What’s a Query Letter?

A query letter asks (queries) a publisher to determine whether there is any interest in publishing a book or magazine article. Actually, the letter is sent to an acquisitions editor or other person who represents “The Publisher” in this process.

Usually, a query letter is reserved for use with very long manuscripts. For these, it is impractical (and unwelcome) to mail a manuscript unless the publisher asks to see it.

Usual enclosures with the query letter are the author’s biography and a synopsis or outline of his or her manuscript or proposal. What’s left to include in the query letter?

It is our recommendation that you focus the query letter on items you believe would be of interest to the publisher. Thus, if you can estimate profitability and/or sales numbers for the book, share these in the query letter. However, in the absence of real numbers, you can at least place the work within the appropriate category, explaining (for example) that you are sending a medical novel. Further, you might distinguish it from other books in the category. For example, you might describe it as a science fiction slant on the Robin Cook approach . Also, here’s a chance for you to explain any details about the transaction that you feel are important. For example, you could explain that you are selling only the North American rights to this novel, etc.


With the query letter, include....

...an author’s biography, describing your education and background, but especially your book publishing record. If you have sales figures for previous publications (including magazine circulation numbers), include them here, when you mention the work. Include a photo of yourself... No kidding.

...a synopsis or outline of the work. Be brief. You can include a sample of the work, perhaps as a fourth sheet.

Bruce L. Cook, Editor