Use the Hook, Line & Sinker Method!
If you want us (or any publisher) to read your query, you must hook us in the first paragraph, preferably with the FIRST sentence. If you've been writing for a while, you've probably heard that the first sentence of a novel is vital in hooking a reader. So is the first sentence of your query. Acquisition editors and publishers are readers too. Your first sentence/paragraph should tell us something about the story or something about YOU, something that will make us want to know more. Something that will make us ask YOU questions.
Example of a bad hook:
I've written a fictional novel. It is about a woman searching for her mother, who gave her up at birth, and their reunion. My friends have all said it's well written, so I think you'll really like it.
Example of a good hook:
As an adopted teenager, I always wondered what it would be like to search for my birth-mother, find her and reunite with her, and in my novel A Mother's Gift, I explore such a tumultuous journey between nineteen-year-old Kaitlyn and her birth-mother Magda. Though not a memoir, I use my own longings and experiences to create an emotional journey that will touch the hearts of every reader.
An expert fisherman casts his line in hopes that he's given it just enough distance--not too little, not too much--and then he reels it in, hoping the action will attract attention of passing fish. Just as a fisherman casts a line with precision, a writer must create the query letter and cast it with precision. Writers must present their queries in ways that will make a publisher sit up and take notice. Don't forget, many of them are wading through the endless virtual slushpile. Yours HAS to stand out.
Ways to stand out:
Use the hook; keep the query short but entertaining and cast out only enough information to gain their interest; remember that in the end it's the story that's key--not your 3 page biography; and do your homework (research) so that you know you're sending your query to the right person and the right publisher. If we're not looking for nonfiction, don't send us nonfiction.
Most publishers will ask to see a synopsis and sample, either up front or in reply to your query. Some publishers prefer the "old-style" synopsis (3-20 pages that summarize the entire main plot of the story, including main characters, main conflicts and resolution). At Imajin Books, we're looking for a synopsis written like back cover text you'd find on the back of a novel. Write a stunning synopsis/description for us and include it in your first query and you'll have a better chance at grabbing our attention. And it gives us the opportunity to see how well you've researched back cover text, how well you can write it and whether you have an instinct for marketing. Send samples to publishers only per their guidelines.
Synopsis & Sample Tips:
Study the back cover text of popular novels in your genre and formulate your back cover text/synopsis accordingly. If the majority of books in your genre use a 4 paragraph summary on the back cover, write a 4 paragraph summary for your book. Do not plagiarize material found on other authors' books, but do imitate style, flow or organization to create your best synopsis.
Give the publisher what they ask for, nothing more, nothing less. If we ask for a 5 page sample, we want your first 5 pages. Don't send us 10 pages from the middle of your novel just because you think it's a better scene.
Finally, writers who yearn to become successful published authors must believe in their own skills and creative abilities. If a career as an author is what you want, don't let a simple thing like a "query" get in your way. You must be persistent and dedicated. If your query is not initiating replies from agents or publishers, re-write it. If your sample does not result in a request for the full manuscript, re-write it. If your novel does not get an offer of publication, edit, edit, edit. If you want to be an author, BE one! Never give up!
Dare to Dream...and Dream BIG!