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Writing a Perfect Query Letter: Do’s and Don’ts

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Writing a Perfect Query Letter: Do’s and Don’ts

If you are interested in getting published you are going to eventually write to an agent, publisher or editor. There is a proper format for approaching these heavy weights called a query letter. This is a formally written letter that you send to the agent or publisher before you send your written work. The query letter introduces you and your work to the editor while giving examples of your writing and explaining why you are the best person to create this type of work for this particular publisher.

Now that you know what a query letter is, you do not need to go running off to the printers and get 50 copies of your resume. That won’t do you any good.

  • A query must be a researched, professionally written letter for one publisher only. That does not mean that you can’t send out more than one query, but you have to make each one individual.
  • Remember that these people get thousands of these every month. You have to make yours stand out in a professional way. At times like this less is more. Do not use brightly colored flashy paper with designs on it. You will not get your letter read. It will go into the garbage.
  • The best colors are white or off-white, linen paper with a gentle texture. Use a professional font, like you might see in their publication. Times New Roman is very good for professional looking letters.
  • Address your letter to the editor who is in charge of the section you are looking to publish in. Use their full name and avoid using Mr. and Mrs. Do not use “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madame.” Find out the name of the person in charge and address your letter directly to that person.
  • Make sure the address you have is correct and put it on the letter. Remember to put your own name, address, phone number and email address on your letter or you will not get a response no matter how good your writing is.
  • Don’t tell the agent or editor how much you write like Stephen King, or anyone else. You are writing to show who you are. Any other reference to other people will put them off and your letter will end up in the garbage.
  • Always include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) for ease of response.
  • Do not go over one page. The best letters can fit everything you need onto one page. The editor or agent will not read more than one page so writing any more than that is a waste.
  • Keep your paragraphs short and to the point. Long drawn out paragraphs look too involved and intimidating and won’t get read.
  • Don’t try to use small fonts to fit more on the page. It will look terrible and be hard to read. It will end up in the trash can.
  • Re-read your letter four times and then put it down until tomorrow and read it again. You are looking for spelling and grammar mistakes. Just one and you may never hear back from the publisher.

These are some obvious but common mistakes. Don’t make them.

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