How to Write a Kick-Ass Query Letter
By Paige Wheeler
JUST THE STATS, MA’AM.
Write What you Know/Know What you Write: The first step to writing a terrific query letter is to know what it is that you’re writing. Are you writing fiction or nonfiction? If you’re writing fiction, what genre and/or subgenre (historical romance; cozy mystery; epic fantasy).
Size Does Matter: How long is your manuscript? If you are writing fiction, you have probably finished the manuscript and you’re now looking for an agent (or editor), so you know the approximate length (word count) of your material. You should have checked the industry standards of various genres (cozy mysteries, for example, between 60,000-85,000 words; thrillers are closer to 100,000 words; contemporary romances (not category) are 95,000-100,000; fantasy novels are 90,000-140,000.
Complete or Not Complete, That is the Question: Have you finished your manuscript? Most agents/editors only want to see material if it has been completed. There are some instances in which this is not the case, but it’s generally accepted that you should only query if your material is complete.
What I like about You! Now is the time to wow us with your fantastic credentials. Have published with major publishers in 10 languages and sold over 10 million copies? That’s what we want to know! Okay, maybe you haven’t had such luck. However, have you sold at all? Won any contests? Earned your MFA in Creative Writing? Studied with a major author? Member of any professional organizations (RWA, MWA, Sisters in Crime, etc.)