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Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Format (and not screw up the query)

Queries are business letters. They are your introduction to a stranger, your resume, and first impression.

Don’t screw it up.

Writers send queries one of two ways: snail mail and email.

Format snail mail using the typical business letter guideline:

Your Name     
Your Address
Recipient’s Name
Their Address
Dear Mr./Ms.  Recipient:
Body of the Letter
Your Signature
The main difference between snail and email is the beginning. No addresses for email queries.

To: Recipient’s Name
Subject: Query 
Dear Mr/Ms Recipient:
Body of the Letter
Your Name
Your Address
Phone Number

As in all else, Read the Submission Guidelines of the individual agent and their preferences. Some agents want a date on the email for instance. Others don’t. Always check interviews and their blogs for tidbits of info.

Now about tabs: Holy crap, don’t use them. EVER. They are the devil’s playground in emails and manuscripts. Avoid them like the slime balls they are.

Keep in mind that some agents download manuscripts to E-readers. Tabs and other formatting splats will gum up the works.

If you use the Word program, this trick will clean up a manuscript or format correctly:

Click on: Select, then Select AllRight Click anywhere on the shaded area.
 Click on Paragraph
(never Justified)
 Indention:  Inside – 0
Outside – 0
Special – First Line
By - .5”
 Spacing:Before: 0pt
After: 0pt
 Line spacing:Double
 Click on Okay.

Now search out those nasty tabs.

Click on Find and enter ^t. Rip the little buggers out of their hidey holes and destroy them.

There are variations to these formatting examples. Many writers begin with a simple salutation rather than ‘To and Subject’. Other queriers stick with the snail mail format for their emails. Just remember, agents have little time. One agent snarled, “I know my address. Don’t remind me.”

Use common sense and always research the agent’s preferences. You can’t go wrong if you follow their guidelines.


What You Need to Know to Write an Effective E-mail Query--16 points, no paragraph breaks, but muddle through it anyway. Good stuff.

Preparing E-mail Queries--Easier to read as it is broken up into sections. Talks about specific problems due to using email, such as "gibberish" when cut and pasting and how to fix it.

How to Format a Query Letter--specifically emailed ones. Once again Nathan Bransford knows how to advice and calm our troubled minds at the same time. He gives guidelines by example and then tells us to simply do our best and it will be ok. Thanks, Nathan!

And for you visual folks, it looks something like this:


Suzanne Furness said...

Loads of useful info thanks. Off to find those tabs!

Ink in the Book said...

I had no idea about the tab thing. So this is amazing information. Yes, I use the tabs. Yes, I'll be zapping them OUT.

Angela Brown said...

I've got some cleaning up to do...pardon as I go check on my MS and make sure I can follow the steps you provided here because I had no clue about the tab thing.


Thank you :-)

goodmonica said...

I didn't know about the tab thing either. Thanks.

Aldrea Alien said...

I don't indent, nevermind tab, until the final edit, so that's one less thing to worry about. Now to go back and freak over the words instead.

LD Masterson said...

Thanks for the tab tip. I don't use them but someone in my crit group did and I wasn't sure how to tell her to get rid of them.