I have a simple query letter trick to share with you.
It’s one that could possibly make the difference between a publishing professional reading your whole letter and not. And the funny thing is, I’m using this trick in this very post as well.
The truth of the matter is that it has become more and more competitive to get a legitimate book deal with a traditional publisher. More and more people are trying to publish books, and there are fewer and fewer resources available to publishers as a whole.
Many publishers only accept agented submissions, and like it or not, it actually matters who your agent is. My former boss was the president and publisher of our division, and the first thing he asked when an editor brought up a new project during our meetings was “Who’s the agent?”
This means that it’s not just enough to get an agent, an aspiring author has to get a legitimate, established agent as well.
But if this is the case, how are you supposed to get the attention of the agents whom the publishers will actually take seriously?
There are many ingredients that can (and frankly, must) go into a query letter sent to an agent whom you don’t know. But while most of us hope that an agent will overlook any given shortcomings of our letter for the sake of our actual book project which is much, much better, the truth is that they get so many queries a day that the letter has to seize every opportunity it can to get their attention – without being cheap or gimmicky.
This is why I recommend you consider framing the first sentence of your query as a stand-alone paragraph.
Just like that last paragraph.
And that one.
And the very first paragraph of this entire post as well.
Consider your reading of this post right now. If you’ve gotten to this point in the reading experience, you’re already more than halfway done. You may even make it to the end. And while I’d like to think that you’re still reading because I’m so amazingly awesome, the truth is that you probably weren’t thinking about a post written by me right before it showed up in front of you. You weren’t thinking to yourself how much you wanted to spend 600-800 words with me, you were thinking about something else in your life. But now, you’re still reading because I got you interested with the first line of the post.
You’re still reading because you wanted to learn this trick.
I’ve seen actual query letters that eventually landed the author a deal that started with a single-sentence, stand-alone paragraph that somehow drew the reader in. This becomes an effective tool because its stand-alone nature shines a spotlight on its importance. But not only that, single-sentence paragraphs are incredibly easy to consume. Passages with single-line paragraphs look like they’ll be easy to read, so people read them.
So your letter’s easy consumption combined with its (hopefully) compelling nature means that the reader’s curiosity will be piqued enough to read more of the letter. And if you’ve gotten an agent to read your whole letter, you’re ahead of the large percentage of would-be authors sent immediately to the trash.
A publishing professional’s likelihood of responding to a query letter is irrevocably linked to their inclination to finish it. And this can start not just with a query letter that isn’t long, but with one that doesn’t look too long as well.
And also, ending a passage with a single-sentence paragraph can be pretty rad, too.
(Click here to get my free cheat sheet on query letters, and learn the mistakes people usually make in drafting them.)