First and foremost, your query letter must look clean and professional. Your writing must be clear, straightforward, crisp and to the point. Remember that your query letter will be the first example of your writing that a potential publisher will read and first impressions have a major impact. Set it up as a business letter and write it as if it were one. Keep it short – no more than one to one and a half pages. Direct your query letter right to the person you want to read it. If necessary, call the publishing house to find out who that will be.
Writing a query letter should follow a well-established format. You must include your name, address, phone number and/or e-mail address and the URL of you web site. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself and your book, including the title, projected word length, type of book, completion date and potential audience. Then ask for their writer’s guidelines and if they have specific rules regarding manuscript submission that you should follow.
The second paragraph should summarize your book in a few sentences. What is its focus? Does it have unusual characters or conflicts? What will a reader learn from it? How will a reader be affected? Answers to whatever questions fit with your manuscript should be included.
Paragraph three should be all about you – your writing experience, education, credentials, prior publishing history, professional memberships, specific expertise, other careers and so on.
Finally, thank the editor for taking the time to review your work and note that you hope for a prompt reply. When you’re finished, make use of that Spell Check program to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
As with anything else you write there are a few things to remember. When writing your query letter, don’t brag about yourself or your book. Simply state the facts. Don’t go into a lengthy synopsis of your book or reveal too much. Don’t include an autobiography on yourself or your writing. Instead, focus on what sets your book apart from others.
Why do you love it and why should a publisher? Naturally, a publisher will be most interested in established writers, whose books make money and lots of it. Therefore, you must convince a potential publisher that your book has a wide market appeal.
It is perfectly acceptable to send out multiple query letters. However, it is not all right to send your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time. If you do, it is wise to inform each publisher that you are doing so. What you can do is offer them an exclusive look at your manuscript for 30 days, after which you will be free to make a decision or move on. On the other hand, if you send your manuscript to just one publisher, make sure you note that it is “exclusive.” This might even give you a better chance at acceptance.
For children’s books, it is acceptable to send your manuscript without pictures, graphics or drawings. In fact, most children’s book publishers have connections to various artists and can get a suitable one for you, if necessary. If you prefer to have this done beforehand, a good reference is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. This site offers members a variety of services, including grants to writers, advice and conferences. At the library, you can pick up The Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market, which is also available at Amazon.com. This book lists children’s book publishers and their preferences.
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