This week my critique group participated in a Query Letter Writing Workshop. Our workshop leader was Jaclyn McMahon. She had us read up on query letters and discuss the mentioned articles, books and blogs. Then we each submitted one of our own, which everyone in the group critiqued. Those critiques led to more discussion.
There are entire books written on this subject of writing a query letter, but I shall share a few things I learned this week:
1) There are many winning query letters (ones which land contracts), but there is no perfect query letter, i.e., what causes one editor/agent to reject the story idea may cause another to accept.
2) Three paragraphs within the letter are the norm: A) Intro with readership age, word count and genre, and how you heard/know of agent/editor; B) 3-5 sentences summing up the story; and C) Personal information, as in publications, education, experience in the field in which you’re writing, etc..
3) No need to list every little article or story you’ve had published.
4) Name-dropping sometimes works, but researching what the editor/agent represents is a better bet.
5) No getting chummy if you don’t personally know the person to whom you’re sending the letter. Stick to the facts. Be a professional.
6) Be polite. (I list this is all by itself because it’s important.)
7) Do your Cross-your-fingers-and-hop-around-the-room-in-hope dance, then get back to writing and thinking and researching.