“Why Not? Day 9 Write a Query Letter or Cover Letter. Go Ahead” by Joan Y. Edwards
- You’ve written sentences.
- You’ve written paragraphs.
- You’ve written an article, poem, short story, manuscript, screenplay.
- You’ve written a title.
- You’ve written a pitch.
- You’ve revised your writing at least three times.
- You’ve had your work critiqued by a critique group, a writing partner, and/or a professional editor. You’ve decided which suggestions you’ll honor and revised your manuscript again. You’ve proofread it and had others to proofread it, too.
- You’ve picked out one publisher or agent
What is the difference between a query letter and a cover letter? A cover letter goes along with a copy of a manuscript or a proposal. In the days before emails, these letters would cover the main manuscript or other enclosures. Thus, the name cover letter. With a query, it doesn’t go on top of something. It doesn’t have attachments. It’s all alone. A query letter’s purpose is to ask if someone would like to see a manuscript. It’s asking a question. If there’s nothing attached or enclosed, it’s a query letter.
A cover letter means you have permission to send part of a manuscript. If it’s a non-fiction manuscript book, the guidelines might say to send a proposal with the first three chapters. If a publisher or agent’s guidelines specify that you send ten pages or a whole picture book manuscript, then you’re writing a cover letter to go with it.
Both a query letter and a cover letter follow the same format – one page, single spaced, one-inch margins. Your address, phone number, email address, and date on the right side at the top. The name and address of the editor or agent on the left side.
Greeting: Dear Mr. or Ms. and the last name. When I’m not sure whether it’s Miss or Mrs. I usually use their first name. Please make it more personal than Dear Submission Editor or Dear Agent. But if that’s the best option possible, go with it. A publisher may tell you to send your query to the submission editor with no name mentioned. Other publishers have an online form to submit your information. If so, you can copy and paste elements in the right places. Usually, literary agencies like for you to study their agents and choose the one who works with your genre. They want you to select one and only one agent.
RE: Put Submission or Query or Fall Conference 2016: Check the guidelines for subject notes
First paragraph: Tell where you met them or why you chose them (conference, website, blog, another writer).
Explain that you love the humor, information, mystery, or another quality of a book that they published or represented as an agent. Tell how your book is similar to this book. Tell your PITCH (2 sentences).
Second paragraph: Tell MORE ABOUT YOUR STORY (125 word selling summary).
Tell why you believe this company or agent would be a good match for this manuscript. If the guidelines mention certain interests of publisher or agent, mention it, if it relates to your book.
Third paragraph: SHORT BIO.
Tell 3 biographical sentences about you and your writing/illustrating. Mention your membership in writer or illustrator professional groups, such as Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators.
Closing paragraph: THANKS AND ASK THE QUESTION.
Thanks for considering my work. If it’s a COVER LETTER, tell what you’ve enclosed or attached. May I send you the complete manuscript of BOOK TITLE? I look forward to hearing from you, but I understand that if I don’t hear from you in _______ months, you are not interested.
If the guidelines accept only email submissions, use email. Make sure your own email address has your name in it, not firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
If the guidelines ask for snail mail, use your postal service. If they ask for SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope), be sure and enclose one.
Good luck with writing your query or cover letter. Please let me know if my ideas or resources help you. There are more resources for you below. To comment, click below and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
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Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2017 Joan Y. Edwards
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Earlier blog posts in the Why Not? series:
- “Why Not? Day 1 Write. Go ahead:” http://wp.me/pFnvK-3t0
- “Why Not? Day 2 Write a Sentence. Go ahead:” http://wp.me/pFnvK-3u1
- “Why Not? Day 3 Write a Paragraph. Go Ahead:”
- “Why Not? Day 4 Write a Snappy Title. Go Ahead:” http://wp.me/pFnvK-3wG
- “Why Not? Day 5 Write a Pitch. Go Ahead:”
- “Why Not? Day 6 Revise Your Story. Go Ahead:” http://wp.me/pFnvK-3xl
- “Why Not? Day 7 Get Your Writing Critiqued. Go Ahead:” http://wp.me/pFnvK-3xj
- “Why Not? Day 8 Make a List of Good Publishers. Go Ahead:” http://wp.me/pFnvK-3xp
- Agent Query.com. “How to Write a Query Letter” http://www.agentquery.com/writer_hq.aspx
- Allena Tapia. About.com. “A Sample Query:”
- Charlotte Dillon. “Query:” http://www.charlottedillon.com/query.html
- Cynthea Liu. “Anatomy of a Query Letter:” http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/submissions/anatomy-of-a-query-letter/
- Jacqueline K. Ogburn. “Rites of Submission:” http://www.underdown.org/covlettr.htm/
- Joan Y. Edwards. “Components of a Good Query Letter:” https://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/components-of-a-good-query-letter/
- Joan Y. Edwards. “Will Your Query Letter Sell Your Manuscript?” https://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/will-your-query-letter-sell-your-manuscript/
- Nathan Bransford. “How to Format a Query Letter:” http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03/how-to-format-query-letter.html/
- Nathan Bransford. “Anatomy of a Good Query Letter:” http://blog.nathanbransford.com/search/label/Anatomy%20of%20a%20Good%20Query%20Letter/
- New York Book Editors. “How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter:” http://nybookeditors.com/2015/12/how-to-write-a-darn-good-query-letter/
Preditors and Editors: Sample Query http://pred-ed.com/pubquery.htm
- Query Shark http://queryshark.blogspot.com/