Really Useful Links: Perfecting Your Query by Paul Anthony Shortt

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Paul Anthony Shortt

Query letters are a dreaded thing, at least for most authors I know – myself included. It takes the right balance of salesperson, artist, and critic to take everything an agent or submissions editor needs to know about your book and condense it into a single page. Lean too heavily on self-promotion, and you might seem desperate. Too much grand language can make you sound cocky. Too weak a pitch, and you’ll seem like you lack confidence in your own writing.

A query letter/email is the first contact required by most American publishers or agents and is your first impression, and we all know how important those can be. Agents and publishers receive hundreds of submissions every day and need to be able to get through them quickly – the more red flags that pop up in your query letter, the more likely it becomes that your book will lack what it takes to be a strong seller. Even if you write the best book there ever was, if your query letter lets you down badly enough, no-one will ever know as you won’t be asked to forward your manuscript. It’s a hard truth to learn, but that’s the reality of the industry across the water.

So, leave nothing to chance, and follow these tips to writing the perfect query letter. Remember that not every agent or publisher will have the same submission requirements. Some large publishers, particularly in the UK, won’t accept an unsolicited manuscript, while others want a brief cover letter together with your chapters, rather than query. Always read and follow the submission requirements in full.

1: Effective Query Letters – Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog is an all-round solid bet when it comes to advice, but this article in particular is invaluable. It breaks down the essential components of a strong query and lays down the guidelines you need to follow.

2: 25 Reasons Your Query Letter Sucks – Inspired by Janet Reid’s blog, Suzannah Windsor Freeman, over on Write It Sideways, has compiled a useful list of the worst mistakes you can make in your query.

3: The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter – Writer’s Digest provides excellent advice on the simple, yet all too common, things people forget, from the subtle question of why you chose a particular agent, to making sure you address them by the right name.

4: 4 Tips for Writing Query Letters to US Publishers – Writing.ie has addressed some specific challenges you may not be aware of when it comes to querying publishers in America.

5: Complete Guide to Query Letters – Jane Friedman digs into the challenge with this comprehensive look at what really makes a query letter strike gold.

6: 23 Literary Agent Query Letters That Worked – Take a look at some sample query letters, all of which resulted in the author securing a book deal. This list handily lists the samples be genre, so you can go straight to your own book’s genre and learn from those who’ve gone before.

Good luck, and happy querying!

(c) Paul Anthony Shortt

About the author

Paul Anthony Shortt believes in magic and monsters; in ghosts and fairies, the creatures that lurk under the bed and inside the closet. The things that live in the dark, and the heroes who stand against them. Above all, he believes that stories have the power to change the world, and the most important stories are the ones which show that monsters can be beaten.
Paul’s work includes the Memory Wars Trilogy and the Lady Raven Series. His short fiction has appeared in the Amazon #1 bestselling anthology, Sojourn Volume 2.

Website: http://www.paulanthonyshortt.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pashortt

Twitter: @PAShortt

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