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Kim Tomsic

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Fresh Perspective on How to Write a Query Letter

I’ve seen a lot of “Query Letter” posts, but none like the one Chuck from Writer's Digest features on his blog at Writers Unboxed. His article focuses specifically on writing that last paragraph—the bio section—of the query letter, and he gives a fresh perspective on the “do’s and don’ts”. It’s definitely worth a read:


There are many many many…many blog posts on how to write a query (I’ve listed several links at the bottom of this post) But if you’re craving a quick rundown, here we go:

I.                    Firstly, personalize your letter—Dear, Jen. NOT Dear, Agent.

II.                 Secondly, limit your query to one page. Have white space so it looks reader-friendly; and break it down to three simple paragraphs—the hook, the book, and the cook.

A.     Paragraph One (the hook):
Your first line can tell the agent why you queried them: Thank you for speaking at Big Sur in the Rockies. I blah blah blah w/you. Or: I enjoyed your interview on such-and-such blog and …
The next line is where you include your hook, title, genre and the word count of your book.  Please consider my 70,000 word count YA novel THE UNACCOUNTED. It's teenage Jason Bourne meets The Prisoner of Zenda.
(In addition to saying if your book is YA or Middle Grade, include if it is fantasy, magical realism, paranormal, science fiction etc. as relevant).

B.     Paragraph Two (the book):
Write a paragraph about your manuscript that reads like jacket flap copy (present an exciting glimpse of the story without giving up the ending). A jacket flap describes the story in such a gripping way that book store browsers slap down some cash to buy the book. Agents may use this copy to help present your book to a publishing house, so create a compelling and tight paragraph.

A.     Paragraph Three (the cook):
This is your biography, and nobody explains the “how’s” better than Chuck, so please visit his blog.

III.              Thirdly, be professional, know the business, be courteous, and close with your name and contact information. 

Good Luck!!! 
Bonus info:
The above “hook” was an actual pitch by David Lipsky and Darin Strauss's for THE UNACCOUNTED and this title will be available in bookstores winter 2013. 
More on "high concept" hooks, please visit my link about high concept hooks and pitches. 

 More discussion on queries can be found:

How to write a query links:
Query Shark (this is a great blog where writers can receive feedback)

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