Guest Post: 7 Best Tips for Writing an Effective Query Letter to Get Your Book Published; by Writer’s Relief

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

Congratulations, writer—you’ve finished your book manuscript! You’ve had it professionally proofed and edited, and your beta readers gave you great reviews. Now it’s time to write your query letter. Sometimes, even the most gifted writers may feel the query letter is more challenging to write than the novel. But in order to score a literary agent for your book and get published, you will need to write a persuasive query letter. Luckily, Writer’s Relief has been creating effective query letters for over 26 years, so we have some great tips to help you grab an agent’s attention and boost your odds of getting a book deal.

7 Tips For Writing The Best Query Letter For Your Book

Ace the salutation. Getting the agent’s name right is very important. At one time, it was customary to address literary agents with the title Mr., Mrs., or Ms. However, current publishing industry etiquette is to use only the agent’s first and last name. You can check the agent’s blog or website to be sure you have the proper spelling.

Include the title, genre, and word count. You’d be surprised how often authors leave out one or more of these important details! Also, make sure the agent you are querying represents the genre you are pitching. Pinpointing your book’s genre can sometimes be as tough as writing a great query, so be sure to check out this article and confirm the genre you’ve selected is correct.

Craft an engaging (and brief!) book blurb. Some literary agents request that you first send only the query letter (rather than a query letter, synopsis, and pages all at once), so make sure your letter does the job! The book blurb in your query letter shouldn’t be longer than 200 to 250 words. You want the reader of your query letter to be attentive, intrigued, and eager to see more. This can be the most difficult part for most writers—it’s hard to encapsulate your novel into a small, tasty bite.

Provide the overall story arc in your query letter summary, but don’t include less essential points. Ending on a cliffhanger is fine—and never give away the ending in your query letter! Save secondary characters and plot points for the two-page synopsis.

Have a hook. Be sure your book blurb offers a tempting hook for the reader. It doesn’t have to be just one sentence, but you want to keep it short, tight, and engaging. The hook highlights what makes your book unique and sells your book to the reader.

Mention your writing credentials and/or your educational history. Mention your publication credits, especially any relevant to the book manuscript. Attended a master class with Joyce Carol Oates? Yay! Are you a member of a writing group, and you’ve attended a few writing conferences? Bravo! Make the agent aware. Did you study organic chemistry in college and now write about carbon bombs in your dystopic spy thriller? Were you a detective with the LAPD when you came up with the idea for your story? Don’t leave this info out—it shows you can write with expertise on your topic.

However, if you won a writing contest in second grade—well done, but no need to mention this or any other irrelevant history to the agent. Nothing screams “amateur” more than including extraneous details in your query letter.

The key to a great query letter is selling your book and yourself without overselling yourself. Confidence and bravado are two totally different things. Don’t put in your query letter that you are the next [insert famous author name here].

This is also where you could include a sentence or two about yourself. What’s that? You don’t have any idea how to write an author bio? You should read this.

Show gratitude. Literary agents receive hundreds of queries per day. Let them know you appreciate their valuable time. Something simple like Thank you for your time and consideration is enough to make them feel appreciated.

Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. A query letter filled with grammar mistakes will not impress an agent—more likely it will be deleted as the agent moves on to more promising submissions. Check the spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and then have another proofreader take a look. Leave out unnecessary exclamation points, underlining, colors, or odd fonts. And don’t even think about adding emojis.

To see what elements of query letters make agents cringe, check out this list of literary agent pet peeves.

Question: Which part of writing a query letter is hardest for you?

Video of the Week: If You Like Animation, Animals, or Opera, You Will Love This!

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Maestro from Bloom Pictures on Vimeo.

For more about this short film, click here.

Wordless Wednesday: Up the Stairs

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10 Commandments of Writing

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For most writers, the path to publication is full of obstacles, detours, and potholes. Tenacity and resilience are required to reach your destination. Observe these commandments:

Writing on laptop

  1. Write every day. The quickest way to become a published writer is to exercise your writing muscles. The more you write, the better you get.
  2. Write for the joy of it. Don’t worry about trends—write your fresh, unique vision. The problem with trends is that by the time your piece is published, the trend may well have passed.
  3. Turn off your inner editor during the initial draft. Get all those good ideas down.
  4. When you think your first draft is complete, put it aside. Make a note on your calendar to read it again in 6 weeks. Start a new project.
  5. Have more than one project in the works at any given time. This gives you options when you’re stuck or just tired of a particular piece.
  6. When you read your previous draft again after 6 weeks, it probably won’t seem as good as you thought it was. Don’t despair—now you get to rewrite it. Identify what’s good about it. Cross out everything that doesn’t belong. Highlight what needs to change. Write yourself notes. Read it out loud. Fill in any holes.
  7. When you think it’s the best it can be, let someone you trust read it (but maybe not your mom) and ask for feedback.
  8. Consider the feedback and make improvements. If the critique hurts, put it aside for two weeks and then look at it again. There may be an excellent suggestion in there. Don’t take it personally—it’s about the work, not about you. All writers refine their work.
  9. Send it out when it’s good. Don’t wait until it’s perfect—it’s never perfect. While you’re waiting to hear, work on something else. But if your submission is rejected, you may want to revisit commandments 7 and 8 (or maybe number 6) and submit it again to a different publication/editor/agency. Do some market research to find out who represents/publishes work like yours.
  10. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

If you keep these ten commandments, you will ultimately succeed. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else—some of us have a steeper learning curve than others, and that’s okay. And when you get a positive response, celebrate and start or finish another project. Don’t let your genius languish.

Monday Morning Wisdom #240

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MMWI’m interested in how a novel can be symphonic, by which I mean that, like in a great symphony, I like my novels to be composed of certain movements. There are crescendos, motifs, that peak over the course of the book played by different instruments in different tones, the final chords to give the listeners the satisfaction that yes, that ended in the right moment. ~Amor Towles, interviewed in the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest

Sunday Trees

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I’m so happy to join this challenge! Here are some of the beautiful trees in my neighborhood. Click on the images to enlarge.

From the Creator’s Heart #237

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