A Quality Query Gets You a Job:
Write a Query That Says, “You Want to Hire Me”

You write a query letter to introduce a piece of your writing, hoping a publisher will produce and sell it. You may send a query directly to an editor who acts as a representative of his/her publishing house or to an agent. On your end, an agent is an employment specialist charged with getting you a job. For an editor, an agent is like a scout who lightens the editor’s load by bringing them “the best.” If we assume you want to publish your book and you can “sell” your book to an agent, the agent can sell your book and you to an editor. So, you will want to create the best query you can, one that will be among the best of the queries an agent receives.

An agent cannot guarantee a publisher will accept your work, but may streamline your effort. A good agent has a basic understanding of contract law, quality writing, and trends in readers’ tastes. More importantly, a good agent has built strong relationships with editors by referring writers to them that meet the desires and expectations of each one’s respective publishing house. If you want your work published, you want a good agent, a successful agent. Agents who want to succeed naturally want to work with writers who will succeed. If you don’t show an agent a quality query, they won’t want to work with you. However, if your query comes off as a good resumé, an agent will want to work with you because they see you have good potential for being “hired.”

A Quality Query Sustains Your Employment:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Checking Out”

To develop your skill at writing the best queries, begin by evaluating a query you have already written. You can measure a query’s quality within various frameworks. I prefer two, in particular. One of these methods for evaluating your query requires recognizing that an agent looks upon the query as a potential reader. To maximize the benefits of that recognition, you must understand that all communication, even that for entertainment, informs. Therefore, every author is a professor and every reader is a student. Every book is a course and every encounter builds the relationship between professor and student, author and reader. Your query introduces you as the professor and your book as the course.

Have you ever read a course catalog for continuing or community education? They are selling the school or community. They want your money. They want you to sign up for more than one course. They want you to think they are desirable and cool and they will help you be the same. Descriptions for courses, especially, are like reading vacation brochures. Your query is your course description. After all, those professors are not on salary. Neither are you. They usually get paid per course. Usually a school or whoever is sponsoring the course will cancel it if the course’s enrollment does not meet a pre-determined smallest class size. Furthermore, the “employer” often uses the number of students who actually show up for the course as part of their equation to calculate how much to pay the professor. So, guess what? You are not getting paid unless you convince people with your query that if they enroll in your “book,” you will lead them to a life-enriching destination.

Are you confused and wondering if you must set your story in Aruba or Jamaica? You think about some great books you’ve read and realize I must not mean that because I have no reason to lie to you. So, just what do I mean by “a life-enriching destination”? Every student who willfully approaches a course like this, one not required and for which she’s paying, wants to feel confident of growing; she wants to learn and enjoy herself doing it. Your students want your book to intrigue them, yet not reach too far past what they are capable of understanding. They want a sense of realism, a means to measure their progress, and reassurance they’ll be able to apply what they learn. Does your query convince your agent you offer these. Your students need to feel confident you will teach them and they aren’t spending their money on a course they are going to fail. Your agent as prospective reader is wondering these same things.

A Quality Query Assures You Get Paid:
Write a Query That Says, “I’m Worth Paying to Hear”

Your agent asks herself, consciously or not, a pivotal question when she reads your query. That important question is the one which decides if a prospective reader buys your book. So, the question is this, “if this topic interests me, is the author of this book who I want to pay to tell me more about it?” Many writers would like their work published, if for no other reason than, through their writing, to meet their own human need to connect with others. When we connect, we enrich our lives. We learn our experience is unique, but one to which others can relate. We also learn that our story is worth being heard. You are unique, worthwhile, important, and special. I know that because you have journeyed through this article with me. So go write a query that convinces others of the same, that convinces your agent people will pay to hear your story. The best way to get paid is to pay it forward.