A great query letter can be the key to unlocking infinite opportunities. It is advisable that you take your precious time and be thoroughly thoughtful about your query letter if you are to achieve the desired results. If you are in the dark as to where to start, worry not because you are at the right place. In this article, we will explore how to write a query letter in Ghana. Remember, a query letter is viewed as a reflection of who you are as a person, so do it the right way.
A good query letter should be no more than one page. This makes writing query letters seem like an impossible task. One of the most effective ways of learning how to learn to write a good query letter is by having a look at examples of the same that have been done excellently. If you are a writer (fiction and nonfiction), a query letter may be your only chance of getting the attention of an agent to read your work.
What is a query letter?
It is a letter (usually one page) that is sent to literary agents with the intention of getting them interested in your book. As a result, it should be short but captivating enough to woo the agent into liking your script. It is a marketing letter that talks about your book in one page without overselling it.
The basics of writing an effective query letter
- Stick to the one-page rule: Your pitch letter should be no more than one page. Think of it as a magazine advertisement, hence there is no need for endless information about the product. The query letter should raise the reader’s anxiety while at the same time not giving him/her too much.
- Use the standard business letter format: A query letter is still a formal letter. Be advised to use the traditional 11- or 12-point font (either Times New Roman or Courier). It should be single-spaced between lines and double-spaced between paragraphs. The letter should contain the date, your name, your physical address, handset number, and email address. Since you know who you are sending the query letter to, address it specifically to the agent or editor.
- At most, your letter should be three paragraphs long: In the first paragraph is your introduction also known as a ‘hook’. In the second paragraph, give a brief synopsis of your manuscript. The last paragraph is an opportunity for you to present your writer’s biography.
- Make the opening as captivating as possible: Agents and editors are busy people. They have to decide within an instant whether or not they will be interested in your work. Therefore, your first sentence should be very catchy. It is advisable to open with a central idea in your manuscript. It should be something like, “While admitted in the Critical Intensive Unit at a Nairobi hospital, John comes to the realization that…” In the same paragraph, include the title of your work, the word count, and genre.
The dos and don’ts when writing a query letter
- Always attach a self-addressed stamped envelope alongside the query letter. It is the best way to ensure you get a response.
- Always conduct prior research to ensure you find an agent or editor specializing in the line of work you are interested in.
- Do not introduce your query by praising the agency or giving details of how you found them as this will waste space you would have used to communicate much-needed information.
- Do not praise your work- this is the work of the agents.
- Do not pay the agency to have your manuscript read. Reputable and legitimate agencies do not charge for such a service.
Query letter template
Here is a Query letter sample you can draw inspiration from:
Kings of New York Literary Agency,
101 Rich Street,
Dear Ms. Linet,
Aron Belkin has been tasked with finding the man who's been embezzling money from his law firm; the only problem is that he’s the guilty party. Beneath the Skin is an 85,000-word crime novel in the vein of Henning Mankell and Ake Edwardson.
Aron is the fixer for a major law firm in New York. In order to cover a debt to a loan shark, however, he decides to slip a little of the firm's money into his own pockets. It's a simple plan, but sometimes simple plans go awry. Aron stops for a drink while waiting to deliver the money, only to have it stolen. Now, some friends (large friends) of the loan shark keep calling. Aaron needs the money—now. His firm, too, discovers the missing money and ask Aron to find it—and find it fast. It seems the money belonged to a client, a local crime lord who doesn’t want to wait for a check and who sends a few of his own large men to poke around in Aron's investigation.
A local detective is also following the money trail, though whether he wants to make an arrest or make a deposit to his retirement account is never clear. Aron must find the money before the others find him with empty pockets. Luckily, he thinks he knows who took the money. He also knows he should never have trusted such a pretty face; strange things sometimes lie beneath the skin.
Beneath the Skin is my first novel, though a number of my stories have been published in The New Yorker, Fiddlehead, The Antioch Review, and AGNI. I recently acquired my MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and currently live in Poughkeepsie, New York, where I work as the city's lone bike messenger.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Having the above knowledge on how to write a query letter at your fingertips is just but the beginning of a long journey. Perseverance and willingness to learn are key. Submitting your query letter may turn out to be a very long and gruesome process. On the bright side, it is also an opportunity to sharpen your skills as a professional writer and improve your ability to market your work.