How to write a query letter
One way is to get an agent, of course, but another way is the query letter. This is similar in content to the cover letter of your proposal, in that you want to present in a few paragraphs the best parts of your proposal. A good way to do it is with a simple, three-paragraph outline:
PARAGRAPH 1: Hook them with a problem, a story, a question. Make sure it’s a good one. If it’s a problem, it needs to be important, with universal appeal. If it’s a story, it has to be a grabber. If it’s a question, it has to be compelling. Don’t use a question that begins with, “Did you know that . . . ?” Some editors are likely to respond, “Yes, I know that, and I don’t care.” And into the wastebasket it goes!
Some authors use the first paragraph of the book’s introduction or first chapter for this kind of opening hook. That can work very well sometimes — and if it doesn’t work, you should ask yourself why. If that paragraph doesn’t grab the editor in the query letter, maybe it’s not the best way to begin the introduction or the first chapter, either!
PARAGRAPH 2: An abbreviated version of your premise statement (what the book is about), and two or three of your most telling arguments from the proposal.
PARAGRAPH 3: Details about length, format (do you envision it as a soft-cover trade book, mass-market, hardcover “gift” book? Usually it’s soft-cover trade), and how soon the manuscript will be ready (unless it’s ready now). Finally, you conclude by asking if the publisher would like to see the proposal, and end with, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
In case you are wondering, no, it does not have to be a postal letter. You can send this to an editor by email. However, finding an editor’s email may be the hardest part of the submission process! If it isn’t in The Christian Writer’s Market Guide, or in the publisher’s website, you may be forced to depend on the postal service.