Are you ready to start sending out those query letters in hopes of landing an agent or publisher? Here are “Five Must-Have Elements” of a query letter, courtesy of Ronnie L. Smith, president of Writer’s Relief.
1. Your first lines aren’t trying to be too clever or coy. You understand that agents have seen it all. The “excerpt from dialogue” opening can grate on their nerves. The “imagine you were [fill in the blank here]” gambit is old and tired. In your query letter, you’re not trying to be unctuous, glib, or fulsome—you know your stuff, and you’re prepared to make that clear very quickly, gimmicks aside.
2. You’re not going to get eliminated by your word count. So many writers have made the mistake of writing and submitting a book without researching the “best” word count for their particular genre. But not you! You’ve done your homework and read about book genre word counts. That way, an agent won’t write you off the moment he/she sees that your book is 200,000 words long.
3. You understand that the main point of your book blurb is EMOTION. Your book blurb is specific, compact, and most of all, emotional. Agents will be drawn into your hero/heroine’s plight, or they’ll have a strong gut reaction to your nonfiction book’s angle. You tested your blurb with readers and asked them: What emotions does this make you feel? Then—it was wash, rinse, repeat, again and again, until the blurb made your readers’ emotions soar and nosedive as needed.
4. Your bio is the real deal. Some writers come up with amazing books without a single publication credit to their name. But…most have at least a few publications or accolades to boast about by the time their technique is at the level that an agent will get excited about it. You know this. You’ve been truly serious about the craft of writing for some time, and it shows. You’ve done your networking. You’ve entered contests, read at your local open mike night, studied with good teachers, written for your local paper or blog, even had a few nominations or awards—all in preparation for the day your queries are sent out.
5. You’re level-headed and realistic, and it shows in your matter-of-fact confidence. You don’t need to bellow about how Oprah will love you or how you’re the next J.K. Rowling—because you’re optimistic but also reasonably cautious and professional. You’re quietly confident, and it shows in every line of your query that you write. You would be a GREAT client to work with in the long term and worth an investment.
Writer’s Relief is an author submission service specializing in book, poetry, essay, and short story submissions. Their website is www.writersrelief.com.