I wrote this up for a workshop on query letters I gave somewhere sometime ago. I ran the class through the rules, gave them the sample query letter, and then made them write queries of their own.
And then we read them out loud.
And then I made ’em do it again.
query letters — the rules
1 — Three, maximum four paragraphs. Keep it to one page.
2 — First paragraph, introduce yourself. If you met or corresponded with the editor before, say so here. If you’ve published before, say what here.
3 — Second paragraph, introduce the work you wish to sell.
4 — Third (optional) paragraph, identify potential markets.
5 — Fourth paragraph, say thanks, goodbye and get out.
6 — Oh, and did I mention? Keep it to one page.
query letters — a sample
Pierre, South Dakota
October 16, 2003
Huge, Gigantic Publishers
666 Madison Avenue
New York, New York
Dear Ms. Editor,
My name is Wendy Writer, and I am the author of the “Little House on the Prairie” murder mysteries, set in DeSmet, South Dakota in the late 1880’s and featuring crime-fighting schoolteacher Laura Ingalls. We met at Bouchercon last week.
This series will be an adult take on the well-known children’s series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As my series opens, Laura has just received her second-class teacher’s certificate and is taking leave of her family to take up a teaching position in a faraway town. The first day she arrives in her one-room schoolhouse, she finds the body of a student on the floor. Suspects include the drunken father, the crazed mother, a jealous classmate, a blackmailed minister, and a corrupt school superintendent.
The Little House on the Prairie murder mysteries will find an immediate market not only with fans of crime fiction but also of the Wilder books. Ma and Pa Ingalls will make appearances, as will Almanzo Wilder, Laura’s determined beau, and Almanzo’s sister and Laura’s enemy, Eliza Jane Wilder.
I have completed the first novel in the series, Little Body in the Big Woods, and I’m looking for a publisher. Would you like to take a look?