Article: The Query Letter

The Query Letter
An Editor’s First Impression
Sample Query Letter
by Melissa Alvarez

Ah, the dreaded query letter. But, tell me why is it so dreaded?

Maybe it’s because you have put body and soul (and probably a few sleepless nights) into your manuscript and are now ready to put your baby in front of an editor.

Basically – it’s just nerve wracking to say the least and that’s the bottom line. But there is a simple and efficient way to market your masterpiece and yourself. So let’s keep it simple and look at the elements of a good query letter.

Let’s start with your contact information. Don’t forget to include both your telephone number and e-mail address. It’s a simple mistake to make but one that could prove to be very costly. I prefer to use a nicely designed letterhead because it gives me a little more room in the body of my letter.

Next you want to put the name and complete address of the Editor including the line/series to which you are submitting your work. Putting the name of the line/series is very important because some editors may handle more than one line.

Now, address the Editor. Never, ever put Dear Editor. This is very impersonal and an editor isn’t just someone who accepts manuscripts but a person with a life, hopes and dreams. Personalize your greeting with Dear Ms. (insert the editor’s last name). Always make sure you do your homework and find out the name of the person who handles your targeted line and send it to them.

Then begin the body of your query letter. Start with a short concise account of your work. State the number of words and the line you are targeting. Some authors include a hook in the opening paragraph to draw the Editor into the letter.

Next comes the main section of your query. Here you want to include a little about your characters and the plot of your novel.

Follow with something about yourself. Brag but don’t sound boastful. There’s a thin line between the two. You want the editor to know you are a professional and serious about your writing. Presenting your self as the greatest thing since sliced bread isn’t what an editor wants to read. Nor does he/she want to read how great Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Bob said your book was – they want to know what kind of publishing experience you may or may not have and your motivation behind your book. Sometimes publishers ask you to submit marketing plans – just remember that if you say it in your query you better be willing to follow though if you’re signed.

Finally, thank the Editor and ask if they would like to see a partial or full manuscript. Tell them you included a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) for their convenience.

When you submit to a publishing company first impressions are the most important. You want to appear professional, organized, neat, and above all, educated about your topic. Below is a sample query letter that is short and to the point. In the busy world of an editor or publisher you want your query letter to stand out instead of being tossed in the slush pile.

Your Name Home Address Home Phone number and Email Address

Today’s Date

Editor’s Name, Assistant Editor, Line you’re targeting, Editor’s Address, City State Zip

Dear Ms. Last Name of Editor,

Trapped with her worst enemy! Will Abby Johnson survive Randy Bale’s overtures? Island Adventures is a completed 80,000 word contemporary romance set on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. This story is targeted for the New Age Dimensions’ Enamor line.
Pilot Randy Bale fell in love with Abby Johnson the moment she walked into his high school English class. But she never gave him the time of day regardless of how much he teased and flirted with her. Ten years later, Abby chartered his single engine plane but a malfunction has them stranded on an uncharted island. Now Abby, determined to ignore Randy until help arrived, found herself drawn to his irresistible good looks and protective nature.

My writing credits include monthly contributions to local magazines and online ezines. I have been writing for the last three years and have also published one novel, The Great Storm. My favorite genre of fiction is romance and I have been an avid reader for the last twenty years. I am a member of Romance Writers of America, my local RWA chapter and several writers’ groups.
If you are interested, I could send you either the complete manuscript or the first three chapters of Island Adventures. I have enclosed a synopsis for your review and a SASE for your reply. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.


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