Writing a good query letter shows book editors your ability to think precisely, to use language efficiently and to advance your inquiry in a seemingly effortless but elegant manner.
Before you write a query letter, study the book market to learn which publishers may be interested in your subject. It is a waste of your time and the editor’s if you send your fishing book query letter to a publisher that only publishes romance novels.
A tightly constructed query letter may consist of the following parts: 1) an opening sentence that describes your book’s category, such as sports, cooking, romance, mystery, how-to, travel or other; 2) a statement describing the premise of your book; 3) a brief list of the especially good credits that qualify you to write the book (no lengthy biographies, please); 4) a list of your books or book contributions; 5) a statement of how your book will distinguish itself from similar titles; and 6) a formal closing: Thank you for your attention and your name.
Do not use paragraph indentations in your query letter. Single spaced paragraphs and double spacing in between are standard. By no means use a fancy hard-to-read font. Easy-to-read fonts like Times Roman or Arial, twelve point, are best. If you wish to send the letter via email, create it in MS WORD and attach it to an email note so the editor has your email address for ease of reply. MS WORD is a standard document creation software that all editors have on their computers. Using other software may prevent editors from opening your attachment.
Create a plain letterhead for your query letter that includes your name, postal address, email address, website address and telephone number. Date your letter, send it to the appropriate editor and make sure the publisher’s name and address are correct. If you are printing the letter to be mailed, use professional weight paper (8/12 x 11) in the brightest white and print at a high-quality resolution. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for the editor’s ease of reply. If you do not include the SASE, you probably will not hear from the editor.
Carefully proof your query letter to free the document of errors. Nothing turns off an editor faster than misspelled words and grammatical mistakes, which the editor may associate with the book you are proposing to write. Remember, writing a good query letter is your first introduction to the book editor and your first chance to make an impression. Making a good impression improves your chances of a book editor asking you for a more lengthy proposal in the future. Relax. It could take several weeks before you get a reply.
Book editors take their positions seriously and still look more favorably upon formal query letters than they do casual email notes that many of us are becoming too accustomed to in cyberspace. Because of its instant nature, email is sometimes hastily composed, inviting sloppy language use, absence of punctuation and poor spelling. Error-strewn email messages will not garner attention and consideration equal to prudently created formal query letters. Remember, book editors base their decision to examine your book proposal on your query letter. For information on starting your query and writing headlines, look at You Can Write Amazing Headlines.