I have written my fair share of query letters, and let me tell you, they are NO FUN to write. There is something so horrifying about it that I'm almost tempted to hide under my bed until the rejection letter comes. Optimism isn't my style, if you couldn't tell. I researched some query letters online, and found some ideas, but I never felt quite comfortable. The problem I faced was my lack of publishing credits. When I finally got my story "Harvey's Joke" published in the Herald Journal, I felt I had something under my belt.
According to Sarah Megibow, Literary Agent for the Nelson Literary Agency, writing a query letter is super simple: Paragraph one: I have a completed [genre] manuscript, 4,000 words. (Also, this is where you write the hook of your book, a one-sentence summary that is eye-catching and that makes your book seem irresistible to read.)
Paragraph two: This is the pitch paragraph, essentially what you would envision to be the book's summary on the back cover, written in about four sentences. This paragraph should NOT be rushed. Are you sitting down for this? Once the agent receives your query and likes it enough to accept your manuscript, they then show it to their editor. If the editor approves, then it is submitted to the sales agent. If they feel like they can make a profit from it, your query letter is then shown to a book buyer. If the book buyer feels that this book will be successful, then will your manuscript be accepted. Kinda scary, huh? Yeah, query letters are super simple.
Paragraph three: This is the author's bio. Any writing awards you've won, anything that's gotten published, this is the place to put it. Just make sure it's relevant.
Closing paragraph: Thank them for their time. If you saw them at a writing conference, let them know.
Whew. Done. Sit back, relax, and make sure you've got plenty to eat and drink while you wait out a response from under your bed.
Oh, wait, before you start hoarding chocolate and cheese for your little hide-away, I have a little piece of advice you might find as valuable as I did. If you are about as famous as I am, you might want to consider getting a name for yourself out in the electronic world. Start a blog for yourself, get on twitter or facebook. They are excellent places for you to eventually market your works. Sarah Megibow claims that before accepting any manuscripts, she cyber-stalks potential clients to make sure that they have networking capabilities on such sites.