This blog was featured on 01/27/2020
Isabel Ibañez on the Query Letter
Written by
She Writes
January 2020
Written by
She Writes
January 2020

This month we are getting to know Isabel Ibañez, author of Woven in Moonlight. In this guest post, Ibañez talks about a very important step in the road to publishing: the query letter. Learn more from the talented author and what it takes to create an excellent query letter. 

When I was first researching the way into the publishing world, I learned very early on that one needed a query letter. I had no idea what this was, what it was for, or who it was for. I only understood that I needed to have one when it came to the business of acquiring representation.

After many hours of research, I sat down to write my first query letter. It was awful. Long and rambling and confusing. Several attempts later, I started getting the hang of it because I finally understood its purpose. Simply put, a query letter is a first impression. It’s meant to introduce an agent to your work, personality, and your novel’s premise, all on one single-spaced page (no pressure). If written correctly, the letter can do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of conveying what your book is about and who you are. Sometimes, the only thing an agent will read is your query. Based on that letter, they might pass, or request more pages. I knew I’d written a great query letter based on the response from agents requesting more pages. And once I figured out a format to follow, the next query letter I sent out got me my agent!

Here’s what I did: I followed a simple three-paragraph structure. Each paragraph has a specific job to do, and when taken all together, it provides just the right amount of details in order to hook the reader.

In the first paragraph, introduce your characters, set up your world, and explain what your protagonist wants more than anything. And then in one line or two, describe what stands in their way. The next paragraph is all about what happens next. This is where you can include the key moment when everything changes for your main character. It’s the moment of no return, when their world is upended, and they have to step into their new reality. It’s when Luke’s aunt and uncle are killed, and he decides to leave the desert. This second paragraph can highlight the journey your protagonist will go on. And then in the third, bring in the stakes. What will happen if your lead doesn’t complete their journey? What happens if they fail? These are your stakes and the source of your tension.

Those three paragraphs are the meat of your query letter! At the very end in a different paragraph, you can include all the “housekeeping” information like the title, word count, and genre. This section should be brief and to the point, and only include pertinent information.

One more word on the subject of query letters: it seemed to me that a query letter was the golden ticket for my writing career. A necessary step in order for my dreams to come true. But while querying agents is certainly a time and true path for your book to be read, bought and sold, it’s not the only one. There are so many wonderful contests on Twitter where an agent might discover you. Take an afternoon and research a few!

I hope this was helpful! If you have a querying question, I’m happy to answer them over on my Instagram, @IsabelWriter09.

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