Query letter ideas



I’m about to write a query for a manuscript I’ve just finished, so began to look for articles on synopses.  I came across Lisa Katzenberger’s 4-point consideration before entering a pitch session.  Since so much of queries, synopses, and just promoting oneself as a writer is kind of pitchy, I thought I’d share:



  1. Are you working on anything else?  I never thought of including such information when pitching one manuscript, and, if asked, I can imagine blowing this opportunity with an editor or agent.  Isn’t this a no—no in a synopsis?  A query?  Well, now I’m not sure it’s off-limits in a query and could be an indicator that you are not a one-book wonder.
  2. Who are your favorite authors?  Not sure this fits into queries and synopses, but in pitching….seems vital to have contemporary names, not C.S. Lewis and Seuss, but also not JK Rowling.  An agent and editor can discern a good bit about you as someone up-to-date and literate by the author’s you read. And many times queries are stronger when the writer compares her ms to well-known and similar books.
  3. How would you describe yourself as an author?  You could turn to genre, audience, or element, as in character-driven or humorous.  But the question is important merely for you to assess yourself and gain self-awareness, if for nothing else.
  4.    Where did this story come from?  This question allows you to give the immediate source, but also can trigger you to dig deeper.  What are you wanting to talk about?  What emotions are you hoping to convey?    What made you have to write this book?  In the Susan Campbell Bartoletti talk in western PA on March 24, she pointed out that we should write about the things we like, things we want to know about, but also those things we really “should” be writing about.

I write mostly about disability, even though I had 26 years of abed-bodiedness.  Deaf-blindness issues seem to be a need.  Publishers speak of wanting diverse books.  I read that approximately 300 children’s books were published last year with African-American protagonist and about 200 with Hispanic main characters.  Librarian friends tell me there were far fewer publications with disabled characters.  Notice that I don’t have sources here, so I’m giving more opinion than fact.

But the truth is that I feel that writing about Deaf-blindness is a kind of call.  One of my writing group members with a serious medical condition doesn’t write directly about this because of privacy issues and because she doesn’t want to write “sick lit.”

So where our books come from and what we choose to write about is so individual, therefore so interesting.  And I think it’s possible to debate whether any of us “should” write on a specific subject.  But I do support looking into where our stories come from and whether we are really writing from our hearts, and if not, why not.  Self-awareness again.  It grows and grows in importance to me.  But now I have to face the query letter, and has any of this musing helped?


About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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