Dissecting Query Letters That Get Your Manuscript Read!

I’ve been very fortunate to receive three custom responses from publishers on my first manuscript World War Marlow. So today I wanted to share the structure and ideas behind how I broke mine down. I’ll be writing this mostly for people who were in my shoes last year- having only the base knowledge of what a query letter is.

Query Letters are the gateway drug to your novel, if it interests the editor, they’ll read your manuscript. You’ll get one of four responses to sending out your letter.

  1. A regular old form rejection
  2. A custom rejection (This indicates that your Query was good but something about either the novel or the timing with the publisher was poor)
  3. A request for the full manuscript (if you didn’t already send in the whole work)
  4. An acceptance letter (or at least a ‘is your manuscript sill available’ indicating that they read both your Query and Manuscript and want to talk with the other editors about possibly publishing it)

So assuming your manuscript is well written and you are sending it to publishers who are interested in the material you write the only thing in your way is your query. So first I’ll tell you the pieces and show my query at the end. By no means am I a query master, but I did do my resource and get a decent response.

Most importantly: Always Follow the Submission Guidelines Perfectly

Even if they counteract popular advice or take more work to do.

Part 1: Formal Intro

Your heading aligned top right with the following information:

 

Your legal name (followed by your pen name if you have one)

Your Adress

Your email

Your website

Your phone number

Dear (editor name),

 

Please always do your best to find the editor you want to read your work. I do heavy research (twitter) to figure out what type of person will be reading my work and what they are interested in.

Part 2: The Into Paragraph

This is a very short paragraph (1 or two sentences) that is the hook and the summery of the inciting event or unique point of your novel. If you screw this up, they might not even bother reading anything else. For inspiration, I recommend reading through Query Shark. Here was mine.

Marlow has just become the youngest candidate for ultimate political power over the corrupt Planet Merc when his dreams of out-doing his brother are squashed by a forced engagement to a boy from the slums.

 

Part 3: The (not very) Long Summery

How do you summerise 90,000 words in 100? This is the hardest part of writing a query. You need to highlight the most important parts. This changes from novel to novel but let me give you some ideas as key points.

  1. The external conflict
  2. the internal conflict
  3. the villain/ enemy/ obstacle to be overcome
  4. the emotional journey of the characters
  5. the world this is set in

On the other hand, things you should almost definitely leave out are:

  1. Subplots
  2. Side characters
  3. Specific plot points
  4. The ending

Remember: you have to give the reader (in this case the editor) a reason to care about your main character, what their goal is, why it’s so important (the stakes), and what they must overcome in order to achieve it. Here’s mine:

Marlow lived in the shadow of his older brother until his death five years ago. Now all Marlow wants is to ratify his legacy by reforming the homophobic and classist world that drove his brother to suicide. He knows full well any misstep in his campaign could cost him his career, so when his good-for-nothing father and carefree brother force him into a relationship with Quinn, Marlow is mortified. Though Quinn is more than happy to change Marlow’s view of the world, he stands between Marlow and a successful life as a political leader. Meanwhile, Marlow’s arch-enemy will do anything to sabotage his campaign. Marlow must overcome a past of abuse while competing in near-fatal challenges. He fights his way through political battles, toxic relationships, and tries to make the world a better place in his own cynical way.

Part 4: The Logistics

As simply as you can put the title, word count, genre, target audience. I like to include that I’ve had it beta read but this is added fluff, I’m not sure if it makes any difference to the publisher.

World War Marlow is an 88,000 word LGBT Romance intended for new adult audiences. My beta readers really enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Part 5: Customization

Tell the editor WHY you chose to submit to them. You must have had a reason more than, I read about the company in a book and your website wasn’t sketchy. If that is what you did then do research on the about page of the publisher. The research you did to find the editor will come in handy too as you can now say what you like about them as a person.

Customizing the query letter shows that you are truly interested in them as a company and are willing to put in the work. It also shows your common values and can reveal more of your novel.

I really appreciate ______ dedication to publishing stories that are about more than just the romance of LGBTQ+ characters. That’s why I wanted to submit a story that not only mirrors modern-day problems, but displays a character with more on the line than just his heart.

Part 6: About the Author

What makes you stand apart? What are your credentials? I didn’t think I had many either but what’s important is to show what you have going for you. If you have no writing experience then consider writing why you are the person to tell this story. What about you makes you the perfect author for a book on this topic. Are your Characters trying to climb a mountain and you’ve hiked Everest? Are your characters transgender and you went through the same struggles coming out? This is also where I chose to mention that I have other books in the works. Some editors I’ve talked to like to know about sequels, some hate it.

I’m Jasper Jay the author of the writing blog On Planet Merc. I’ve been running the site since 2015 when I completed my AAOT in English. Since then I’ve attended 3 writers conferences, completed 4 unpublished novel-length works and begun minoring in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. If my novel intrigues you I have a couple of ideas for sequels if you are interested in going that route.

 

Part 7: Closing

Very straight forward and formal closing remarks. Thank them for their time, indicate that you have followed their guidelines and attached exactly what they asked you too, and sign-off. I used “Have a sparkling day” at the end of all of my emails in general. I feel it adds an additional personal (and gay) touch.

Thank you for your time. I’ve attached the full manuscript as you requested. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Have a sparkling day,

Jasper J Adams

I hope this helped you in understanding the anatomy of a query letter and gave you some helpful tips as to how to write yours. Have a great rest of your day!

 

The Whole letter:

Jasper J Adams

___Blank St._____, Chicago, IL 60645

Myemail@gmail.com

Onplanetmerc.wordpress.com

(541) 400-4000

Dear _____,

Marlow has just become the youngest candidate for ultimate political power over the corrupt Planet Merc when his dreams of out-doing his brother are squashed by a forced engagement to a boy from the slums.

Marlow lived in the shadow of his older brother until his death five years ago. Now all Marlow wants is to ratify his legacy by reforming the homophobic and classist world that drove his brother to suicide. He knows full well any misstep in his campaign could cost him his career, so when his good-for-nothing father and carefree brother force him into a relationship with Quinn, Marlow is mortified. Though Quinn is more than happy to change Marlow’s view of the world, he stands between Marlow and a successful life as a political leader. Meanwhile, Marlow’s arch-enemy will do anything to sabotage his campaign. Marlow must overcome a past of abuse while competing in near-fatal challenges. He fights his way through political battles, toxic relationships, and tries to make the world a better place in his own cynical way.

World War Marlow is an 88,000 word LGBT Romance intended for new adult audiences. My beta readers really enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

I really appreciate ______ dedication to publishing stories that are about more than just the romance of LGBTQ+ characters. That’s why I wanted to submit a story that not only mirrors modern-day problems but displays a character with more on the line than just his heart.

I’m Jasper Jay the author of the writing blog On Planet Merc. I’ve been running the site since 2015 when I completed my AAOT in English. Since then I’ve attended 3 writers conferences, completed 4 unpublished novel-length works and begun minoring in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. If my novel intrigues you I have a couple of ideas for sequels if you are interested in going that route.

Thank you for your time. I’ve attached the full manuscript as you requested. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Have a sparkling day,

Jasper J Adams

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