidance on what to do and how to do things.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

L. Diane Wolfe said...

JE, I still get mailed submissions.

Natalie, that doesn't surprise me.

Loni, yes it does.

Thank you, Sandra.

Elsie, DLP prefers fresh material, but we will consider a self-published book.

Lee, the Internet has made it so much easier.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Thanks for the great tips! I'm going to save this post.
I think of queries as the cover letter for the resume (the book).

Sandra Cox said...

It is so much easier to query today. Back in the day, the queries went in the mail. It took a lot more time and expense.

Sherry Ellis said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Great check list. I'm going through that process right now for a mystery I've written. Yes, it really is so important to follow the publisher's (or agent's) directions as to what they want and how they want it.

DMS said...

Great tips. Writing a query letter can be a challenge. Short- but so much to do and include. :)

Awesome deal on Lexa's book! Yeah!
~Jess

Sandra Cox said...

Have a glorious weekend, Di.

Kim Lajevardi said...

Great query letter tips. I hate writing them so much.

Gingi Freeman said...

Great tips, thanks so much for sharing!!! <3 - www.domesticgeekgirl.com

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Following guidelines is excellent advice (for just about everything LOL). As I read through agent/pub guidelines and all the advice out there, I get confused with the synopsis--they vary so much...1 page, 3 pages, single spaced, double spaced.

I don't see as many asking for a marketing plan (yet), but they are there. And to that, I'm a deer in headlights. 😵

M Pax said...

Great information here!

Donna McDine said...

Thank you for the wonderful tips!

Lynn J Simpson, PLC said...

I want to get to the point of writing a query letter this year! I think I need to re-read your book of overcoming obstacles!