Why Personal Queries Work Best (and How to Write Them)

When it comes to writing a query letter, you definitely want to make it personal. That means that you address it to the right person and that you get their department right as well as additional details like the spelling of their name, their title and more. Most people who send in an entire manuscript are not aware that the need to take this extra step. In fact, because of the way publishing works, it can seem even counterintuitive to take this additional step. Some writers think that not addressing it to anyone willing sure that it gets looked at by his many people as possible while addressing it to only one person means there is only one chance for rejection. However, that’s not the case at all even with full manuscript submission.

To understand why that is the case, you have to be aware of how the traditional publishing industry works. Manuscripts and query letters either come in one of two ways. They come in through an agent and are sent specifically to the editor that the agent normally works with on books of that nature or they are sent in unsolicited and added to what is called the slush pile. There may be multiple slush piles within a publishing organization. The editor that handles the specific type of book that you have written or are pitching may have their own slush pile that is a great deal smaller than the general one that looks going when they are not addressed anyone in particular.

But you’re not sending in an entire manuscript. You’re sending in a query letter. That means that the odds are pretty good that it will go to the person that you address it to. Some publishing houses still have query letters go to a slush pile to be thinned out before they are sent to editors but many do not.

So, you definitely want to look up the staff of the publishing house that you are submitting to. Find out who handles the type of book that you have written. Then compose a great query letter and include the person’s name, title, address and all of the other information. Make sure you also include why you chose them to send it to so that they know you did your research. If there is more than one person that handles your types of books, only send it to one of them.

The same goes for agents by the way. You want to carefully research agents until you find the perfect agent that handles the type of book that you have written and you think will really enjoy yours. There is a Twitter hashtag called #MSWL that you may want to browse from time to time when you’re looking at agents and editors. It stands for manuscript wish list and it can tell you in real time what kind of manuscripts agents and editors of publishing houses are looking for.

For more information on how to write a query letter, check out Reedsy’s article.

Updated: May 29, 2019 — 6:27 pm