The first, and most important, thing to know about writing a query is to follow the guidelines that the publisher gives you. If your query letter does not follow the required format and contain the required information, it will show that you are not able to follow instruction and that you don’t care enough to read. Neither of which look good.
When writing a query, look at it like a resume. It is the best showcase of yourself and your work that you can give and it’s supposed to entice the company to wish to work with you and show them that you’re definitely good enough to be published.
After making sure that your query contains all the information that you need to have in it, go through and make sure your grammar is correct. If you aren’t sure, then have a friend or family member (who has good grammar) look it over. That way, you’re sending the cleanest and most proper letter that you have. We, those that check queries, notice when you use poor grammar and misspell things and it doesn’t usually look good on our “Score Sheet”. While singular typos are easily forgiven, constant trends of poor grammar suggest that similar trends will exist in your manuscript and that is not a joyful prospect to any editor.
Divertir’s query requirements are rather standard for the industry and are:
- An introduction. Include the title of the book, the genre, and final word count.
- A summary of your manuscript. This is our first glimpse of your work, so it is important that it capture our attention.
- A description of the target audiences for the manuscript. Please include a list of titles you feel are similar to your manuscript and the age group of the target audience (children, young adult, or adult).
- The author’s bio. For nonfiction, this should include a discussion of why you are qualified to write on the subject of the manuscript. The bio should also include a list of the author’s previous publications and awards.
- Please include a discussion of the level of involvement you would like in the production and marketing of the manuscript if it is selected for publication. Please include contact information (email and phone) at the bottom of the query letter.
Now, these are for book-length manuscripts, things are slightly different when handling short stories or poetry. The information regarding marketing is because, in reality, authors need to be involved in the marketing end of their book. In today’s market, particularly with a small publishing company, authors will need to be proactive in selling their book. That means talking about it on social networking sites (facebook, twitter, myspace, etc.), blog posts, making an author website to direct people to, and just in general talking the book up everywhere and anywhere possible.
There will be a blog entry on the marketing process and what authors are expected to do to take part in it, but this is mostly about queries so we’ll pick that discussion up later.