Agent Katharine Sands believes that the writing you do about your writing is as important as the writing itself. A query is a one-page, single-spaced letter with three or four indented paragraphs with a space between each of them. Without being self-serving, it explains why, what, and who: the hook, the book, and the cook:
1. The Hook: whatever will best justify reading your work
* (Optional) A selling quote about your book (or a previous book) from someone whose name will give it credibility and/or salability. The quote could also be about you.
* (Optional) The reason you’re writing the agent or editor:
–the name of someone who suggested you contact the agent
–the book in which the author thanked the person you’re contacting
–where you heard the agent speak
–where you will hear the person speak and hope to have the chance to discuss your book
* Whatever will most excite agents or editors about your book:
–the opening paragraph
–the most compelling fact or idea about your subject
–a statistic about the interest of people or the media in the subject or the number of potential readers
2. The Book: the essence of your book
* A sentence with the title and the selling handle for the book, up to fifteen words that will convince booksellers to stock it.
* The model(s) for it: one or two books, movies, or authors that convey your literary and publishing goals: “It’s Gone Girl meets Pride and Prejudice.”
* A one-sentence overview of your book and, if appropriate, what it will do for your readers
* The book’s biggest markets
* The actual or estimated word count of your manuscript
* The number of pages in your proposal and how many pages of the manuscript you have ready to send
* (Optional) The names of people, if they’re impressive, who have agreed to give you a foreword and cover quotes
* (Optional) A link to illustrations, if they’re important
* (Optional) If you’re proposing a series, the subjects or titles of the next two books
* (Optional) Information about a self-published edition that will help sell it
3. The Cook: Why you’re the person to write the book
* Your platform: the most important things you have done and are doing to give yourself continuing visibility with potential readers, with numbers if they’re impressive: your online activities, published work with links to it, and media and speaking experience with links to audio and video
* Your promotion plan: the three most effective things you will do to promote your book, online and off, with numbers, if they’re impressive
* (Optional) Your credentials; years of research; experience, positions, prizes, contests, and awards in your field
* A link to a video up to two minutes long that enables you to make the case for your book and you as the author
These elements are building blocks for you to assemble in the most effective order. Front-load the letter by putting what is most impressive as close to the beginning as you can, and include anything else that will convince agents or editors to ask to see your work. Get feedback on your letter, and have someone proofread it.
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