Your query – lead with what’s important

I received a query letter that confused the bejabbers out of me. I’ll admit to confusing easily sometimes, but some things are beyond my control.

Look At Me!

The author spent the equivalent of four pages…FOUR PAGES…on her vanity-published book. It included a laundry list of her entire marketing and promo plan:

  • a brief rundown of the book,
  • all the places where the book is available,
  • reader testimonials,
  • a huge list of the articles and write-ups the book has had (includes dates),
  • where she has spoken (also includes places and dates),
  • fundraisers she’s held,
  • all the places where she had books signings (includes places and dates),
  • her radio interviews (includes radio stations and dates),
  • Libraries where her book is available

You can see why it took up four pages. By the time I was done scrolling and scrolling, my thumb seized, only to be soothed by the beagle’s margaritas. I began to wonder if this was a spam book announcement or whether she actually had something that explained why she was contacting me.

Ahhh…

There.

At the bottom.

A half-page.

Three small paragraphs.

The book she was querying…which revealed very little about what makes her book a “gotta have it.”

This “Look at me” approach is fatally wrong on so many levels, and I can’t stress this enough. It’s lovely that you’ve written other books, and yes, I’d love to know what they are – unless it’s a vanity or POD press book (unless that vanity book had huge sales that can be verified). But to blow four pages on something you’re not even querying? Or even a half page? At the beginning? No, no, no, no.

Bells and whistles = smoke and mirrors

A query letter is about what you have to sell, not a shopping list of your past accomplishments. Yes, I understand the author wanted to show that she is a hard promoter, but none of that means didley squat if the new manuscript isn’t right for me. No amount of promotion/platform wowage will sway me from the fact that I need a book I believe in, has an audience, and I know will sell well.

If I am excited about a book, you can be sure that I’ll check you out like the beagle does a fresh bottle of tequila. Conversely, I’ve rejected books from very famous people because they didn’t have something I felt I could sell.

It starts with the book.

Focus on the important and use your precious space pitching your new love – not telling me about your old love.

Query length

And this brings me to a related issue – query length. With nearly all of us accepting e-queries only, authors have forgotten the one page rule because…well…an email doesn’t show page breaks. So it’s easy for a query letter to amble along with no end in sight.

It’s. Still. One. Page. Only.

Write your query letter in your favorite word processing program and make sure that little sucker is one page. I mean, REALLY. Four pages?

2 Responses to Your query – lead with what’s important

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    And if the person rambles in their query letter, I rather suspect the average editor or agent will assume they ramble in their book.

  2. Dan Holloway says:

    When I’m applying for jobs that want the cover letter in the body of the e-mail not an attachment, I write it in Word first to make sure it fits one side – and with wide margins and Times New Roman 12 point in case they paste it in to check how concise it is.

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