Query Letter Writing for Book Authors

So, as I’ve mentioned, I still feel like I’m a newbie writer.  I’m also a newbie published author – my Historic Walking Guide to Edinburgh was picked up after I responded to a publisher looking for writers.

But what if you are an author looking to get your book published?  That, my dear readers, is not a fun place to be in – I know several friends who are in that position (Hi!), and it is a competitive place to be.  I happened upon this fantastic book author query letter over at a site dedicated to Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. (If that is your niche, you might want to go have a look.  I’ll wait here patiently.) Perhaps I was drawn to it by the title:  the complete nobody’s guide to query letters.  HA!

It’s a long pitch, so I’d just like to highlight some of the parts I really liked about it and the ones I will take away when I write another book and need to pitch to authors.

State What You Are Asking For

I love how Lynn starts right off with what she is looking for – no mincing of words here:

I am seeking representation for my fantasy adventure novel,Luck In The Shadows, complete at 170,000 words. I am enclosing a synopsis and a sample chapter. The sequel,Stalking Darkness, is nearing completion and another free-standing book featuring the same characters is in outline form.

She also explains the attachments and where she is with the book.  I have never met Lynn before, and yet in three sentences I have a pretty good idea already of what’s going on.

Express Your Passion and Why You Are Different

Lynn then dives into why she loves this topic – passion counts for a lot these days – and then acknowledges some books already published on this topic and then explains succinctly why her book is different:

I love thieves and spies – those sneaky people who live by intuition, skill, and inside knowledge. In fantasy, however, they are often portrayed as dark, ruthless characters or relegated to second string roles, a la Falstaff, as useful or amusing foils for more conventional heroic types. Luck in the Shadows gives the rogues center stage.

Explain Why You Are Qualified – And Name Drop if You Can

You don’t have to name drop, but I think it helps if you can. 🙂  But notice how Lynn does it here, without being a total jerk about it.

I’ve been writing professionally for ten years and am currently a freelance journalist. My articles appear regularly in the Bangor Daily News, Preview! Magazine, and Maine In Print. I’ve covered everything from software to psychics; my interview credits include Stephen King, Anne Rice, and William Kotzwinkle.

Further Tips

We’ve talked before about silly query letter writing mistakes, so I will not rehash old ground.  Lynn’s advice further along is a bit dated, but there are two tips here that will be eternal for book author pitches:

  • Find a Name:  As with any query letter, it’s always best to get it to the right person in the first place.  Saves you a lot of hassle and the potential of your precious query not even getting to the editor who is making the decision.
  • Follow the Directions:  Does it say use a purple pen and include three photos of you juggling?  Then DO IT.  As an editor myself, I cannot tell you how annoying it is to receive pitches that don’t follow the instructions.  If you can’t even pitch with the instructions, how can you write a whole book?

For more tips, don’t miss Deb’s great series: how to write a book.

I would love to hear from authors who have gotten published, or publicists who do review query letters, for comments and tips on how book authors can be more success!

Photo by kevindooley


2 responses
  1. Derek Thompson Avatar

    Thanks Andy and congratulations on getting a book out there.

    1. Andy Hayes Avatar

      Thanks Derek, appreciate it!

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