Will the Query Letter Really Work?
When used to sell a fiction novel, the query letter might (with luck) work less than one percent of the time. I have submitted excellent novels (for others), fully deserving mass market attention, only to see them ignored because another author has that subject area “cornered.” For example, how many publishers presently want to compete with Stephen King novels?
But query letters ARE necessary. And it’s up to you to make them work.
1. Using Writer’s Digest, identify a pool of 50 publishers most likely to publish your book. Enter these in a data base or Personal Information Manager.
2. Send 10 packages with personalized query letter, bio, and synopsis to the smallest publishers this week.
3. After two weeks, log a record of your success, make revisions to your package, and mail to ten more. (Success is defined as a publisher simply asking you to send a copy of the manuscript. When they do, send it fast and well.)
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have exhausted the list.
5. Now, or during the above process, start on another book.
6. Constantly, in the background, keep sending out articles and short stories for magazines and on-line publication. Here your letters, etc., can be less formal. Use a personable, business letter style.
7. Promise me you will never, ever, stop or get depressed. Be patient. You will succeed, as long as you stay open to feedback via websites like author-me and, especially, if you treasure any comments you get from the publishing houses. The people on author-me will help you with content, usually. The publisher is more market-savvy, and will give you a completely different, and invaluable, perspective.
8. Have an autograph party at the local bookstore when you release your first book.
Bruce L. Cook, Editor