Workshop 15: Query Letters That Work
In her ACFW conference workshop Query Letters That Work, Amanda Luedeke, MacGregor Literary Agency, identified three key components of a great query letter:
- The introduction
- The Pitch
She shared great tips for each component:
First, make sure the letter is addressed properly. It should list the person being queried by his or her correct name and title and should not be part of a mass mailing to many agents or editors.
Be intentional about who you query. Casting a big net isn’t as good as targeting a few agents you believe will be a good match for you and your work. Luedeke said not to freak out over a missed typo or two, but egregious misspellings or atrocious grammar are definitely noticed by agents. It’s okay to have big dreams, but be sure to come across as professional and realistic—few writers will have major movie deals and licensing agreements.
Always include genre, audience, and length—as well as two to four lines that capture the essence of your book. Don’t be afraid to spill the secrets.
Only include the main story arc involving the protagonist, antagonist, and what happens between them. For romances, be sure to include both the hero and the heroine. For unpublished authors, manuscripts must be complete and polished—not your first draft. Include your word count, because specific genres have specific word counts. Do your research to make sure your manuscript fits the expectations of the genre you’re querying.
Include any past writing experiences, particularly, if previously published, publisher and sales figures, circulation numbers for magazines/newspapers, and hits for e-zines/blogs/etc. Share any other pertinent information including awards won or relevant industry connections.
No matter who you are querying, look at the submission guidelines on their website. Some agents refuse to open attachments, while others will. Some do not want any writing samples until later; others want pages with your letter. Some want only email; others still want (or will accept) hard copies via mail.
Luedeke also gave helpful tips for nonfiction query letters: Include an introduction and pitch (the same as for fiction), your market, and your biography and platform to show why you are the one who should be writing the book you’re pitching.
What it comes down, Luedeke said, is do your research, be professional, and put your best work forward. Lead with your strengths. Because, in the end, a great query letter is the gateway to your future.
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