Writing Your First Query Letter: The Basics

Hello everyone! Happy 4th of July weekend! DC essentially shuts down for the Fourth, so I’ve got a super long weekend to look forward to. Only one more week until my writers’ conference! I can’t wait to go. I’m still working on my pitch; I’ll let you all know how that goes!

Today, I want to talk to you about the basics of writing a query letter, especially for you young first-timers. I just wrote my query letter for the first time, and I’ve love to share some of my insights.

Basic Parts of A Query Letter

When I geared up to write my query letter, I did a lot of research. I scoured the internet far and wide looking for sample query letters, guides to writing query letters, and my favorite, lists of dos and don’ts. I made sure to focus my search on what specifically works best for a fantasy query letter. Here’s what I was able to scrounge up:

1. The Basics: When beginning your query letter, I believe that the best way to start is to come straight in with the facts. It’s a simple equation: I am seeking representation for [Title of Novel], a [State your genre and audience.], complete at [Word Count]. I’ve found that this gets the point of your letter across right away. Getting to the point is important in such a quick letter.

2. Referral: Where did you hear about this agent from? Did you meet at a conference? Did you speak with the agent in any capacity? If not, you should list what the specific reason is that you contacted this agent. Go back to that agent’s wish list and make sure your book matches.

3. Summary: I will be the first to admit that I am horrible at summarizing. I can never get my thoughts condensed down to a handful of words. But it is essential for writing the best query possible. Now, I’m not equipped to give tips on how to do this. What I did was essentially sit down for a while and think hard about my story. Then I just wrote it, a summary of a little less than two hundred words. I actually really like the way it turned out.

4. Credentials: After your summary, you should talk about any and all writing credentials you have that may relate to the genre you’re writing. Make sure to mention any published works that you’ve written or any life experience that may relate directly to your genre. I talked about my website and its followers as well as my growing following on Twitter.

5. Closing: Make sure to close your query politely. Thank the agent for their time and consideration, but don’t sound overly thankful or apologetic about your own work. You’ve got this!

Thanks for reading! Comment below if this has been helpful to you.

Building An Author Platform: Twitter

Today’s post is specifically for those writers who have little to no experience with Twitter, but want to tap into this social media platform. And trust me, you really, really do.

Four months ago, I had no idea how to use Twitter. It was the one social media platform that I couldn’t justify jumping on to. It didn’t seem like much more than a place for people to shoot quick messages at each other or to the world without any real impact except for the cases where you said something really stupid or were particularly famous.

But after making an account, I realized exactly how wrong I was.

The #WritingCommunity on Twitter is legendary. Right off the bat, I was welcomed into the community even as a new writer. You can really connect with people inside and outside of your genre. I’ve gained writing tips and querying tips, conversed about my WIP and gotten people excited, and helped out other writers with ideas. And through that, I’ve seen my following grow exponentially. 1500 followers in 3 months. That’s just crazy.

Tips for Twitter

  1. Profile: When creating your profile, you only have a limited number of characters for your bio. Introduce yourself. Keep it short and sweet. Who are you? What are you working on? Take up as much space as you can.
  2. First Tweet: Reintroduce yourself. Keep it short and sweet, more so than your bio. (Bio is where you can elaborate a bit more on personality.) Introduce your work in progress and the genre. Then either elaborate on that or introduce your author website as well. Again, make the character count serve you. Finally, pin it to the top of your thread. It’s a good spot for people to see. My first tweet still gets likes and retweets months later.
  3. Keep It Simple: Tweet what you’re thinking about. Tweet about your work in progress. Tweet about your writing process. Talk about your good days and your bad days. Feel free to share a bit about your personal life as well. It helps readers and writers alike to connect with you and get excited about the work that you’re doing. Don’t feel like you need to overthink it.
  4. Interact: Spend some time each day scrolling through your feed. Comment on other writers’ posts. Support others. Provide motivation. Sometimes, you’ll find links to great blog posts or useful writing tools. A lot of writers in the #WritingCommunity ask questions to get to know others and their personalities or their WIPs (or both!). Get involved. Whenever someone comments on one of your posts, always reply back unless it’s entirely irrelevant. I’ve found that replies start conversations so easily, and I’ve gained a lot of support that way.
  5. Use Hashtags: Hashtags help get your Tweet and your name out to more people at once outside of your followers. #writingcommunity is the most important one. For fantasy, #amwritingfantasy gets your work out to other fantasy writers on Twitter. #amwriting and #amrevising will help you find writers in various stages of the process like you are.

These tips will help you go far in this community. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend hopping on. It’s 100% worth it. Thanks for reading!

Building An Author Platform: Building a Website (WordPress edition)

Get ready, writers. Today is the day.

Deciding to create my author website wasn’t an easy one. I had no experience in building a website from scratch, and I wasn’t sure where to start. Building up a website with some decent web traffic would require a serious time commitment and unwavering effort. I needed to be ready to take on this kind of responsibility. As I stand now having executed the preliminary stages of my plans, I am proud to say that I did undertake this project, and I am succeeding.

An author website gives you a chance to connect more personally with your audience, whether you are a published or unpublished writer. It serves as a chance to promote your work as well as share your thoughts on any aspect of writing that you so choose. This can include your own writing process or the reviews of other writers in your genre. No matter what you decide to write about on your website, it gives you a real chance to showcase yourself as a person.

What platforms work best?

When I began to research building a website, I contemplated which website builders were the best to use. Wix, Squarespace, Weebly: I researched them all. What I came up with: WordPress.com.

WordPress.com has an easy to use interface that allows for maximum customization. You can create pages that serve as landing grounds for your readers and categories that can run across the top of a menu to carry blog posts. Even the free version offers a lot of color and theme customization options that creates a professional looking page with a little effort. Upgrading to something like the Premium or Business plans would allow you to access more customization options, support from WordPress themselves, and in the case of the Business plan, the ability to add plugins to create features like mailing lists.

What are the essentials of an author website?

1. Title and tagline

Titles are important. They are your very first impression of your website and should offer an insight into what you write. Titles can come from a multitude of places, so don’t be afraid to try something out and change your mind later. “Fluff About Fantasy” was a fun little phrase with alliteration and a very lighthearted air that I came up with on the fly to hold the URL when I first made the site. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

A tagline, I personally believe, is an optional feature, especially if you’re just starting out and working on finding your voice. A tagline builds on what your title introduces: who you are and what you do. The tagline for Fluff About Fantasy is “Strengthen your work; revitalize your imagination”. It’s a sentence that is a bit of a work in progress; I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet. But it showcases the purpose of my site fairly well, which is to inspire young fantasy writers in particular to create by taking out the guesswork in the writing process.

2. About page/Bio

If your work interests people, they will want to know more about the writer behind it. DO NOT PHONE THIS IN. Your bio should be fairly substantial, but please do not share your entire life story. There’s no need to. Instead, talk about your writing credentials, your inspirations, and don’t forget to add your contact information.

If you’re unpublished and have no credentials to your name, don’t worry about it! So did I! My bio incorporates how I started writing from a young age, my school career and where I’m headed next, and some of my interests.

3. Consistent Content

I spoke briefly about content in my introduction, so I want to talk about the logistics of putting out content here. To get your website web traffic, you need to churn out content regularly. My research and experience recommends that you post on your website twice a week in the beginning. Pick two days that you know you can put something out on 95% of the time. Again, this is going to take real commitment in order to get somewhere. Once you’ve been in business for about a year, usually you can go down to one post a week.

Tip: Search engines enjoy regularly updated sites that happen on a consistent schedule, so they will be more likely to pick up on your site and move it up the results list. Even in a newer state.

Questions?

That’s all I have for you all today! I hope that I have been of some help. Let me know in the comments below if you think that next time, I should jump right into social media setup or whether you would like to see a post of a walkthrough of setting up a WordPress site with images and step-by-step instructions. I’ve never tried something like that before, but I would be willing to try! Let me know. Much love. <3