Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A to Z: (Q)uerying

Querying begins with a finished story. If you are not done (self or professional editing included) you shouldn't query because it will only be met with rejection.

In my opinion, querying is the easiest part of the submission checklist. After all, the other things in that checklist are having the story finished and writing and polishing the synopsis. After all, the synopsis is basically the cliff notes version of your story, there to make an agent or editor salivate when they read it.

Querying is really very simple once you find a method and format that works for you. There are tons of sites around the interweb that give you tons of helpful advice on how to do this, also.

There are a few things you need to include in your query letter. I'll list them and show you how I write mine. It always helps to see an example.

Your letter needs to have:
Your name (or pen name), address, phone number, and email
The date
Agent's address block and name
the title of you book
the word count
a brief discription of the plot (like what you'd find on the back cover or jacket)
And any experience you have as a writer (and I mean anything.)

So, those are what you need to include, now for my example. It's pretty straightforward and can be tailored to any story and writer. You should also know this was my rough draft. Even the query letter needs to be perfect. (Information I'm not sharing will be changed into asterisks)

Haley ********
3444 ********* St.
********, IA 50***
(123) 456-7890

April 20, 2011 (or 20 April 2011 if you prefer that format)

[Agent's name]
[Agent's address]

Dear Mr./Ms. [Agent's last name]

A Place Called Earth is a completed 65,000 word, plot driven, science fiction novel sit in the United States in present day. It follows the lives of eight individuals. (title, word count, genre)

What does a teacher from New York, a pizza cook from Minneapolis, a musician from Seattle, an accountant from Houston, a sports broadcaster from Orlando, a model from Philadelphia, a student from Portland, and a game designer from Los Angeles have in common? Their lives are about to change drastically, though they have no idea that thier good fortune comes at a cost.

Who could resist the chance of being one of the lucky winners of the new world lottery? Even with all the speculation going around about the world ending, the lottery is on the forefront of everyone's minds. Are the rumors about the impending apocalypse just that, or does the human race have a problem that has no solution? (brief description of the story)

I have been creating stories and journaling for over a decade. In high school, I spent two years in the school's newspaper, contributing to a few articles, but mostly editing others' content for spelling and grammar errors. For a year, I joined an online writing community, There, I learned many new techniques and skills to become better at my craft. Since then, I have finished three manuscripts and started the first in a four or five book series. (writing experience... like I said, ANYTHING)

If you are interested, I will happily send you the first three chapters, or the complete manuscript. I have enclosed a synopsis and a SASE for your reply, or by email, if you prefer. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Haley ********

Attached: sysnopsis, SASE

So, there's the example. You don't need to put your email address or blog URL under your name and signature, but it couldn't hurt for them to see it again, not to mention, blogging is a great exercise in writing. You just won't want to show it if there is any questionable content there. When you think about whether or not to add it, ask yourself: Is there anything a potential agent or editor would find offensive or rude? That should tell you whether or not to include it.

Good luck with the querying!


  1. That is so very helpful. I have straddled a line on writing a query letter, but can't seem to leap over it. Thanks.

  2. Interesting and helpful! So querying seems like the writer's version of a cover letter!

  3. So - you don't send the first three (or so) chapters with this? Phew - I spent a fortune on paper and postage/return sending the initial chapters out to agents on my last round of submissions - I'll give your method a try next time!



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