Just saying the words “query letter” will cause a collective groan with hands wrapped around bathroom cleanser as cleaning bathrooms would be preferable to writing a query letter. I hear ya!
Feeling your angst, I have summarized Louise Fury’s points on how to write a query letter, a literary agent at The Bent Agency. In a little over three minutes, she tells you at warp speed how to write a query letter. Click How to Query: The Query Letter to see her You Tube video.
Key elements for your query letter are:
1. Summary of your story. For novels, this should be two or three short paragraphs (for picture books, a few sentences or one very short paragraph). Think back jacket copy. The best way to do this is to read the back jacket of books on your bookshelf or go to the library or bookstore.
2. Don’t give away the ending. I think this one is up for debate. I’ve heard many editors and agents say they don’t have time for teaser endings. Follow your gut on this one or if submitting to Louise Fury, follow her guidelines.
3. We need to know a few things about the protagonist: Who is he/she? What is his/her goal? What are the obstacles? What are the stakes?
4. What happens if the protagonist doesn't reach his/her goal? Make it matter.
5. List only relevant information for your bio.
6. Make your query specific to your story so it doesn't sound like hundreds of others. Avoid clichés.
7. Personalize your query if there really is a relationship there, if not, don’t worry about it.
8. Keep it to one page, no longer.