The Bottom Line with Rebecca: Query Letters

letter Q

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I wrote a children’s picture book and a non-fiction book for teens. I decided to focus solely on querying literary agents for my non-fiction book for teens. It’s been a great and somewhat confusing experience. Like you, I’ve read every book and visited many blogs that tell you how to write your query. I revised my query letter so many times that I lost track! The bottom line is, if your book or idea (non-fiction) interests a literary agent or publisher, you’ll get signed. You can write an amazing “hook” but that’s not a guarantee that an agent will represent you. Literary agents are people too. They have wants and needs like you and me!

You can write an amazing query letter but if you send it to a literary agent that doesn’t represent your genre, you’ll receive a “Thanks, but no thanks” response. It’s imperative to send query letters specifically to literary agents that represent your genre. Therefore, it may take you a while before your find the right literary agent for you and your project.

Where to find literary agents

Agent Query
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Query Tracker
2011 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market

Query letter tip: I read somewhere that you shouldn’t write the following in your query letter, “I discovered your name in the 2011 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators Market book.” Apparently, this shows you’re an amateur author. I’m not sure I agree with that. From a business point-of-view, if I was a literary agent, I’d like to know how authors found me. It’s no different than analyzing web traffic using Google Analytics. Most business owners and freelance writers want to know how visitors found them, i.e., Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. It’s up to you whether or not you tell literary agents where you found them.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably read so many sample query letters that you don’t know what to write in your query letter. The best place to start is with submission guidelines. Believe it or not, some literary agents give you a guide as to what to put into your query letter. Even though you may have a handful of samples, every literary agent has different requirements. Some of them require a brief outline of your marketing platform. Yikes! What happens if you don’t have one? What happens if you don’t know what a marketing platform is? Yes, sales and marketing go hand-in-hand with being a published author.

Writing a query letter doesn’t have to be a frightening experience. Take deep breath and write from the heart. Take samples of query letters and tailor them to your project. Follow the submission guidelines and proofread your letter. The right literary agent is out there. Have faith and patience. And, if you haven’t thought about your marketing platform and or plan, now is the time to do so. Remember, you’re not an author; you’re a person who solves problems and works in sales and marketing!


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