Thursday, March 19, 2009

A word about query letters . . .

Conference season is upon us, so it's time to think about query letters. Here's an article I wrote on the subject this summer:

Kick Butt Query Letters

A traditional query letter is a letter designed to sell you and your idea for a novel. This can be done via email or snail mail, depending on the submission requirements of your agent or editor.

Which brings us to the first step in writing a kick butt query letter: do your homework. Your agent is going to be keeping 15% of your royalties until the day he/she dies. Your research should include:
Research your agent or editor. There are a lot of resources available to authors, including the agent or publisher’s website,, Google, Publishers Marketplace, Author Representatives (, Writers’ Digest Guide to Literary Agents and Editors and Predators ( just to name a few.
Make sure they represent your genre
Who else do they represent?
Make sure they are accepting submissions and or queries
Find out how they prefer the submission
Check how long their response time is so that you can track your submissions and know when to follow up
Make sure you know which agents/editors are accepting your genre.
Make sure you know which agent or editor you’re approaching (agents and editors change houses and positions as quickly and as often as a teenage girl changes jeans)
How many deals have they made this year?
Does the agency take the standard 15% or more or less?

Once you’re comfortable with your research, get down to business. Get up a professional looking letterhead (no funky fonts or fancy colors, and for the love of Baby Jesus, don’t include pictures, confetti or anything else—if these are necessary, they can wait until your agent or editor asks for it).
Now: Down to Business
Think of a query as a back cover blurb—the blurb is designed to get the reader to buy the book. A query is designed to get the editor to buy your book.

A query letter is basically three parts including Who, What, Why and How.

Do you have a hook? If so, open with it. Your intro should get the agent wanting to read more.
The first part of the first paragraph is an introduction to you (see example below). The second part of this paragraph is why you are choosing this particular agent or editor. The third part of the first paragraph is genre and word count.
The second paragraph is the Reader’s Digest version of your book.
Make sure you include the Hero, the Heroine, and if there is an antagonist, be sure to include that character.
Be sure your internal conflict is clear
Always, always, always tell the agent or editor how the conflict is resolved
TIP: Make sure your voice shines through the query letter—if your book is funny, the query should show that humor.
The third paragraph should sell you—any creds, contest wins, publications, in other words, why you and you alone are particularly qualified to write this book.
Always close by thanking your agent for taking the time to read your query, and close by saying the subliminal “I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

TIP: Publishing is a small business. Never exaggerate, and don’t name drop unless it’s true.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Best of luck, and see you at the bookstore!
© Kit Frazier 2009

Sample Query Letter That Worked:

Dear Ms. Fine,

My name is Kit Frazier, and I’m currently seeking new representation. I recently finished revisions on a cross-genre thriller titled SCOOP.

The book is a fast-paced, funny 94,000-word suspense novel with a strong romantic element, a sort of Janet Evanovich meets the Ya yas. SCOOP has won numerous writing competitions including the Writers’ League of Texas and the Merritt, and it has piqued the interest of several editors, including Kate Miciak at Bantam Dell, Kim Cardesia at St. Martin’s Press and Kelly Harms at Avon.

Ms. Miciak has seen the manuscript and wrote me a letter that said she was “smitten” and that my characters were delightful. Since I’m fairly certain I’ve never smitten anyone and my mother assures me I’m rarely delightful, I thought I might be on to something.

Ms. Miciak went also requested a synopsis for the second book in the series as well as an author’s bio. Ms. Miciack also sent me a letter with helpful suggestions. After receiving that letter, I pulled the manuscript from circulation and made the revisions. The manuscript is now ready to go.

SCOOP is the story of Cauley MacKinnon, a young woman who lives in Austin, Texas

Cauley MacKinnon is a down-on-her-luck obituary writer, which, in her words, is one step up from writing classified ads. Being banished to the Death Page is what happens to interns who’ve been very good, or reporters who’ve been very bad. Somehow, Cauley’s managed to do both. And of course, being the Obituary Babe wreaks absolute havoc on her already un-social life.

I’m seeking new representation because I would like to be with an agent who shares my interest in career-building and long-term goals. I’m writing to you because Julie Kenner says you are professional and enthusiastic.

I am an award-winning writer and a professional journalist living in Austin, Texas, and am a member of organizations including the Texas Press Association, the Writers’ League of Texas and Austin Romance Writers of America. I am also certified in Search and Rescue, and a member of law enforcement groups, including the Austin Citizen’s Police Academy, factors which lend authenticity to my stories.

I appreciate your time and thank you for your consideration. I’ve enclosed the first chapter of SCOOP, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

© Kit Frazier 2009

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Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing

Barnes & Noble Round Rock Signing
My friend Pantera with Tahoe & Me

Tahoe and a new friend at the signing