Janet Reid from Fine Print Literary Agency gave an excellent lecture on writing effective query letters at a recent Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group meeting. Here are some of the things she talked about and tips taken from her hand out. Check out Janet Reid's blog too.
A query letter is a business letter, even if you’re sending it via email, it should still be professional. Get rid of auto-signatures with pictures and fancy fonts. DO NOT copy and paste from a Word.doc file into the email or that email the agent gets will be full of those weird characters, you’ll lose all the formatting and get a big block of text that’s hard to read. Type the letter manually into the email or save it into a draft in your email and then copy and paste.
Who is the main character(s)?
What happens to her?
What choice does s/he face?
What terrible thing will happen because of that choice?
Here’s a sample formula for writing a blurb: The main character must decide whether to ________. If s/he decides to do (this), the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are: If s/he decides NOT to do this: the consequences/outcome/peril s/he faces are:
A query blurb describes the book’s premise, it’s not a synopsis. Don’t tell the ending. Stick to hero/heroine and possibly the protagonist in your blurb and that’s all. Avoid character soup in your blurb.
A query letter should include the word count, title, genre and publishing credits you have. You don’t have to say the novel is complete. It should be before you query. Publishing credits are published works, not self-published, not winning a contest, not awards, not classes or teachers you’ve studied under, not an MFA, not conferences attended.
Here’s an example of a format for an equery:
Subj: QUERY – Title by Author
Dear (Name of Agent)
Paragraph ONE: 100 word paragraph on what the book is about. This is not a synopsis. Have a line break every three lines. Makes it easier to read. Include Title, genre and word count.
Paragraph TWO: Your writing credits (If none, then skip)
Paragraph THREE: Any kind words, how you found the agent, why you picked that agent, etc.
Closing: Thank you for you time and consideration. (No need for other stuff.)
your twitter name
your Facebook page
Your physical address