Writing A Query Letter

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Your query letter, or “pitch” is, simply put, one typed page of 250-300 words containing an introduction to your manuscript – if written correctly, it will entice the reader into requesting your manuscript. Not so simply put, you need to sell your book (and your writing skills) in a single typed page and really make the reader want your manuscript.

Starting to worry? Don’t: theditors.com is here to help make your pitch perfect.

* First and foremost: Your pitch is not a synopsis. If you give the entire plot away in the query letter, the reader has no need to request the manuscript. Always leave the reader wanting more.

* Your pitch is also not the place to provide the back-story for your manuscript. If you can set the scene in one sentence then do, but if it takes up too much of your word count, cut it. Start your pitch in the present, where the story begins.

* Introduce your main character right at the start and use a hook to entice the reader to continue reading. For example: “Sarah Hunter thought she was an ordinary girl until she discovered she could read other people’s minds.” Here the reader is wondering: How did she get this gift and what does she use it for? This entices the reader to continue reading the query letter.

* Keep the focus on your main character. For example, if your manuscript features a young girl named Helena and her journey from a war-torn country to her freedom, then keep the pitch focused on her and her journey.

* Remember thefour C’s”:

          Character (Who is your main character and why are they at the centre of the novel?)

          Conflict (Where is the conflict in your manuscript? Is it internal or external?)

          Choices (What choices does the main character have?)

          Consequences (What are the consequences of these choices?)

If your reader doesn’t get this information in the query letter, they won’t be interested in reading further.

* Show don’t tell.  Don’t simply describe Mary as fearless and determined, show that she is. Leave adverbs out of the pitch and focus on action instead of description.

* Use your word count wisely. If you can cut a word from a sentence then do it. Read through the entire letter sentence by sentence and find where you can cut a word or two without changing the meaning of that sentence.

* If in doubt, read it aloud. By doing this you’ll discover where a reader would stumble in a sentence and whether it has the right flow.

And last, but not least – read, read, read. If you want to write fantasy, read some fantasy, if you want to write Crime Fiction, read some Crime Fiction, and if you want to write a good pitch, read some good pitches. Try looking at the back cover or inside jacket of a dozen books for inspiration and examine how the information is worded to tempt the reader into buying the book.

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