I'll give a couple of pointers, then list a few links to other sites with similar articles. It's one of those topics where you need input from more than one person.
First, read your target market's guidelines. If they want three chapters and a synopsis, don't post them the whole manuscript. If they want a query letter and nothing else, do what they ask.
Your query letter does three things: First, it proves you've researched your market. (If your query letter to a romance publisher starts by outlining a thriller set on Mars, you just failed the first test.) The part in which you describe your plot should be sharp and snappy - perhaps three sentences tops.
Second, list your prior publishing credits. If you have something to list, just say "My work has been published in ..." (assuming short story credits) or "My last novel was published by...". Don't freak out if you have no credits - better to skip this paragraph than to print a shopping list of ezines, vanity publishers and primary school writing competitions.
Third, ask whether the recipient is interested in seeing your submission. Be sure to mention the SSAE you enclosed for their response.
One thing about query letters - they don't have to be witty, or amusing, or clever, or the most insightful thing ever to cross the recipient's desk. When you're agonising over the thing, remember that you're just writing a letter to ask whether they'll take a look at your manuscript.
Please remember that none of my articles are meant to discourage. In fact, they're all written for the me of ten years ago, the writer who was ready to take the next step but didn't know what that step was.
About the author: Simon Haynes is the author of over 25 novels. He also designed and created yWriter.
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