You’ve got your list of potential publishers or agencies, now what? The journey of how to get a book published begins with the query letter.
The first step for both nonfiction and fiction is the query letter. It is your chance to open doors to the book publishing industry, to literary agents and book publishers. Because of the volume of submissions agents and book publishers receive, it has become the standard way of make a contact, rather than sending out entire manuscripts. Absolutely, positively include an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) for the agent/publisher to contact you.
Why you need a query letter and how to write it
You never want to send a full manuscript. It won’t be read. The standard method of contact is the query letter. A good query letter is short, one to two pages maximum.
The goal of query letter is to get the manuscript or book proposal requested by the literary agent or book publisher. Often they request just the first 60 pages, read that, then decide whether they want to read the full manuscript.
Think Like A Businessperson Trying To Make A Sale, Not an “Artist”
Writers tend to think they are the book publisher’s customers, as though the publisher exists to make their dream of being a published author come true. The truth is that book publisher’s real customers are the people who purchase and read books. So your goal as a writer is to demonstrate how you can help the publisher reach his or her objectives. In the query letter, you introduce both the specific literary work you want to sell them, and yourself, your background and accomplishments.
There is something unique, fresh, different about your book You are professional: you will be able to deliver the manuscript on time You are willing to expend effort to market the book You have the background, experience to write the book you are proposing It fits in the publisher’s area of concentration Your book has a large market
The query letter is very challenging to write: you have to choose every word carefully. Also, your target audience reads so many of these each week, it is difficult to make yours stand. Even if you write the “perfect” query letter, it’s still a crapshoot whether your work will be requested.
The emphasis of the query letter is on “Why readers will buy my book,” rather than “Aren’t I a great writer.” Don’t start with: “It’s been my lifelong dream to be a writer.” They don’t care. It is their lifelong dream to sell more books than their competitors.
How many queries should you send out? Try batches of five or ten, then measure the response you get. You may need to tweak the content of your query letter.
Suppose you send out the first batch and no one asks for the book. What does that mean?
Suppose you send out ten. You get three polite turndown letters and no response from the other seven. What should you conclude?
1. The agent may not be taking on new clients
2. You have no talent
3. Your book has no market
4. You didn’t express yourself well in the letter
5. The publisher is swamped with submissions and didn’t have a chance to reply
6. The agent is rude and threw your letter away
7. The publishing industry isn’t interested in new writers
8. You contacted an agent or publisher that is not interested in your genre
Most likely one of the following is the case:
1. The agent may not be taking on new clients
2. You didn’t express yourself well in the letter
3. The publisher is swamped with submissions and didn’t have a chance to reply
4. The agent is rude and threw your letter away
5. You contacted an agent or publisher that is not interested in your genre
Not hearing a positive response should not be interpreted as REJECTION, of you or your work. It may simply mean you are not getting anyone’s attention.
Don't give up after the first 10, 20 or even 50 rejections. In this case persistence is a virtue in how to get a book published.
Discover How You Can Achieve Your Dream And Get Your Book Published. Sneak peek of Dee Power's new book, The Publishing Primer. Get your free chapter. Find out how books get in bookstores. How bookstores select titles. How the bestseller lists work. What boosts a book to the top of the bestseller list? And frequently asked questions about publishing
About The Authors
Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them. They are also the authors of the novel, Over Time