Query Letter Guidelines

STOP! Before you submit a query letter, click on the “Genres” tab on the toolbar at the top of our website. Make sure your work fits within these genre guidelines. Generally, we seek submissions in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and memoir.

OK. You checked your story’s genre-compliant status, and you are ready to submit. Great! The next thing you need to do is to fill out the information for your query letter.

We suggest you review these Query Letter Submission Guidelines before submitting your query letter. If you wish to submit poetry, click here. For all other genres, read below.

Elements of a good query letter
[Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction and Memoir]

Our “Query Letter Template” contains boxes for each subject to make your submission easier and more precise. Here’s an overview to assist you.

First Box—“The Storyline”

The storyline is called a “logline” in screenwriting parlance, an “elevator pitch” in some circles, and a “hook” just about everywhere else. Like the first sentence or two of the first chapter of your work, you want to hook the reader from the beginning. Before you can hook a reader, you need to hook some industry professionals with your storyline if you want to get published (unless you get there on your own nickel).

Want some examples? Take a look at the book storylines in the New York Times “Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers” over the summer of 2012:

FICTION:    [we feature those books where “conflict” is embedded as a “hook” in the summary]

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. (Crown Publishing). “A woman disappears on the day of her fifth anniversary; is her husband a killer?

A Game of Thrones, by George R R. Martin. (Random House Publishing). “In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering.

The Marriage Bargain, by Jennifer Probst. (Entangled Publishing). “A billionaire who needs a wife offers a one-year marriage in name only to a bookstore owner who must save her family home, but complications ensue.

NON-FICTION: [In this genre look for stories from real life, adventure and, well, sex]

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. (Knopt Doubleday Publishing). “A woman’s account of a life- changing 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson. (Crown Publishing). “William E. Dodd, the U. S. ambassador to Germany, and his daughter, Martha, in 1930s Berlin.

I Suck At Girls, by Justin Halpern. (HarperCollins Publishers). “A humorous look at sex and love.

As literary agent Ann Rittenberg wrote in her, article on “Submitting Your Novel (Writer’s Digest | January, 2010):

“Your hook should be your novel’s distinguishing feature. . . if the one-liner doesn’t make anyone sit up and take notice, all the additional plot description in the world isn’t going to help.”

Ann distinguishes between a good “one-liner” and a “summary.” Her take is that a creative one-liner (storyline-logline-hook-elevator pitch) has a lot more power than a more detailed summary.

We believe an eye-catching-conflict-ridden hook should precede a short summary. Whet our appetite for your work with a good hook, followed by a concise summary (sometimes referred to as a “synopsis”).

And, about “conflict.” We believe that what “hooks” readers is conflict. Stating things like “My characters find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations,” is telling not showing. As one literary agent put it:

“I want to know what makes  it (your book)  different from  every other romance, mystery, fantasy, thriller or memoir I see, and I want to know how the conflict makes it exciting and thrilling.”

And, a final note: the adage “less-is-more” applies.

Targeted Reader Box

Here we want you to describe the audience for your book.    Your audience will (in part) influence marketing decisions.

Your Marketing Plan Box

Here, you have an opportunity to provide a general overview of your marketing plan. You can summarize your planned online/offline marketing, where you intend to devote most of your energies, and what marketing and promotion concepts you believe would be most beneficial for your current work.

Online Promotion (Social Media) Box

This is a very important facet of any marketing program (particularly for new writers). Provide a summary for promoting your work on social media.

Social Media Websites Box

Here, we seek specifics.  Do you have a Facebook Author’s Page?  What other social media sites do you participate in?

Do you have a blog or website?

At a minimum, we require that you have an author’s landing page.  A blog is even better. Please provide your web address(es).

If you have no individual web presence, we will not consider your query letter.

Offline Promotion Box

Face-to-face events are very important. We expect your marketing plan to include them. Some examples: book clubs, speaking engagements, alumni magazines, appearance on a local radio show, take out an ad in your local paper’s website, etc.

The Synopses Boxes

In your Authorlog™ Account we have boxes designed to accommodate your synopses: a short form (1000 characters-200+- words) and long form (2000 characters-400+- words). A synopsis is a more detailed overview of your work. Below are some tips in writing your synopses:

A Synopsis Checklist

  1. Create your “hook” at the beginning of the synopsis.  Be sure to introduce your main character and set up a key conflict.
  2. Provide details about each of your central characters.
  3. Include the emotions and motivations of the characters.
  4. Highlight your pivotal plot points.
  5. Be  sure  to  reveal  the  ending.  [the  opposite  of  the  “hook”  line  where  it  is  not
  6. disclosed].
  7. Be concise about what happens in your story.
  8. No long sections of dialogue.
  9. Write in the third person, present tense, even if your point of view in your book is different.

Your Bio Box

Please give brief, pertinent information. Awards, writing courses, most recent, important, and visible publications are fine. One sentence will suffice. More about you will come, if we find your work appealing. At this juncture, we expect you to come across as dedicated, confident, serious, and professional. Anything you decide to share about yourself should “hook” us into wanting to read your book.

Ready to get started? Click on SUBMISSIONS, scroll down to Submit Your Query Letter, choose from poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, fill out the appropriate Query Letter Template then upload the first two chapters of your manuscript, or approximately 35 pages.