From time to time, I’m going to try, here, to address the frequently asked questions that I field at writer’s conferences. And if you have questions, please feel free.
Today, nation, it’s the query letter. First, should you send a real letter or an email. While I still love a letter, I think most people are sending and most agents are accepting email query letters. If you are sending a letter on stationery, please do not have special stationery made with a “fun” font, a cute typewriter or quill pen logo, do not have the word, “writer,” after your name. Such as: Ernest Hemingway, Writer.
Next, how long should my letter be? Three paragraphs: Introduce yourself and your purpose, describe your project succinctly, and give your credentials. Done. Only the description should be tantalizing, the credentials substantial at best, interesting at least. Don’t be too informal. Don’t be so stiff that it looks as if you can’t write. Don’t do anything that’s so attention grabbing it will look amateurish, don’t say that your mother/lover/friends love the book, don’t send it out with a crappy title (a great title can make a big difference — and I’ll talk about titles down the road).
Don’t include a synopsis. While rabbis and philosophers have been debating the inclusion of a synopsis for centuries, and some come down on the affirmative side, I think they are as boring to read as listening to a person’s dream. And they don’t give an agent or editor a clue as to what the writing will be like. In other words, more can go wrong with a synopsis than go right. Most important, remember that this is a business transaction and be professional, but also remember, you’re a writer so you should be able to write a damn good letter that reveals something unique and enticing about you or your work.