Recently I presented two workshops at the Douglas County Writers Conference. One was on 10 Things You Need to Know to Write for Magazines and the other was on How to Write and Effective Query Letter. Both of these are topics I have talked about before, so went in pretty confident.
The magazine workshop went well, audience seemed to be engaged, life was good. After lunch it was time for second workshop on query writing. About ten minutes into the query writing presentation I hit an iceberg. I don't know what happened, but I started sinking. Words were getting jumbled, my thoughts were scattered and I was confusing myself. As the captain of this ship, I was going down and taking everyone in the room with me.
When the time was up, the twenty or so participants gathered their things and quietly left. I felt awful. This was the worst presentation I had ever given. At least for me, I have the chance to redeem myself the next time I teach it, but the conference attendees who were victims in this disaster, will never get to retake that workshop.
As part of my self-induced community service, I am going to share with you some tips and links on how to write an effective query letter.
Here is the basic format for a one-page query letter for fiction or nonfiction
1. Good hook: Engaging opening sentence or essence of your book
2. What is the article/book about: Highlight key points of the article or include a short synopsis of your book
3. What you are proposing: Is there a specific department this would fit in? What kind of article (feature, roundup...)? For a novel, what is the genre and word count?
4. What reader will get from it (this is more for nonfiction): will the reader be informed, inspired, educated, enlightened...
5. Why you: what are your qualifications. Why are you the perfect person to write this. This is not a time to be modest. Also include any writing credentials and awards.
- Find the correct person to send it to and be sure to spell his/her name correctly
- Be concise with your writing
- Check for spelling and grammatical errors
- Be respectful
- Be patient
- Literary agent Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants
- How to Write a Query, Agent Query
- Query Letters That Worked, Margo Finke
- How to Write a Query, Literary Agent Nathan Bransford