Successful Query Letters

Generally speaking, a query letter should:

  • Be brief(preferably one or two single-spaced pages) and addressed to a specific editor by name. Avoid rambling “conversation” (“The weather here is horrible&#151I hope it”s better for you”) and sales hype (“This book is a guaranteed bestseller!”).
  • Grab the editor”s interest with a strong opening.Use your subject hook.
  • Be “scannable.”Let the editor tell at a glance what you”re proposing.
  • Don”t make the editor hunt for your “contact” information. Get your name, address, phone number and email address at the top of your letter. Use bullets to highlight essential information: your qualifications, marketing information, etc.
  • Be self-standing. Query only one project at a time. Giving the editor a smorgasbord of ideas to choose from usually only leads to none being chosen.
  • Give the editor some idea of the book”s structure and contents, and of your own writing style.It goes without saying that your query should exhibit your very best writing style and be error-free, demonstrating to the editor your ability to effectively execute the idea you”re proposing.
  • Be professional.Use dignified letterhead on white, off-white, beige or grayish paper. Avoid other colors&#151the only attention that a red query or cover letter gets is negative.
  • Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope(SASE) for ease of response.
  • Mention any expertise or special qualifications you have to write the book (if you”ve been published, mention it; if not, don”t). Here you will tap into the material you developed for the “About the Author” section of you proposal, in shorter form, of course.

Learn more about the Writing the Nonfiction Book Proposal Workshop.

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