How to write a kick-ass query letter which publishers will want to read

You’ve had your manuscript edited by a professional developmental manuscript editor; now you’re ready to submit to publishers. But they want a (*checks notes*) query letter? Here’s how to write one.

First, know your genre, and research publishers who are currently accepting manuscripts in that genre. Like the vast majority of business letters, ensure your query letter stays on one page – they won’t read more than that. Below, I describe what to include to make it something publishers cannot put down.

Be professional, and address the publisher by Ms. or Mr. and their last name. In your opening paragraph, briefly give one sentence which informs them of the genre, word count, and who you expect as your audience readership.

Your second paragraph should act as your hook, also known as a book blurb, the thing which will make them want to read your professionally-edited manuscript. Think of it as a mini-synopsis in present tense (as if it’s currently happening), to discuss the main plot points and action sequence. But be very brief!

Then use one to two sentences to describe your writing credits or impetus behind why you wrote this manuscript. Link it to other works they’ve published to establish a connection for them. End with a very polite thank-you, placing all your contact details underneath your signature.

Go back over your letter, and ensure you included all the information they asked for and that your manuscript follows their formatting guidelines. Most publishers will want your manuscript professionally edited prior to submission (check out my blog post on hiring a manuscript editor).

Most queries include the first three chapters of your manuscript along with your letter, and most request you to wait until they contact you, instead of asking hey, just checking in on my query submission. Unfortunately, if it doesn’t make the cut, you might never hear back at all. Pay attention to if you’re permitted to simultaneously submit to multiple publishers; many require you to only submit one manuscript to one publisher at a time, then wait for them to respond before sending to another publishing company.

Tailor each query letter to each, separate publishing company. This is not a standard form-letter where you can simply switch the greeting to the right name but leave the rest of the copy unchanged. And yes, they are particular about authors adhering to their specifications. If you can’t follow these directions, how does that reflect on how you’ll work with them through the process of getting your book into print?

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