Whether you have just begun your personal writing journey, or are a seasoned veteran, querying is an important, some would say, vital part of the traditional publication process. A good query letter, like a good resume, differentiates your manuscript from the thousands of others that come across the desks of many agents and publishers. It is important to understand the elements of successful query letters.
Lisa Mangum is a published author and an Acquisition Editor and Product Assistant for Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain. She sees many query letters, and knows what makes a good one. She spoke to our chapter on Dec. 18th and gave these suggestions:
–For examples, go to the “Successful Queries” section of WritersDigest.com
–It should be no longer than one page, with three paragraphs:
Your book’s “hook,” explaining succinctly the book’s genre, who the hero is, what their goal is, what his or her obstacle(s) is/are, and the consequence(s) of his or her failure. Also include your completed manuscript’s word count, and make sure you are familiar with appropriate word counts for your genre. These would be as follows:
intermediate: 20k – 30k
middle-grade: 45k – 50k
YA: 65k – 80K
epic fantasy: 100k – 125k
Short summary of book’s main plot. You can show in this paragraph or the end of the first that you’ve done your research into how your book compares to similar authors represented by the publisher you are querying.
Your credentials, where you mention things that show you are serious about writing (related degrees, involvement in writing groups, any past formal publishing experience).
Overall, make sure you SHOW that your book has a strong voice, strong plot, and that you have a solid knowledge of the industry.
Lisa, thanks for coming out to speak to our chapter and for all that you do in helping authors and aspiring authors.