Writing a quality query letter is one of the most crucial pieces of the publishing world. It is the very first thing an editor or publisher sees of your work. It is what makes a good or bad first impression and helps them decide whether or not they will choose to read your manuscript or article.
A query letter is an introduction into your manuscript and should inspire the editor or publisher to want to read the full body of your work. Consider it like an enticement, something that pulls the editor in to your manuscript with a piqued interest to want to learn more. Selling your manuscript isn't an easy task but should read like it's an easy task. A quality query letter should be to-the-point, smooth and specific.
You want to write something that quickly targets your point and lists many important details such as word count, title, and whether or not the manuscript includes artwork or photography that has been given permission to be used. It is also important to note whether or not your manuscript is being submitted simultaneously. Many publishing guidelines specify whether or not they allow simultaneous submissions so it's important to make a note of it so the editor doesn't have to question it.
To put your query letter into proper form, here are some guidelines to follow.
Publishers want original ideas that can stand alone but they also want submissions that compare to other successful manuscripts they've published. Pitching an idea or angle that is unique, yet something that can become a mainstream interest is ideal. It is also important to make a note of the genre' and category your manuscript adheres to. An editor wants to know what genre' you fit into without having to make the call.
Also, considering your background as an author, it enhances the query letter if you're able to list articles or books you've published and by whom. If it's a magazine article, for example, it is good to list the circulation of the magazine for reference as well as the location and even longevity of the publisher. Some companies prefer your Query letter to be more promotional in nature concerning your publishing background. That means they want to know your publishing history which enhances your sincerity and level of professionalism as a career author.
If your Query letter is for a full length manuscript, it helps to list other successful books that the publishing company has published that could be compared to yours, as well as giving reasons why yours can stand alone above the rest. This shows the publishing company you're familiar with their interests and what they have stood by as a good, solid, marketable book to a wide audience.
Many publishing companies prefer Query letters to briefly list a projected market where you, as the author, believes your manuscript will sell best. This is called a projected demographic. Who is your targeted audience that will most likely be inclined to read your book? For example, is your book a specialty book or does it appeal to a wider audience? Does your book resonate more with a middle aged housewife? Or does it attract a younger reader like a single male? What is your age group? And what is your topic most likely to connect with? Knowing these specifics will help you not only Query your manuscript with knowledge but it will also help you know which publishing house or company to approach altogether. So make sure the company fits with your projected audience.
Contacting the editorial department or a publishing representative is suggested if you're unsure of which guidelines to follow. Not all publishers accept manuscripts all year long. For example, some magazines are published quarterly or bi-monthly and for magazines that are published by universities or colleges, they often don't accept submissions throughout the summer months. Knowing when to submit your Query will ensure you get a fair shot at being considered for publication.
Another thing to note is that some companies consider a Query letter the same as a Cover letter. So if you are in question of this, it is best to contact the editorial department for clarity