Your book is finished, edited, and polished to a shine. You've written your synopsis and created a snappy tagline and intriguing blurbs. The time to query and/or submit has arrived!
A query letter is business correspondence. If you expect to be treated like a professional, you must present yourself as a professional. You don't remember how to write a business letter? Chicago Manual of Style and numerous other sources can help you with formatting, so I won't be giving a lesson on that. A little online research will yield hundreds of examples of query letters. Instead, here are some basic rules to follow for Queries and Submissions.
1) Identify your recipient(s). Have you researched this editor or agent to be sure he/she is accepting queries/submissions in your genre? Is the person male or female? Business greetings should consist of Mr., Miss, Mrs., Ms., etc. and a last name unless you are personally acquainted.
2) Send individual personalized emails to each recipient. Do NOT send a single mass query to multiple agents and/or editors. If you can't be bothered to address each one individually, why shouldn't they lump you in the junk mail?
3) Most editors and agents ask for specific information to be included in a query. Go to his/her website for details and instructions. Not following directions will often earn you an unopened, unanswered, deleted email. Their spam filters are set to recognize approved subject lines in many cases. Take a few minutes to research their query/submission guidelines.
4) Include your synopsis, sample chapters, and/or full manuscript ONLY if instructed to do so and in the manner indicated in the query/submission guidelines--in the body of the email or as attachments. NEVER instruct the person you're querying to go to your website/blog to read your material. Make a good first impression by following directions.
5) If the guidelines seem unclear, contact the editor or agent and ask for clarification. Don't guess.
6) Always thank the person for their time and consideration. A query is a job interview. Be polite.
7) Write the letter under your legal name. If you write under a pseudonym, include that name in your biography. You can also include a link to your website and/or blog. Do not write a query as one of your characters.
8) The closing should be professional--sincerely, regards, etc. No smiley faces/emoticons, **hugs**, or other casual quips. See the second paragraph above about being professional.
9) Be sure to include your contact information after your signature line.
10) Most editors and agents have a minimum response time for queries and submissions on their websites. Allow at least the minimum time before sending a follow-up email.
11) Check the query/submission guidelines about auto-response emails and whether rejections receive an email or no response. Knowing what to expect will make the waiting more bearable.
12) If you receive a rejection, do NOT send a nasty, condescending, snarky, etc. email. The query/submission process is a lot like buying a car or hiring a babysitter. Not every model/candidate will meet everyone's needs. Publishing is a small world, and no one wants to work with a difficult author.
13) Revise your query letter and/or rework your blurbs if you've gotten numerous rejections. Sometimes, a little change can make a big difference.
14) Keep writing while you're playing the waiting game. More writing means more practice and more material.
15) In case I haven't made a couple points clear, be professional and follow directions!
This post wraps up a year of writing craft topics. I'll be taking a few weeks' break to work on the finishing touches of my first self-published novel, Love Served Hot, and to compile/format my Writing Tip Wednesday blog into a writers' handbook for self-publication before I start on career and industry. Stay tuned for release dates!
Until next time, Happy Writing!
Romance...With A Kick!