Can you recommend good resources for the query letter?

I have just been reviewing guidelines for short fiction and poetry submission to over a dozen literary magazines. Some require a query letter and some don't. Some were slightly specific in what they are looking for in the query letter and some were painfully vague. I want to intrigue them, to wow them while at the same time have a template that I can modify easily depending on who I am submitting to. Since I have not submitted any work for serious publication, only entered contests, I want to make sure I have my best food forward. Thank you!

3 Answers

  • 2 years ago

    You don't want a template; you want to write something unique to your work that also checks off all the boxes of what agents or acquisition editors want. You want a hook, a reason for choosing to contact this specific agent, the title, the word count rounded to the closest 5000, the genre, a very short paragraph about the book's plot, and your previous publications, contest wins, or expertise in the book's subject matter, if any.

    And you *must* research agents first--just in the last two weeks two agents have been "outed" as having defrauded their clients, forging signatures on contracts from publishers and from authors.

    Query letters are harder than they seem to somebody who's not writing one. A whole lot depends on the letter, because nobody's going to see the brilliant novel you're trying to sell if the letter's not good.

    One excellent source for query letters is AbsoluteWrite's forum, where there's a detailed stickied how-to and a board where members with 50 posts can get their queries critiqued. Numerous agents have blog or website posts about queries they receive, good and bad--identify agents who rep what you're trying to sell and seek their posts about it. And of course there's Miss Snark, now retired, but her input remains relevant.

  • You make me hate children.

    You want to "wow" someone with your creativity, so you immediately look for someone else to tell you how to do this.

    Did anyone under the age of 30 ever do their own homework?

  • 2 years ago

    Unfortunately, I don't know of any resources that will provide you with a template for a query letter, but what I would like to say is this: do not intrigue the editor of a literary magazine, and do not attempt to wow the editor, with your query letter. Editors have no time for working out puzzles, or for being wowed, in query letters. Give the editor the plain facts about your literary work, and write your letter in the form that the magazine requests. If an editor is faced with a letter that does not stick to his published guidelines, he will not waste any time on it. There are plenty more where that one came from. You can display your literary talents in your work, once it has been accepted and published.

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