On Thursday, December 10, the Farmington Writers Circle had another productive meeting. Attending were myself, Linda Frederick, Yvonne Ravenwood, Vicki Holmsten, Cluff Eliott, Traci Hales-Vass (professor of creative writing at San Juan College), and Roberta Summers, who gave an informal talk on writing professional query letters. The next meeting will be on January 7, at 7:00 p.m. at Hastings Hardback Café, when Traci Hales-Vass will give an informal talk on writing pitches and hooks for novels. The date of the February meeting is yet to be determined, but at that one I will present a talk on establishing a blog.
Roberta, author of Pele’s Realm and judge in the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference, led an excellent discussion on writing a query letter, supported with two excellent examples of a query letter formatted for a letter and of one formatted for e-mail. She also provided a list of informal notes on the basics of writing a query letter, which I have provided here:
Comment: The query letter is a sales tool. If you don’t capture the agent/editor’s attention with it, they will not request pages or your manuscript. Make it the most professional and best writing you do.
- Business letter structure, proper salutation, opening and closing. Different for snail mail and e-mail.
- Author contact information included.
- One page in length, single spaced with one inch margins. About 250 words.
- Font, 12 points Time New Roman or Courier New.
- Proper grammar and mechanics (commas, etc.)
- No spelling errors.
- Proper agent/editor honorific (title of respect such as Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. if in doubt)
- Make sure your genre matches the agent you are querying.
- Title of work included.
- Word count included.
- Comparables. Market knowledge in the form of comparisons to other authors and/or books or the target audience.
- How appropriate in your story to the genre?
- Can the agent/editor get a sense of time and place?
- Is/are the main character/s identified?
- Is the plot or central conflict clear?
- Is your voice strong in the query? [my note for clarity: the voice should be strong.]
- Is the tone or mood of your story represented?
- Is your summary clean, not too much or too little information?
- Is there a hook in your summary that will make the agent/editor want to see more?
Identify the genre, title and word count in the first paragraph.
Spend the next two paragraphs introducing your character and the conflict.
Summarize with a hook.
Next, say something about yourself. Do you have a creative writing degree? Are you published. Be brief.
Last a call to action, such as “My manuscript is complete and available to send upon request.” Then thank them.
A few of my own notes from conversations during the meeting:
It is best to make submissions in January-February, when agents/editors are making plans for the upcoming year; it is worst to submit in November and December.
The timing of your query must be good and you must establish some chemistry with the agent/editor.
A good quote from Roberta Summers that came out during the meeting was “You can write the most magnificent book on the planet, but if you can’t writer a query letter you’re dead in the water.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the next meeting of the Farmington Writers Circle on January 7 at 7:00 pm, which will once again be at the Farmington Hastings Hardback Café. Traci Hales-Vass will lead the discussion on writing pitches and hooks.