Thursday, 29 December 2011

Query Letters – A Writer’s Business Card

Facing the at times twisted road towards publication, I had a battalion of questions marching through my head when I started out. Some of the first recruits were: Who did I need to address with my manuscript? How should I address them?

Lieutenant Google helped me perform a thorough search of the Austrian and international publishing industry’s inner workings. 

Our informed conclusions: 

1)      When approaching American or UK publishing houses agents are indispensable allies.
2)      One of the possibilities of attracting an agent, besides chancing upon them at certain events, is by sending out query letters. 

What is a query letter? Simply put, a query letter is a writer’s business card. They serve as an introduction and give the agent a first impression of you and the manuscript you wish to sell.  Your query letter needs to draw in the agent in order to get him to actually take a look at your manuscript. It has to stand out from the flood of letters or mails an agent receives on a normal work day while still adhering to certain formal criteria. That dichotomy of uniqueness and style restrictions makes composing a query letter a tricky business.

But what is a query letter supposed to look like? Once again scouring the internet, trusty Lieutenant Google and I happened upon a number of forums which function as a wonderful sounding board to writers just starting out in their querying process. After checking out a number of sites, I finally settled on as my helpmate. The website features a very thorough list of “dos and don’ts” concerning the composition of a query letter as well as a forum where you can get feedback on your own query letter before sending it out into the world. Following the “instructions” and the impression I won from reading the query letters of other authors, I composed my own. I am currently on version five and ready to post it in the Critique Corner at While hoping for constructive feedback from the community, I plan to comb through the database of agents which can be found on the same website: Multitasking in order to slowly chip away at the questions still lurking in the trenches of my path to publication seems the best way to get a hold of the situation.

After all, beside the fact that my query letter should be concise and to the point, I also need to find an agent that suits the type of manuscript I produced, but that is a story for another post…

I would love to hear your thoughts on contacting agents. Any unique ideas?

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