What Is A Query Letter?

Apr 21, 2020 | Publishing

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So how important is a query letter for getting your manuscript published? The short answer to that question is this, if you’re seeking representation or a traditional publishing deal, your query is almost as important as your manuscript.

Most writers focus on writing energy their prose. They believe that the characters need to sparkle. The setting must jump to life straight off of the page. The situation should be both familiar and unique.

As you read this, editors, publishers and agents are on the prowl for new, high-quality material. Introducing your work to them through a good query letter is the best way to get a manuscript from your desk to theirs.

What Does A Query Letter Accomplish?

A well-crafted query draws interest not only in the story you are pitching but the writer as well. A lot of writers miss on the reality that a publishing career is built on relationships, with both your writing peers and the agents and publishers who bring your book to the world.

The polite introduction marks you as both personable and professional. The deftly written synopsis creates intrigue about your story. The author bio provides a connection, showing the bona fides that makes you a good risk of their time and money.

Without it, your book is just another one for the slush pile.

Writing a well-crafted query letter for manuscripts will not necessarily turn a no into a yes. However, I have heard time and again that a poorly written or executed query letter can definitely turn a yes into a no. The most critical mistake comes in how writers think about query letters for manuscripts. They think of it almost like an afterthought. They believe that their book should stand for itself.

While I understand where that kind of thinking comes from, here is the reality: there are a lot of books and authors out there. Every one of those authors is looking for a way to get their book onto the market and career started. The better way to think of a query letter is as a vital written pitch.

You have written the book. You’ve gotten professional editing. You should be confident. A well-crafted letter shows the editor that you possess what they’re looking for in an author and that they should commit the vast amount of energy necessary to give your submission a try.

Publishers can’t read every book that comes off across their desk. You have to give them a reason. The best advice given to me about a query letter for manuscripts said that it is as important as your novel’s first page. Fail to hook your reader, they’ll put you and your work down without a second thought. Get their interest however and you will have crossed the most critical barrier to publication.

Don’t treat your query like a secondary part of your submission process.