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Writing a Query Letter about a novel

Writing a query letter about their novel will very often prove a very difficult task for a writer, particularly when they are inexperienced and may never even have done so before. They will wonder who to send the letter to, what to include in it and what length of timescale they may expect before a reply is likely.

The best way for a writer to find out about all of their concerns regarding approaching either a literary agent or a publisher in this respect regarding their novel is to buy a publication which lists these companies and their requirements. One such publication is The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and this gives writers all the tips and advice they will require, as well as the pertinent information, for writing their initial query letter.

The first step for the writer is to identify a publisher or literary agent who handles the genre of work which they have written. This information is clearly stated under each company’s name in what is effectively a directory. The details of what the company requires in the first instance will also be included, such as a detailed synopsis and/or the first three chapters of the author’s written work.

A query letter about a novel, whatever is required to accompany it, should be fairly brief and to the point. It should state the writer’s details and publishing history – if applicable – and the very precise details of the nature and extent of their work. This would include such as the title of the work, the genre to which the work is written and the extent of the work as an approximate word count.

The writer should resist the temptation to give too many details regarding their work in the initial query letter. They should be brief and to the point at all times and allow their writing itself to do the speaking for them in terms of its promotion, if and when the publisher or agent agrees to take a look at it.

When a writer has sent off a query letter to a publisher, patience is required in waiting for a reply. There is no point in expecting a reply – especially when having been asked to include sample material – within such as a week, as the likelihood is that this is not going to be achieved. It can take many weeks for a publisher to get back to a writer in answer to a query so the writer should know and expect this. Chasing a publisher or literary agent for an answer to a query is only likely to lead to disappointment.

One final aspect to note regarding query letters is that writers should not send several of them away at once to different companies. This could lead to problems where more than one company shows some interest in the writer’s work, ultimate bad feeling and perhaps disappointment for the writer on all fronts.

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