Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Query Letters

Writing a query letter is often an author's first contact with a publisher. It pays to create a good impression. I hope the following sample query is helpful.

Dear Editor:

The iguana says your breath stinks, but I do not like the iguana and so I thought it would be a good idea to query you with my 300,000 word autobiography about Aunt Marge's alien abduction.

I think the iguana is really an alien, but I do not know for sure. It is really a good liar. We always thought that Marge was the liar, always cracking those jokes about a talking lizard in her backyard and a spaceship in her barn. It turns out she kept a straight face because she was not joking.

When she disappeared, I flew out to see if I could find anything. I have always been good about finding things, but finding Aunt Marge has been real hard. I have not found her yet, but I figured I would write all this down. Better if I did it all right away. I keep a note pad by my bed. So, there will be a sequel once I find her.

It could really be aliens who got her because of the spaceship in the barn and all the oil stains on the grass. I asked the police to test for radiation, but they were too busy. I suspect the police might not have an open mind about aliens. But, the iguana says it was not aliens. I think either the aliens left in the spaceship, or the iguana ate her.

So, when you call me up with an offer on my book, I would like some advice: If I eat the iguana, is it cannibalism?




  1. When I accepted this guest blog opportunity, I assumed Penumbra Publishing would screen it. Instead, my article went straight to publication. Is that trust or what?

    Now we find out who as a sense of humor. I could be in a whole heap of trouble, a whole heap of trouble I say!

  2. As a note of clarification, the sample query letter is a humorous slant on a BAD query letter, the likes of which, should never be sent to a prospective publisher or agent!

  3. I might add that Penumbra Publishing is very responsive. Although Penumbra is much busier lately, when I first queried they not only reviewed my manuscript, but even did a quick edit for grammar and content. That sort of response is unheard of.

    After so many form letter responses from rude publishers, or no response at all, I was actually suspicious, and sent E-mails to Penumbra authors to make sure they were for real.

    Anyway, try to keep your querry letter to about one page, including synopsis, word count, something about your self, and a marketing plan.

    I try to write humor. Would you believe that in my queries I forgot to mention that? People were reading my work expecting serious drama and I was being a wise quy.

    I suppose no query will be perfect, but by now serious writers have many internet resources they can review to assist in writing a proper query bloh, blah, blah.

    I hope this article has brought a bright spot to your day. Please visit my website to view what I have been up to and to read sample chapters for my humorous 13 book Sci/Fi series American Galactic Foreign Legion.

  4. Visit Walter Knight's web site at...


  5. I personally think we all need to give thanks to the Internet for a number of things. In the field of writing, we owe the Net a number of accolades. We writers no longer have to endure years and years of rejection at the hands of narrow-minded, imperious agents. We can now query directly to the publisher, and in my mind (based on many years of progress at my craft, but none in the business itself), this is as good as it gets.

    To make the situation even better, I must say I have experienced nothing but encouragement, understanding, and sound advice in my dealings with publishers. I can't say that at all about my experiences with agents.

    As far as writing query letters, now is the time to really work on yours and polish it to the nth degree. The same goes with your writing. Younger writers can't possibly understand what it was like years ago, when you typed everything on paper, kept a carbon copy, and sent the ms. to a publisher, only to have it returned months later with a note saying, "we don't accept unsolicited manuscripts," then enduring the same agonizing process to send off the ms. to an agent, only to have the book returned months later with the note, "not taking on any new clients."

    Breaking into print nowadays is ten times easier than it was thirty years ago. Ebooks might not make us rich, but at least we can get them out there--which is something we couldn't do before.

    On the flip side, the Internet has created more competition than ever before. To make yourself stand out, read everything you can on how to write effective query letters, then work on yours until it begins to sound so good, you can't believe you wrote it yourself.


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