Query Letter Basics Part Two by guest blogger Melody Steiner

Last week I discussed three components of crafting relevant queries: 1) keep it brief, 2) keep it blockbuster, and 3) keep it befitting the particular organization. Today, I’ll share a bit about what to include in your query letter to an editor or agent.

Like a cover letter for a job, a query sells you as well as your book. Keep it concise and you’ll show you’re professional. Use interesting, descriptive words to catch their attention and engage their senses. Give it a touch of personality. Make them laugh. 

A query letter should consist of the following:

1)    One-two paragraph blurb about your novel. Think about the “back-of-the-book” blurb—it’s designed to capture a reader’s interest and emphasize the high stakes.

2)    One sentence market analysis describing similar books and highlighting your novel’s unique aspects. Make sure the books you choose to compare to yours are current works published within the last couple of years.

3)    One to two sentence author bio focusing on previous publishing credits, your professional writing groups, and any writing awards you’ve won. Here’s the place you can add a bit of humor (gently!) to give the editor or agent a sense of who you are.

Finally, end your query letter on a hopeful, but not arrogant or creepy, note. It’s perfectly fine to say, “I look forward to your response.” It’s not okay to say, “I’ll call next week to check in.” In fact, don’t say anything about checking in—giving time frames is a surefire way to get a form rejection. Thank your reader for their consideration, and don’t include any P.S.’s.

Once you’ve sent off your query letter, give yourself a pat on the back, treat yourself to a cupcake, and then start writing a new novel. The difficult part is still ahead.


Melody Steiner works at an academic library as a circulation technician. In 2006, she graduated from a small private college in Ohio with a Bachelors of Arts in English. After she met and married her husband, they relocated to Seattle, WA. In March, 2011, she graduated from the University of Washington with a Master in Library and Information Science, aspiring to becoming a full-time librarian. Her hobbies include reading the latest YA series (recent favorites include Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go and Paoli Bacigalupi’s Shipbreaker), camping, and enjoying long walks with her best friend. Last November, they had their first little peanut—a rambunctious baby girl. In addition to adult science fiction, she writes fantasy and YA novels. She is represented by Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency. You can find her at http://twitter.com/melody_steiner.

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