CRAFT TUESDAY: The Query Letter (Part 3)

 This blog is actually the second part of the last blog.  In July, I discussed the first two paragraphs of your letter.   With this one, I’ll summarize what you need to complete that letter.

PARAGRAPH THREE   Sell yourself—truthfully—as a writer, not a great mom or a fine person or a real sweetheart.

Do not write:  “I have to sell because I hate my job and want to quit.”  Not, “My mother loves this book.”  Sell the editor/agent on YOU as a writer, tell what is interesting/important about YOU as a writer.

1.  What’s best to mention   Start with your writing related history and credits.  Be sure to mention any significant writing groups you belong to, for example, member of Austin RWA but not “a group of friends get together and read our poems.”  Mention if you recently went to a national or large conference.  List  publish articles even if for small magazines.   After I sold my first book, The Mad Herringtons I realized I had few writing credits to and should get busy expanding that.  I submitted and sold to the Houston Chronicle and Women’s World Magazine so I had more credits.

You don’t have to list everything.  If you’re going the traditional road to publication—print—editors may not be interested in self-published or ebooks unless they sold gazillions of copies.   Publishing has changed a great deal from when I first presented this workshop and I do NOT wish to insult anyone who has published in the method he/she has chosen BUT an editor/agent might believe you self-pubbed because no traditional publisher would buy your book.  If you mention them, attach good reviews of high sales numbers.

2.  What’s relevant?  What should be in that paragraph?

a.         If you have experience in an area, use it.  I wrote a book about a marriage counselor (never published) so it was relevant that I have done marriage counseling.   I wouldn’t mention when pitching a different book.

b.         My father was a doctor. The Path to Love was about  an MD and an orderly.  I did spend a lot of time in Dad’s office and the hospital when I was a kid, but it wasn’t relevant enough to mention in a query letter.  

c.         I’m an ordained minister whose served—and preached in—several churches.  This worked well as a credit for my Love Inspired and FaithWords books but a secular company wouldn’t be interested at all.

NEXT:   THE CLOSING PARAGRAPH of only a sentence or two.

1.   If your query is in a letter, be sure to state, “Enclosed are a synopsis, writing history and an SASE,”  and make sure to enclose them.   The size of the return envelope and amount of postage depend on what you want returned.  Usually writers don’t ask  for the return of all material, only the letter from the editor/agent.

I always included a synopsis.  If the editor/agent doesn’t want this, they can toss it.  If  they are interested,  you’re a step closer and cutting down on time.

2.         Next:   “Thank you.   I look forward to working with you.”

3.         Say if they want anything more, you’d be happy to send it.

5.         Sign and send.

THEN STOP!  Don’t badger.   After 4-6 weeks, you may call or email.  After that, contact may be counterproductive.   After two or three months and another email or call, forget it.  Call it a rejection.  If it isn’t, that will be a nice surprise when you received a request for a full.

I’ll never forget the time I called and wrote an editor only to receive a really, REALLY  mean rejection which suggested strongly I had  no talent.  I feared I had badgered her too much.   I discovered weeks later that her father had just died.  We don’t know what may be going on in the life of an editor or agent so be senstive to that.  

If your receive a rejection, you MAY call and ask why.  I never have because, basically, I’m a wimp but I’ve know people who have.  Even if you’ve been rejected, you may want to write a thank you note.  The agent/editor will remember you and  you want that memory to be positive.

My husband and I published an on-line magazine many years ago.  We rejected a story and received three or four emails from the writer DEMANDING an explanation.  We decided we’d never buy from her because she was so difficult.    You want that memory to be, “What a nice person,”  “How professional”  or  “Probably would be nice to work with.”  EDITORS and AGENTS remember.  They also move around AND they have friends in publishing.

August 7th, I’ll post the final section of the query letter.    I’ll show you what I mean by “PUBLISHING HISTORY” and give some general thoughts.

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