Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How to Write a Good Query Letter by Heather Paye

Today, I have the pleasure of featuring an article by a very talented author and graphic designer, Heather Paye. Since it’s on an important topic for writers, we’ll get right to it.

How to Write a Good Query Letter

by Heather Paye

Query letters are important if you're going to even think about sending your work anywhere, be it novel or other. Writing a query letter is actually quite easy, you may be surprised.

I've been around the web and have seen many different ways and different guides to writing a query letter. So anyways, here's the basic layout along with all of the information you'll need to include.

Name (not pen name)

Email Address
Phone number

Title of work (in parenthesis state genre/s)

In the first paragraph give a brief summary of what the book is about. Be clever, because this is the first sample and idea of your book that agent or publisher will be reading. This would make it the hardest part of the query letter that you are writing.

In this next paragraph you are going to include the following information: Target audience (Young Adult, Middle Grade, Adult, etc.), note if the book will be made into a series, and if so list a brief synopsis (2 - 3 sentences at most) of entire series, list the length of the book (how many words is it?).

Note if you'll be needed an illustrator or not.

In the next paragraph include a bit about your background in writing, list anything that qualifies you to be writing, any experience, etc. You may not have much to put here, so just do the best with what you have.

Next, note what your marketing and promotion plan is. If you don't have a marketing plan yet, then you shouldn't be writing a query letter so soon in the game anyways. We'll be going more into marketing plans later.

Now this is your brief closing sentence, I usually put something here like "thank you for your time and consideration" be creative, and be "professionally sweet".

Then you'll put Sincerely,

Your Name

TA-DA! You've just written an awesome query letter! It all should be able to fit on your basic 8 x 10 piece of paper, keep that in mind.

Alright, so after you write your query letter, make sure you edit and re-edit it, that is very important. If it has errors in it, it may just be rejected just like that, because errors are a sign of laziness. It's just one page, so make sure you edit it very well. Also, be sure to read the submission guidelines, you may have to add or remove sections depending on the publisher/agent, but usually this query letter works for everything.

After you've finished it's always comforting to get a second opinion, so feel free to send it to me, and I'll be happy to critique it and let you know what I think about it.

Heather Paye is an author and graphic designer. Currently she is working on a book series of nine, with the first installment finished and being prepared to be released on bookshelves soon. The first draft of the second installment is almost finished. Her novel "A Gift From Above" which she wrote for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008 was published March 28th, 2009

You can learn more about Heather at:

BlogSite -


Successful Writing Strategy – Know Your Intent
Is Your Manuscript Ready for Submission?


I can help. Check out: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children



Mari said...

Karen, thanks for hosting :) Great advice Heather! Query letters are so important. A second opinion is always a good idea, as you stated.

Karen Cioffi said...

Mari, thanks for stopping by. And, a second opinion is always a good idea. We do this in my critique group.

V.R. Leavitt said...

This is excellent. I'm about to start querying my novel so this post will definitely be bookmarked for future reference. Thanks!!


kathy stemke said...

Great info Heather. The Query letter is the key to success for an author.

The Crypto-Capers Series said...

Great advice. Thank you so much for sharing!

Deb Hockenberry said...

Hi, Thanks for a great post, Heather and thanks for hosting it, Karen. It was very informative taking away the scariness of writing query letters!

anthony stemke said...

I say, these are excellent tips, especially checking your query letter before posting it.
Can you imagine having a great work, only to be sabotaged by a typo in the query and they lose interest fast? What a nightmare.
Excellent essay here.

anthony stemke said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Karen Cioffi said...

Vanessa, So glad this post was timely for you. Thanks for stopping by.

Karen Cioffi said...

Thanks for stopping by. And, that's so true, without a good query letter the ms will never be read.

Karen Cioffi said...


Glad you found the post helpful. Heather did a great job on it.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Deb,

LOL Queries can be frightening. Thanks for stopping by!

Karen Cioffi said...


That would be awful. It always pays to proof everything you send out!

Susanne Drazic said...

Great guest post. I took notes!

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Susanne, Thanks stopping by. Glad you found the post helpful!

Stephen Tremp said...

Thanks for the nuggets if info. Every little bit helps when it comes to putting together a great query letter.

KittyNadem said...

Hi all! Sorry for stopping in late, it's been a crazy day!

I smiled when I saw all the comments, you guys are awesome! Thank you all for stopping by, and good luck in your writing ventures and query letter writing - and Karen, thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog!

~ Heather Paye

Magdalena Ball said...

Good advice Heather. The only thing I might add is that it really helps to open the query with a little hook. I know that's what you mean by being clever - something that really catches the attention and forces the reader to keep on with the letter. Thanks!

Karen Cioffi said...

Heather, Thank you for being my guest; it was a pleasure!

Karen Cioffi said...

Maggie, that's absolutely right, being clever and beginning with a hook is a necessity.

Children's agent, Mary Kole, advises to make her care right at the beginning, other wise chances are she may not continue reading your query.

Karen Cioffi said...

Stephen, I agree, every little bit helps!

elysabeth said...

I think it's important to get second opinions on everything we write as professionals. We have an image to uphold. I don't use query letters but thanks for reiterating some forgotten information. - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Elysabeth and Donna.

Heather did a good job on this post!