Let me say this: When doing your homework about where to send this and to whom it should be addressed, please read the submission guidelines carefully and follow them exactly.
The same elements that make an article or book dynamic are required in this letter. It’s an invitation and an introduction all rolled into one! Make sure your invitation is one they can’t put down or delete. Write it, edit it, proofread it and then check it again.
1) This is a call to action. Must sell the editor or agent on your idea and get them to ask for your finished manuscript. (Yes, your manuscript should be finished if you are writing fiction. Not always necessary with non-fiction projects, but the idea should be completely fleshed out and researched at the very least.)
2) If your work includes photos or art, this is where you’ll indicate their availability for the work in question. Include at least a working title and your word count. For non-fiction work, you may want to explain the type of research that’s been conducted and when the work will be completed.
3) A basic, relevant bio should be included. Keep it simple. Include the information that will help sell the article or makes you the best person to author the work.
4) This is not where you discuss contracts, terms or payments of any kind.
5) It is NOT necessary to mention your work is copyrighted. If you wrote it, you own the copyright to it, unless someone bought those rights. If someone bought the rights, you shouldn’t be sending out a query letter for that work.
6) DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Research the firm, magazine or person you are writing to and double-check the spelling of the person you are addressing. Nothing turns off acquisition editors and agents more than generic salutations. Makes the writer look lazy and they don’t want to work with lazy people.
7) Format it properly with 12-point type Times New Roman, Georgia or some other “normal” font. Include your name, address, phone, email and website information. Margins will be 1” all the way around if a paper query. Query should be one page, single-spaced. Block paragraph format is acceptable.
8) Remember to thank the addressee for their time and consideration.
9) To follow-up on a communication is good business. Not every email or postal letter arrives at the proper destination. If the guidelines indicate you’ll hear in 3 weeks and you don’t, then send a short, professional and kind email or letter describing the query, date you sent it and ask if it was received. If so, has a decision been made?
10) Good manner and professional behavior, language and presentation will always serve you well. This is no exception. Don’t risk your first impression – make it a good one!
Good luck!! And my clients remember, I’ll check your query letters and synopsis as a courtesy.
Keep reading and writing. Nancy Q.