Friday, October 1, 2010

The Query Letter

You can find a plethora of books and articles on how to write a query letter. I suggest you avoid them. I've read some of those supposedly can't-fail queries and I wouldn't accept any of them.

Two rules you need to bear in mind: 1. Keep it simple. 2. Keep it brief.
My basic query idea applies whether you write to agents or editors.

I suggest you write one paragraph that gives them your idea for a book or an article. Call it the elevator pitch, précis statement, or concept (the term I use). Don't give them a sales pitch such as, "This book will revolutionize the way people eat cereal."

In the second paragraph tell them about yourself. Give them your background, education, experience, your work or profession—anything that shows your credentials to write the article or book.

Your next paragraph reads: May I send you my article? If it's a book, you ask to send your book proposal. If you have completed your manuscript, you write: May I send you my proposal or my completed manuscript?

Query letters are simple sales pitches. Make no claims for what your article or book will do. Just tell them what it is.

A query letter is a business letter.
It asks an editor to buy your product.
And the editor probably knows the product better than you do.


A note from Twila: Would you like to spend some time with Cec on a cruise to Mexico? Check out the Sailing Toward Success Christian Writer's Cruise. Cec is the keynote speaker and one of the instructors. The cruise dates are February 27-March 6. If you choose to go, please send me a postcard so I can share in your experience. Because I'm such a faithful, hardworking (and humble) employee, I'll stay behind to keep the empire running. But that's okay--anything for Cec. :-)


  1. Cec, Excellent advice on a subject where discussions often generate more heat than light. "Simple and brief" are qualities most of us who write consider beneath us, but they're important. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I say amen to that. If I have to dig to find the concept in the query letter, I have to wonder what I'll find in the manuscript.

  3. Excellent advice! Tell us more about that cruise to Mexico opportunity.

  4. Thanks, Cec. All that "advice" out there makes us poor newbies dizzy-headed.

    Short and simple.

    I like it.


  5. Thanks for simplifying the writing life, Cec. You remind me of Jesus.

  6. I agree with Jean. Sometimes the complexities of the writing industry destroy the joy of putting my heartfelt words on paper. I easily become overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy.

    But then, just as sure as the sun rises each morning, I receive your Writer to Writer blog and my little world seems secure again.

    Thank you, Cec, for your ministry of mentoring.

    You are a blessing!

  7. Thanks for your great comments, everyone. They're good reminders for Cec that he did a good thing by starting this blog.

    Lakeviewer asked about the cruise opportunity. We've asked Carla, the conference director, to give you more information. If you haven't heard yet, you can make contact with her through the cruise website.

  8. I am ready to beginning writing my query letter. I have been perusing books on query letter writing but haven't bought one yet because I notice that they all say something different. I don't know who to believe! Cec, your query letter format makes sense for my manuscript, and it is something I can do. As a first time book writer, I appreciate this advice on how to keep it simple and effective.


What are your thoughts?