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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Query Letters

   
Author Topic: Query Letters
guess
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How long are query letters? I get the impression is basically 3 paragraphs to pitch your book. so your basically just giving a short overview and hoping an editor/agent will like it?
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wetwilly
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No longer than 1 page.
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Meredith
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Generally, shoot for around 250 words.

The query letter should introduce the main character (with some indication of why we should care), the conflict or choice the character has to make, and the stakes. All of that while hopefully showing the voice of your novel. Don't give away the ending in the query letter, though. (Do give the ending in the synopsis.)


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Tiergan
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1 page but don't crowd it.
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guess
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do you state the genre. If you are writing fantasy do you say this is a fantasy novel, etc...

Should the query letter only be about the book or should you include information about yourself?


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guess
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how long do people work on query letters? Is it good practice to try to write a query letter for books you have read?
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Tiergan
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Yes to the genre. Be sure to state that the book is completed with word count, not exact but rounded. As far as talking about yourself, that really depends if you have had anything publsihed, list the major ones, if no previous publishing, best to downplay, maybe list your next project, so they know you arent a 1 trick pony and are back at work, Agents want writers that write.


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TamesonYip
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I think it would be really cool if we did a query contest (kind of like the synopsis one). I know, the obvious answer is I should start one. School starts back August 31, so hopefully I can do that in September (with everything completed before October since new baby comes then and things get crazy).
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Meredith
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quote:
do you state the genre. If you are writing fantasy do you say this is a fantasy novel, etc...
Should the query letter only be about the book or should you include information about yourself?

how long do people work on query letters? Is it good practice to try to write a query letter for books you have read?


Yes, give the genre and sub-genre, if any along with the word count at the end of the query letter. Something like:

quote:
BLOOD WILL TELL is a 94,000-word urban fantasy novel.

Only include information about yourself in two instances:

  • You have pro publishing credits to list.
  • You have some specific experience that ties into your subject (like a detective writing a crime novel, for example).

People work on query letters (obsessively) until one finally works. They are critiqued, revised, sent out, dumped completely and rewritten, repeat, ad infinitum. Trust me on this.


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JamieFord
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Also, a lot of agents accept email queries, so the whole page thing isn't necessarily an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. But yeah, less is probably better. (Though I think mine was about a page and a half).
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Resurrecting this topic because of a blog post I read that I think is important:

http://thoughtsfromaliteraryagent.blogspot.com/2011/03/is-this-query-you-sent-me.html

It's an example of how NOT to query, and as well as proof that there really are nice people in the publishing industry.


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Heresy
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Thanks for posting that link, Kathleen. All I have to say to that query is wow. I do, however, agree with a number of the replies to her blog post that suggested English is not the query writer's first language, though I couldn't say exactly why I think that. Major kudos to the agent for her polite and helpful response to the query. I suspect many people wouldn't have been so nice.

-Julie T.


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Reziac
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I strongly suspect that linked email is a targeted scam, not a wild attempt at a query. Definitely ESL, and the syntax is all too similar to targeted scams I get, mostly from the Middle East (as can be seen if you track down the sending IP address, tho sometimes they have a "helper" in the U.S.) The giveaway is that it uses all the right lingo, but mangles the context.


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