Writing a Query Letter

You finally did it; you wrote that book you have always talked about. All of the long nights of feverishly typing your first draft are over, you talked yourself out of throwing out the entire manuscript even though you couldn’t stand to look at it anymore, and you meticulously edited until the book came to life. What’s your next step?

Authors pursuing publication with a subsidized press like CBP or a traditional publisher, or the representation of a literary agent, should create a one page query letter. The query letter is the first point of contact with a potential agent or publisher, and should be honed to perfection before it’s sent out.

Query letters, wherever they are sent, need to be short, sweet, and to the point. The letter is designed to grab the agent or publisher’s attention; in many cases, it’s the only chance you get to convince that person to read your book.

Begin your query letter by addressing the specific agent or publisher, and stating why you have chosen to query to them in particular. Most agents advertise specific genres and interests, so be sure to do plenty of research to find the best fit for your book.

The body of a query letter is broken into three simple parts: the hook, the synopsis, and the bio.

The hook is a one sentence tag-line of your book designed to snag an editor or agent’s attention. The synopsis should expand upon the hook, providing a clear and concise summary of the book’s main points or conflicts. This should be about a paragraph in length, and accurately explain why your book meets a need and should be published.

The author biography is the last section of a query letter. This should highlight experiences relevant to the subject matter, such as education or career information, as well as any prior publications. In non-fiction, the biography is the most important aspect of a query letter, as it is the author’s opportunity to list his or her credentials for the subject.

If you have a significant follower base on social media, like Twitter or LinkedIn, or another type online networking platform, like a blog or video channel, now is the time to explain that. This is important information, because if thousands of Twitter followers like you in 140 characters or less, they’re going to love your full manuscript, right? Again, keep all query information relevant to your book; a blog full of cat pictures doesn’t count, no matter how cute.

All submissions should be proofread, spell-checked, and presented in a professional manner. Authors should be sure to include all relevant contact information.

If the agent or publisher is interested in accepting your book, they will request a chapter, a half manuscript, or the full book to read before they make the final decision.

CBP accepts manuscript submissions at all times. If you’re interested in publishing with us, please follow this link for full submission guidelines or contact Sue Ann Painter at (513) 304-3633 for more information.

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