You love your manuscript!
You do, don’t you? (Otherwise maybe you’d better do a little more thinking about whether or not you’re ready to send it out on submission.) How do you show an agent or editor how much you love your manuscript? Format those queries and cover letters correctly!
Your query letter is the introduction of you and your work. You want to get this right. A neat, well formatted letter shows how much you care about your work. It also shows how much you respect the person you’re sending it to. We all appreciate being respected!
- Use white paper and black ink. No, no color is necessary and using it can also tend to make you look unprofessional.
- A simple 12 point font is perfect. Times New Roman is pretty standard.
- Set your margins at 1 – 1 1/2 inches.
- Use single spacing.
- Double space between paragraphs.
- Put your name, address, phone number, and email address at the top, center.
- Drop down 4 spaces and insert the agent/editor’s address information.
- Drop down 2 spaces and insert date.
- Drop down two more spaces and put your salutation, using Mr., Mrs., or Ms., along with agent or editor’s last name.
- Drop down one space and start your letter.
In general a query letter has a short hook paragraph, a sort of mini-synopsis paragraph that includes your manuscript’s word count and the reason why you’re sending this manuscript to this person to consider (alternately, this could be put in the closing paragraph), your short bio, and a closing where you tell the recipient what you have enclosed (such as the manuscript or a self-addresses stamped envelope) and thank them for their time. Of course, the order of the paragraphs aren’t set in stone. You may find different variations work better for different manuscripts. Plus, each recipient may have their own quirks about how they like things formatted, which you may find in your pre-submission research.
The simple difference between a query letter and a cover letter? In a query letter you are asking whether or not the recipient is interested in seeing the manuscript. In a cover letter you’re giving a quick overview of the manuscript you’ve enclosed.
One thing that is pretty much set like a boulder in the middle of a field? You need to keep your query and cover letters to one page. You want to hook them, not bore them. Make it short. Make it snappy. Make the recipient want to read more. Show that agent or editor how much you love your manuscript. Hopefully they will love it just as much as you!