In our recent call for submissions, Winterwolf Press has asked that all of our prospective writers send a query letter in along with the first three chapters of their manuscript. But what exactly is a query letter?
We think Jane Friedman’s blunt explanation says it best when she wrote, “The stand-alone query letter has one purpose, and one purpose only: To seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work.”
Although the single query letter could persuade both an agent and an editor (or, in our case, a press), that doesn’t t mean that you should write a single letter to send to both an agent and an editor. Because one letter can’t do it all. It doesn’t exist.
Or, at least, it shouldn’t. That would be like buying the same souvenir home for your spouse and your child. Sure, at the end of the day there might be two separate items given to two separate people, but by making them settle for a gift that can be accepted by all and yet treasured by none, the gift will quickly become forgotten.
And therein lies the problem.
If you send the same query letter to an agent and an editor, neither of them will be especially impressed with your letter. And for good reason – we’re willing to bet that you sacrificed personalization for the sake of being able to send out a mass letter, and came off as half-hearted and even boring.
Which is the last impression you want your query letter to convey.
Now that we’ve clued you in, you’re probably wondering: what makes agents and editors so different?
An agent is your best friend in the publishing world. As Writer’s Relief points out, “Literary agents are generally paid a 15 percent commission on the sale of a book; in a sense, a literary agent works for his/her clients. However, it is best to approach a relationship with a literary agent as a partnership.”
Don’t be mean to your agent and definitely don’t take your agent for granted. Their job is to learn you and your book inside and out so that they can turn around and sell your story to a publisher. Seriously, an agent could be the difference between a traditional book deal and a self-published career.
In the publishing world, the big man sitting at the tippity-top is the Publisher himself. But you don’t care about him – in fact, you don’t even care about the guy right under him. Instead, you care about the acquisitions editors.
As acquisitions editor, Terry Whalin said, “It’s simple, I find the books for my publishing house to publish.”
That is why you care about them. While your agent is the middle man between you and your publishing deal, the editor is the person who starts spinning the thread to construct your heroic tapestry. If you can’t impress the acquisitions editor, then there is no deal.
Now the next question you may have is, how do you write an epic letter for each? Come back next week and we’ll show you how!