A fiction query letter is a form of interest gathering correspondence that you use to solicit publishers or agents to get them interested in taking a look at your book. It is only required when going through an agent or publisher and can greatly increase your chances of getting your book published.
A query letter is a brief, to the point sales letter intended to convince a publisher or agent to look at your book for the consideration of publication or representation of you by their company. This may be included with your manuscript's submission or separate depending on what the agent or publisher requests you do to introduce you and your book to their company.
A fiction query letter is not required if you are self-publishing your work since you don't have to convince someone to look at it except your potential customers; however, if you want to publish your work through a major book publisher or if you have a short story you want to submit to a magazine or publication editor, your correspondence should definitely start with a query letter.
This sales pitch is a basic run down of your story and why they (and the target market) will love to read your book. It also describes you as an author, but the focal point is on your book. Knowing how to create a query letter that catches people's interest is a key factor in getting your stories published by major publishers.
You should learn how to draft a fiction query letter so you can avoid common mistakes that may make or break your chances at a publisher even taking a look at your material. You should definitely never send off an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher or agent unless they specifically ask for one.
A fiction query letter is a great introduction for you and your story and will give them an opportunity to ask for your manuscript if they are interested. In fact, your manuscript doesn't even have to be written in order to sell it to a publisher.
Simply sending out your manuscript to a bunch of publishers is a waste of money and paper, especially since most of them are going to toss it in the garbage. Only send your manuscript to people who are actually interested in it to begin with.
You should write your letter as your initial outreach to an agent or publisher in order to break the ice between you and the entity that is going to potentially represent you and your book. You can use this introductory message to introduce you and your fiction to them for consideration for a major publishing contract.
The fundamentals of writing an interest gathering letter are pretty straight forward and simple. There are only a few key elements to a query letter, but you must ensure that you use powerful words that "sell" the reason why they should read your story.
Each fiction query letter that you draft should be personalized to a particular source that you are writing it to. Do some research on the company before writing your letter so you know whether they mind that you send it to other publishers at the same time you are contacting them.
In your fiction sales piece, always be positive. Don't ever use negative words or statements like "I think I could", "Maybe", or "If you aren't interested" as these types of words and phrases show a lack of confidence and may show a publisher that you aren't sure about your own abilities as a writer. If you aren't sure about your writing, how is a publisher going to be sure your writing will be a success for them?
You should always be upbeat and positive in your fiction query letter. You must have faith in your story or others will not. Show confidence using words to describe you and your story. "My book is the next best seller!"
You want your fiction letter to be as powerful and to the point as possible. It should be no more than one page in length and should be written to immediately grab the intended reader's attention.
Your query should be written in standard block letter format, dated, with to and from addresses, and a formal opening (such as Dear Mr. Smith).
The very first paragraph should be telling them why you are contacting them, introduce your story to them, and a little influence as to why your story will be a success. It should be something that is powerful enough to grab the reader's attention immediately. Do not mention you are trying to publish your book in the first paragraph. Act like it's already published.
The second paragraph should contain some background on your fiction book or story you are submitting to them. Make this paragraph two or three sentences in length; all you need is a few elements to make your point.
In the few paragraphs in between, summarize the story, characters, and moral of the story. From this short segment, they should be able to get a good idea on what the book is about.
Immediately following your story summary, add in why your story is popular among your target market readers. If you are submitting to a magazine or publication, it is good to know some of the past submissions to that publication so you can comment on their past reader's interest as well.
The final paragraph of your query letter should include something about you, such as your author biography. You can include other credentials such as education, background, family, job, or interests that are applicable to your writing.
You should close your letter by mentioning to the agent or publisher that you hope they would like to read your story, or let them know you have enclosed an SASE (self addressed, stamped envelope) so they can correspond back with you regarding your query to request a copy of your manuscript.
After sending your letter of solicitation to prospective publishers, give the agents or publishers time to respond to your queries. Don't make them feel like your are rushing them in any way. Sometimes you might have to wait up to eight months for a reply. In the mean time, be constructive with other projects or building future marketing pieces instead of worrying about the particular publisher's decision on your work.
Do not just send out one query and expect it to sell the first time. Send it out to several publishers and agents at the same time so you can have a better chance at success in a reasonable amount of time. Just make sure you log everything down so you can track who you send it to, who responds, and if they want to move forward or not. Look at the offer you receive back or their response and use that as feedback to modify your fiction query letter or to sign a contract.
Here is a great example of a fiction query letter that will help you put yours together.