Monday, September 6, 2010

Preparing the Email Query

Happy Labor Day to my U.S. writer friends. I ran a 5K this morning and will be spending the day with family and friends. I hope you are too, but just in case you stopped by, I scheduled a post for you.

Alright, did I mention I gave myself a deadline? September 15th is the day. It's after Labor Day, so hopefully the world of publishing is settling back to work after taking their much needed vacation. Here's the thing, I am really stressed about the email query.

Why?

Because I'm a visual person. That may sound weird since I'm a writer, but I need to see how things are done with my own eyes to really GET IT. The library supplied me with lots of great resources on how to write a query, complete with examples of what they should look like. However, they are all older books that concentrate on the paper query. I tried to search online for a photo of an email query and lost patience before I was successful.

So, how will I know if what I'm sending looks professional? What if I do something wrong and they delete it without reading everything?

I'm probably over-thinking this in a major way, but I want to do it right. Here are the links to three sites that I'm depending on heavily. I'll recap several of the main points here, but if you are just starting out, you will want to read them all yourselves. Being a visual person, one of them looks scary simply because it is a ton of text with no breaks or photos.

Links:

What You Need to Know to Write an Effective E-mail Query--16 points, no paragraph breaks, but muddle through it anyway. Good stuff.

Preparing E-mail Queries--Easier to read as it is broken up into sections. Talks about specific problems due to using email, such as "gibberish" when cut and pasting and how to fix it.

How to Format a Query Letter--specifically emailed ones. Once again Nathan Bransford knows how to advice and calm our troubled minds at the same time. He gives guidelines by example and then tells us to simply do our best and it will be ok. Thanks, Nathan!

Highlights:

1. Know who you are querying. Do your homework, send it to the right person, don't mass email.

2. Use your name for your email address to tell them who it's from (charity.bradford@gmail.com). Not some quirky pet name like "snugglemuffin@yahoo.com". (And no, this is not one of my email addys, so don't spam this poor person thinking it's me.)

3. Subject line: Include the word "Query" in your subject line, along with a brief description of your proposal -- e.g., "Query: Science Fiction novel SENDEK" or "Query: Writing for Pet Magazines." Never leave this line blank. Avoid cuteness or excessive informality; a subject line like "May I have a moment of your time?" looks too much like "spam" and could cause your query to be deleted.

4. Most agents do not want attachments, there are some exceptions. This goes back to #1, do your homework.

5. Keep your text short and concise. Double space to separate paragraphs and give the reader a break.

6. Treat the text as you would a traditional query. For more tips on writing a successful query, click HERE.

7. Always put your name, address, and other contact info at the end of the query instead of at the beginning. The great thing about email is you can add a link to your blog or other links to published examples of your work.

8. After your contact info, cut and paste what that agent requires. Example: first five pages, first three chapters, synopsis, whatever they ask for. Nathan Bransford was the only site to mention this and here is what it looked like on his site:
Sincerely,
Nathan Bransford (note that I didn't leave space for a signature since it's an e-mail)

My address
My phone number
My e-mail address
(optional: my website/blog)

---

First 5 pages of the manuscript - don't worry about how these are formatted just do the best you can

9. Proof read your email! Because it is quick and easy doesn't mean you can type and send without this step. Remember it is all about looking professional. You may want to print your email and read it aloud, just like you did (hopefully) with your manuscript.

Well, I feel a little better. There is one question I still have unanswered. Where does the cover letter go in an e-mail query?  Do you just work it into the query itself as a paragraph telling why you chose that agent to query? Would you put that first and then go into the query or put it at the end of the query where you put your references?

See, I still have lots of questions. Do you know the answer to any of these? Know of any blogs or sites that cover this topic? Please share.

So, I guess it will look something like this. For those of you that have done this, am I on the right track?