In previous posts, we've explained why professionals prefer short, succinct query letters, and how to present them. It's time to consider the query letter's content.
For query letters, you should use:
a business-type letterhead that gives your name and contact information basic white or off-white 8½ x 11-inch paper a standard typeface that can be read easily; avoid script or other typefaces that are difficult to read, even if you think they are eye-catching 10- or 12-point type black ink margins of 1½ inches at the top and bottom, and at least 1 inch on the sides an insert of a self-addressed, stamped envelope with the proper amount of postage All enclosures sent with your query letter should be typed on good quality paper stock and in black ink. Don't get fancy or, worse yet, cute. Avoid bold colors, gimmicky borders, or other features that could distract from your message.
Strive for brevity and clarity. Make your letters short, well-written, and to the point. Your main objective should be to get your foot in the door and to make the publisher curious enough to ask for more information about your book. The best way to do so is to clearly and professionally communicate the specialness of your book idea in plain, straightforward, easily understood English.
Make sure you've researched, so your letter isn't headed for immediate rejection: "An immediate turnoff is when I receive an inquiry that shows that the writer hasn't done enough research," agent Edward Knappman, of New England Publishing Associates, explains. "If I get an inquiry regarding a novel, it's obvious that they haven't done enough research to learn that we don't handle fiction. If they haven't researched our agency, the first thing I ask is, 'How can they do enough research for the book?'"
Another instant turnoff occurs when the agent's name or the firm's name is misspelled. Remarkably, agents have informed us, such misspellings are all too common.
A nonfiction query letter MUST include:
A tight lead sentence describing your book. The lead sentence should be a grabber that hooks the reader and makes him or her want to read further. So sculpt your lead artfully. Give the title, length, and what the book is about. Questions/answers, statistics and anecdotes can also make effective opening sentences. Explain why you selected this agent or publisher to query. It could be that the agent or publisher was recommended to you by one of their authors, or that you loved a book that he or she handled, which you feel is similar to your title. Agents and editors may respond more favorably to writers who have done their homework and know something about them and their work.
Keep your lead to two or two and a half lines. In you need to round off your lead or to add other crucial information that didn't fit in your lead, add another short sentence, no more than a line or two. If you have celebrity status, work it into the lead or second sentence.
A paragraph or two supporting and amplifying the lead. a. Provide more details on:
i. the subject of the book
ii. why your book is special or how it differs from other books
iii. the market for the book
iv. how the book is organized or formatted
v. why it will interest editors
b. Point out problems that your book will solve and concrete ways that it will help readers.
c. Include facts or statistics that show the size of your book's potential market.
d. State whether the manuscript has been written or when you expect to complete it.
3. Your biography. Don't just use your standard resume or only stress your educational and business background, but show why you're so uniquely qualified to write this book. Include your past writing credits, awards in your field, and your platform. Sell them, don't just tell them!
4. A summary statement. Thank the recipient for his or her time and offer to send additional materials such as a proposal, sample chapters, or the manuscript.
Write a sound bite for your book, which many call an "elevator speech" because it can be delivered in the time it takes to go from the first to the second floor. Your sound bite should give a brief description that you can reel off in ten to fifteen seconds. When you perfect your sound bite, you can use it when you query agents and editors, write book proposals, and tell others about your book.
When you write your sound bite, remember the observation of theater impresario David Belasco: "If you can't write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don't have a clear idea."
The title of your book must be a "grabber"! You have to do a lot of testing before you settle on a title. Research shows that titles with one to four words are great grabbers. "Wealth Without Risk" "Where's Your Wow" "Financial Self Defense"
You get the idea... Then the sub title tells the reader the promise of the book. What is this book going to teach you? ie: 16 Ways to get your competition to wish they were you" (our subtitle from Where's Your Wow") "How to Lose 10 pounds by next week" (now that is a grabber) Test- Test Test- Does the title have a ring- does it make you think? Does is sound great as you say it?
Also- ALWAYS get the URL for you title. If you don't have the URL... you DON'T have your title.
So, how do you get the media to tell the world about your book? First, you find media people and outlets that you can contact. Their contact information is in:
Cision's directories, available in annual print and online versions (http://www.cision.com). The print versions are out-of-date as soon as they're published, whereas online editions are continuously updated and are searchable by areas, media, outlets, subjects, and more. The newspaper/magazine directory includes contact information for editors and outlets, Web site addresses, editor contact profiles, and types of press materials accepted. The radio, TV, and cable editions include personnel rosters, program profiles and formats, guest and press material acceptance policies, target audience, and news and reporter contact profiles.
Alex Carroll's Radio Interview Database http://www.publicityvault.com lists the names of hosts and producers of every prime-time talk show on every major U.S. talk station having at least 100,000 listeners. It describes and categorizes 1,206 prime-time talk shows on the top 153 stations and gives bios for most hosts.
When you're ready to contact a media outlet, identify the decision makers. All outlets have a hierarchy of decision makers, so speak with the person who makes or contributes to the decision to cover you or your book. Get their names by networking with other authors and your media contacts. Read the credits at the end of shows.
Call media outlets and ask, "Who is in charge of bookings for the noon news and can you give me his or her telephone number or e-mail address?" Find out how he or she prefers to be contacted, by e-mail or by phone. Then, enter the name and contact information in your media list.
The media has gatekeepers whom you usually have to go through to get your book covered. For print, they're editors, and for radio and TV, they're producers; so contact them first. Normally, it's a waste of time to pitch reporters and hosts and better to work top-down because reporters generally cover stories assigned to them by their editors. Usually, hosts are not involved in the booking process. On rare occasions, it can work in reverse, but your chances are usually stronger when an editor or producer wants to feature your book. *****
Have a wonderful weekend and remember I want to see you get published.
It is almost impossible to get your book into an airport bookstore- right?
Well Not necessarily. Hudson’s, Borders and other airport stores have limited room and only sell books that they feel are great for travelling folk. And almost all of the time you have to buy space in their stores.
However... Go in and talk to the managers. Call them up. Tell them you are in their airport all the time and you would be happy to do a signing/lecture in front of their stores and lure customers in. I did this in 3 airport stores - in 3 cities in one day The managers told me very few people ask to do this. Each store ordered about 50 books that I signed.
Try it- the worst thing they can do is say no. There are a lot of airports out there- and a lot of airport stores. Go forth and schmooze!
“Top Publishing And Marketing Experts Reveal Tools and Techniques to Get Your Book Published and Double or Triple Your Income as an Author or Publisher.”
Author101 University is coming on May 29, 2008 Los Angeles, WESTIN LAX, 8:00 to 6:00 pm
This is the day before BEA starts in Los Angeles
Join Mark Victor Hansen, Rick Frishman, Brendon Burchard, Barbara DeAngeles, David Hancock, Alex Carroll and a hand picked publishing panel of editors, agents and publishers…
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