Editor's Note: Post was edited for Stet. To read Audrey Wilson's full article published on her blog, click here.
You’ve done it. You’ve finished your book. You’ve edited it to perfection. You’re ready to show it to the world. Which means you’re ready for your window to that world; the Query Letter.
I queried my debut thriller Wrong Girl Gone for nearly five years before receiving a publishing offer, and I learned a lot along the way. For example, your manuscript might be great. Your idea might be pure gold. But a major aspect of publishing is marketing, and if you can’t sell your book with an A+ pitch, how can you expect a publisher to? If you’re ready to take the next step on your journey to becoming a published author, consider the following when writing your query letter.
1. Personalize Your Introduction - Many agents receive hundreds of impersonal query letters a week. Finding an agent or publisher that’s a good fit for your manuscript takes time and patience. After all, you wouldn’t want to submit your YA Fantasy Romance to an agent who only reps Literary Fiction. Show the person you’re querying that you took that extra twenty minutes to learn about what they’re looking for in a manuscript.
2. Perfect Your Logline - Essentially, you’re narrowing your story down to three key points: Your protagonist, the setting, and the main conflict. Once you’ve identified those, arrange them into an interesting sentence that tells the agent what’s unique about your book and why they should want to read it. We’ve included an example below, but for more examples, scroll through your Netflix queue.
Example: Aerial’s life in her small hometown is threatened when a mysterious stranger from an alien planet not only captures the watchful eye of the townspeople, but also captures Aerial’s heart.
3. Summarize Your Book in One Paragraph - A synopsis is typically a treatment or full description of what happens in your book from beginning to end, while a summary is a back-cover-style blurb that focuses only on the main plot and leaves the reader wanting more. Agents may request one or both of these. For marketable examples of summary, skim the latest bestsellers on your e-reader or at your local library.
4. Define Your Genre and Know Your Audience - Agents will want to know your book’s genre and demographic. Who will want to read your book? Is it a domestic thriller or a mystery romance? Is it geared towards men or women? What age group does it appeal to? Defining these things doesn’t exclude readers from different groups, but gives the agent an idea of how they might be able to market your book.
Example: My Book is an LGBTQ heroine-driven sci-fi romance that will appeal primarily to women, ages 18 to 34, who have an affinity for classic sci-fi films of the 1950s.
5. Choose Your Comp Titles Wisely - Comp titles can be used to describe a variety of elements in your book, from the narrative style to the underlying themes. While it’s good to make sure that one of your comp titles is a book, film and TV show comp titles can be particularly helpful when trying to describe a visual element to your book.
Example: My Book blends the raw narrative of Catcher in the Rye with the setting and style of Planet of the Apes.
6. Give Your Background - This is your chance to tell the agent or publisher a little bit about your writing background, experience, and accomplishments. Won an award for that poem you wrote last year? Tell them about it. Have another book in progress? Let them know! Share the top highlights of your accomplishments. (It’s okay to brag!)
7. Thank the Agent and Keep the Door Open - If the agent requested that you submit the first ten pages of your manuscript, include that, and let them know you’d be happy to send the full manuscript. End your query with a simple thanks, and let them know that you look forward to hearing from them. The key is to stay attentive and interested without appearing too eager.
- Audrey Wilson
About the Author
Audrey Wilson is an award-winning writer, screenwriter, and video producer with a BA in Television Writing and Producing from Columbia College Chicago. Her passion for writing has led her to the publication of her debut novel, Wrong Girl Gone.
Copyright 2011–2022, Independent Writers of Chicago
332 S. Michigan Avenue, #121–W686
Chicago, IL 60604-4434