Wednesday, August 29, 2012

COSCBWI August 2012: Query Letters

This month's COSCBWI meeting was all about query letters.  Led by our Assistant Regional Advisor, Andrea Hall, and yours truly, we first had a discussion on query letters do's and dont's, as well as formatting and standard guidelines.   We then critiqued members' query letters as a group, giving constructive feedback for each volunteer.

A quick Google search will bring you tons of pages on the basics of query letter writing, so I won't go into that here.  Instead, here are some tips we discussed for you to consider once you have your ideas on paper:

-Be professional.  You want to present yourself and your book in the very best light possible.

-Have some buddies read it for errors.  You definitely don't want to send out a letter with typos!

-Be sure to follow the agent's guidelines.  Many literary agencies specify what they want included in your letter, as well as attachment preferences, etc., so pay close attention to what they ask of you.

-Try to personalize your letter for each agent you submit to.  If Agent A loves friendship stories, emphasize the relationships in your manuscript.  If Agent B likes humor, emphasize what is funny about it.  You can do this just by tweaking your letter instead of writing a dozen different ones.  (Note: DO NOT lie, though.  Only emphasize what is truly in your story.  If there is no romance plot in your manuscript, don't compare it to Romeo & Juliet.)

-Do include relevant information in your bio section.  If you're a Paleontologist writing a book about dinosaurs, that's a great thing to point out.

-Agents are so busy and receive such a high volume of queries that is isn't in your best interest to submit your manuscript exclusively to any one agent.  (You could wait anywhere from one hour to several months for a response.)  Politely note it is a simultaneous submission, and be sure to let each agent you've queried know if you've received an offer of representation.

-Don't give up!  Querying is a subjective process, and a story one agent doesn't care for may just be the perfect book for another!  :)

Lastly, we went over some helpful query letter websites you can use as resources, including:

And for great information on agents who represent Children's through YA lit, be sure to check out!

You can find out more about our upcoming COSCBWI events at  Registration is also open for our Fall Workshop on October 27 featuring editor Kristin Ostby and author/illustrator Lindsay Ward.  You can register at

Hope to see you at our September meeting!

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