Hello hello! Welcome to the first installment of the Submission Series. So many authors worry to death about these tricky little queries (and synopsis and bios), but lets tie that bag of worry up and toss it off a cliff, eh?
They are Not as Important as You May Think
Think of your query as a paint primer. When we sit down to read through queries we read more than one in a sitting. Who knows how the last query has left the, because really, there have been some truly awful queries. So imagine I just finished a query that claimed the book would get me pregnant just by reading it (Yes, this really happened. No, it didn't work), and I land on yours next. I desperately need you to bring my focus to your story, so I can wash away the horribleness of the one before. Enter, Query. Set up your sample so that I'm ready for it when I get to it.
Do Your Homework
It is extremely irritating to get a submission that doesn't follow guidelines and, often, we reject them right away. At Jolly Fish Press, where I am a managing editor, we do not accept attachments, period. If something is attached, it's an immediate reject. It is a protection against spam (Warren Buffet has offered to give us money so many times I've lost count) and we strictly adhere to it.
Much of doing your homework also proves our worth to you. When you enter into a contract with a publishing company, it become a partnership. The relationship is very organic and, as such, we want to work with people who value us as much as we value them.
Keep It Short
Once you've done your homework and structured your letter, cut it shorter. Yes, Just like you do with your book, you'll need to edit and cut stuff. Be concise and to the point. Tell me only what I asked for, and only tell me that once. So many queries become mini synopsis'. Do not do this. If you give too much in the query and end up repeating much of it in your synopsis, you'll need to cut it down. It's much too easy for an editor or agent to skim in the first place, and repetition is a sure fire way to bore them into skimming..
Give editors less to judge before they get to the sample. Only say what you must and let the sample speak for itself. In the end, that's the most important piece. This is especially true for the bio. This should be extremely short. Honestly, it rarely matters. One great book does not mean every book thereafter is as good. Even J.K. Rowling's third Harry Potter book was rejected numerous times, so previous experience is, at best, vaguely impressive. It is very easy to come across as pretentious, or nervous even, in this section. The more you say, the more chances you have to mess up. Save yourself this trouble and keep it short.
Well, that's a wrap. Time to hop back on the submission log and search for some buried treasure! I'd love to answer questions, so post them below!