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Query Letter Writing - How to Write A Query Letter

Updated on July 8, 2010

The majority of us writers never get a single piece of writing published. Our work is generally good - we know that much. But somehow publishers don't like it, don't want to take the risk, or whatever other excuse they have. It's frustrating, aggravating, depressing. Why won't my fiction writing take notice with a publisher? What am I doing wrong?

Luckily there is most likely only one thing that your doing wrong.

Your query letter isn't written properly. Your query letter doesn't have the proper hook. Your query letter doesn't have the proper bio. Your query letter doesn't have the proper hook. Your query letter doesn't have the proper references. The point is your query letter has to be perfect. Absolutely perfect. Perfect format. Perfect spelling. Perfect everything.

It's like a resume for a job interview. If you don't have a good resume, the chances of getting an interview? Slim. If you write a poor query letter, the chances of getting asked for your manuscript, let alone getting published? Probably even slimmer.

Luckily you've come to the right place. We'll call this query letter class; it'll be here that I teach you the basics of how to write a query letter, with a few little tips that should give you a little boost above the competition. Because, like you, I used to not know how to write a query letter.


The Basics of a Query Letter

I'm sure you've come across dozens of articles about how to write a query letter. Most of them have good query letter information and are very useful, but many of them don't have a step by step thought process on how you should write a query letter. That's what we'll do here. It's not a step by step guide; it's more of a step by step thought guide. You'll see what I mean.

The main purpose of a query letter is to sell your idea to editors and agents. It's not some fluffy piece of writing that could be called poetic; no, it's something your trying to sell. A query letter is a call to action of sorts. A good query letter instantly should tell an editior, "This work is excellent and you should publish it."

The most effective query letters will get into the specifics in the first sentence. When you write a query letter don't try to be polite; get right to the point and you'll impress an editor.

How to Write a Query Letter - Other Information to Include in the Basics:

  • A query letter can include information on the availability of photographs or artwork.
  • A working title and a projected word count.
  • Include a tentative deadline in the query letter, as well as if it's being simultaneously submitted.
  • Include minimal biographical information in your query letter, unless it 100% help your case on getting published. You'll see what I mean later.


What to Avoid in A Query Letter

The most obvious and most important thing to avoid is never, ever, discuss pay rates in your query letter. Never. It instantly will give a bad impression to the editor you are trying to convince, and - you if you do get accepted by your query letter - it will give them an upper hand when negotiating pay.

Think of it this way when writing your query letter. If you ask for too much in your query letter the editor may not even respond with a lower rate; and if you ask for too little, you may start an editorial relationship where you get paid not nearly what you deserve. It's safe to say that when writing your query letter that you do NOT include pay negotiations. It will be better for both parties.

How to Write A Query Letter - Rookie Mistakes:

  • Don't include a copyright symbol, or mention that your work is copyrighted. That's obvious; it's almost like mocking the editor when your query letter includes that.
  • Don't try and flatter the editor. Keep it concise and professional.
  • DON'T hint in your query letter that you rewrite your piece if the editor deems so. This shows that the work needs a lot of work, and is an instant turn off to the editor.
  • Also NEVER - and I mean NEVER - mention that your query letter has been rejected by other publishers. Always treat every editor like they are relieving your work first.

How to Format Your Query Letter

When writing a query letter you always want to follow the guidelines of writing. This means proper punctuation, grammar, spelling ,all the bells and whistles.

How to Write a Query Letter - Formating

  • Use a normal font and typeface, such as Time New Roman and a 10, or 12, point type.
  • Include your name, address, phone number, email address and Web Site.
  • Use a one-inch margin on query letters.
  • Make sure when you are writing a query letter that you address a specific editor. Make sure you spell his/her name perfectly.
  • Limit your query letter to one pages, single spaced, and single sided.
  • Include self-addressed, stamped envelope for responses.

Sample Query Letter

When learning how to write a query letter I think it's vital you can see a real example. Take notice to the proper formating, the tone of the query letter, as well as the efficiency of getting to the point


Dun Dun Books

2517 Dunny Ave

Dunnervile, ON 78K K83

Dun Dun Books,

My 150, 000 page novel, Tomorrow is Yesterday is a mixture of modern teenage fiction, with a little ounce of insight of the deeper world.

Jake Simons awakes like it’s any other day. He dresses himself, showers, gets breakfast. Then his computer beeps and everything changes forever.

Jake is a machine who lives in one of humanities Machine Worlds. A Machine World is a world that is based off memories, based off the sum of everything the human race has encountered, which is then converted to a robotic form.

In the far future human beings have undergone a great transformation; they have accidentally found a particle which has morphed their physical forms. This great change had one great consequence – eventually they began to die.

Jake Simons is a robot of that future race, but he is one of special kind.  In order for him to survive the future race would have to use almost all of their energy – which was derived from the particle – and create Machine Worlds. These worlds would be based off the world before everything changed, and it would be a place of refuge for any robots. The robots would be placed in a physical memory of a person, thus giving them a physical body, and thus giving them a chance to survive. The downside of this – the eternal and matriculate life the future humans had would slowly begin to dwindle.

The story is about how Jake finds this out, how he reconciles with hundreds of other Robots at a place called the The Brain, how he learns to grow up, how he learns to understand. It’s a story about hope. It’s a story about truth. It’s a story about love.

Tomorrow is Yesterday should fit in well with the rest of the titles that exist in your catalogue. It is especially congruent with The Power of Time, and Animal Boy, which both – like Yesterday – contemplate the ideas and manoeuvres of time travel and alternate worlds.

My work has yet to appear anything commercial, because, frankly, I have yet to try. It is my hope that my book, Tomorrow is Yesterday will be the start of something. As stated by your guidelines the entire manuscript is included.


Jake Simons

134SimonsPlace Simons, B.C B8J K8O


How to Write A Query Letter - A Few Things to Take Note of:

  • In the first paragraph of the query letter the title is stated, as well as the genre, and the word count. Those three important points are the foundation of any decent query letter.
  • The summary is brief and enticing.
  • Near the end of the query letter, in the second last paragraph, is something you should take important note of. The writer of this query letter included a paragraph that related his novel to other novels already published by the publisher. This is key. It shows you did your research and know what kind of genre and books they publish; this shows to the editor that your book would also be a good fit for their catalog.
  • The end is a personal choice. The writer decided to finish the query letter by stating he had never been published before. Including this is in your query letter depends on the publisher you are sending it to. If it's a publisher that only likes publishing new writers, then go for it. If it isn't, then I would leave it out.


Query Letter Class - When to Follow Up

Many times writers don't even receive a response after they send in their query letter.  This is disheartening, and many writers give up on that publisher.  The unfortunate truth is sometimes editors just don't have time reply to your query letter - meaning it was rejected.  However sometimes your query letter can be lost; the editors get thousands of query letters every year so there are bound to be some mishaps.

Some general guidelines to follow for follow-ups are to wait until the designated response time is passed and then send a nice, polite, letter asking if a decision for your query letter has been decided.  You'd be surprised how many times it's lost and how easily a simple letter can fix the problem.

I hope this How to write a query letter hub helped, and good luck the rest of the way!


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      That's an inoueigns way of thinking about it.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Third Flower My spouse and i have aderaly been now delighted that Albert could carry out his reports on account of the concepts he had through your online page. It really is now and again perplexing to only constantly be freely giving techniques which some people c

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Good guidelines to follow when submitting a book to a publisher.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanx that was helpful :)

    • deblipp profile image


      7 years ago

      Some of your information is good. "Humanities" in paragraph 3 of the sample should be "humanity's."

    • Tusitala Tom profile image

      Tom Ware 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I think the information presented will be very useful to those who wish to go through 'the normal channels.' It is a cut-throat world out there, as far as publishing goes: Sixty-five million writers and six publishing houses; every second literate person an aspiriting best-eller novelist. You have to have 'an edge' and that example of a letter seems to provide it.

      I must admit to giving up. Now I'm into Hubpages and maybe E-books. Still, who knows? Maybe my latest will...? Thanks, anyway.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Your "real, good, example" has at least three typos that I counted.


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