In prep for writing my query letter, I found a workshop offered through RMFW here in Colorado. Perfect timing! A good in-person brush up is exactly what I needed and it didn’t disappoint.

The workshop speaker Kelley Lindberg,  volunteers on the RMFW board and oversees the organization’s blog. She’s been published a lot, both in fiction and non-fiction, and for the workshop, she focused on query letter writing for fiction.

As painful as query letter writing can be, we just have to dig in and re-work it until we’re happy with our letters. As part of the workshop, we were asked to read our letters aloud for a group critique. I volunteered to go first. Might as well get the pain over with! Ha.

Surprisingly, I received positive feedback and helpful tips to make it better… encouragement I was hoping for but definitely not counting on. Let’s dig into Kelley’s material on query letter writing.

A query letter must convice the publisher/agent of two (and only two) things:

1. This is a killer story

2. You’re the best writer for the job.

After the salutation, the three main components of the letter are hook, book, and cook. 

Let’s take a look at these components now:

First of all, with the salutation, give your reason for querying them and any connection to them. So, basically you are personalizing it appropriately.

First Paragraph (The Hook)

Plunge the editor into the topic/story.  Fiction: introduce the main character, a pivotal moment, and what’s at stake. Highlight a scene: jump immediately into the heart or main conflict of your story. Show the voice it was written in.

Paragraph Two (The Book)

Introduce the protagonist’s world, the broader story arc, their goals and their obstacles. Briefly describe the overall story. Don’t be vague! Include title, word count, and genre. Why is your story interesting and different from similar stories? If appropriate, use key facts or figures to show you’ve done you’re research. Make this paragraph exciting and interesting.

Paragraph Three (The Cook)

Who are you, do you have any publications, and what makes you an expert? Why is your story unique? Compare to recently published comparable titles (comps). Describe any relevant experience. Mention any previously published writing, writing awards, and writing organizations. If you are only selling specific rights, like reprint rights, say so. If this story has appeared online IN ANY FORM or in another publication, say so. OK to say: “This is the first book in a planned series,” or “This is a standalone book but has the potential to be a series.”

End with a polite, “Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Your Name.”

Include your phone, email, and social media handles.

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