If you’re new to the publishing world and are thinking about self-publishing, you may be wondering what a query letter is and whether you need one.
The Short Answer? No
There are two main routes you can take to publish your manuscript: You can self-publish, or you can take the more traditional route. If you choose to self-publish, you’ll need to figure out the publishing process on your own, get editing services, and do all your own marketing. If none of that intimidates you and you have the time, energy, and resources, then go for it.
So, if you’re self-publishing your manuscript, you do not need a query letter because you won’t be approaching publishers or literary agents.
However, if you’re hesitant to set out on your publishing journey by yourself, you may want to keep the option of traditional publishing on the table. If you choose to go the traditional route, you’ll need a literary agent, and for that, you’ll need a query letter. We can help you get connected with agents and publishers.
A Great Query Letter Gets You in the Door
You’ll want to use a literary agent because most publishing companies won’t look at your manuscript if you send it to them directly. They probably won’t even read your query letter. Publishers are swamped with letters and writing samples from aspiring authors, so most reputable publishing houses accept submissions from literary agents only.
A literary agent can get your manuscript in front of publishers, but before an agent can do that, you need to convince one to work with you.
This is where the query letter comes in. Basically, a query letter is the letter you send to an agent to pitch your manuscript. It should be short yet contain all the details necessary to give the agent an idea of what your manuscript is about.
The Art of the Query Letter
This may sound simple, but there is an art to it. A bad query letter will result in instant rejection from a literary agent even if your manuscript is great. This is why, if you want to win over a literary agent, you’ll need to wow her with your ability to communicate clearly and concisely about your project. You’ll need to prove you know what readers want.
The ultimate goal of the query letter is to get a literary agent excited about your work. Once you achieve that goal, you won’t be alone in the publishing process anymore. You’ll have a professional agent in your corner.
Take a moment to learn more about query letters to help you get to this next step.
If you’re deciding which route to take, traditional or self-publishing, there’s no harm in sending a letter to a few literary agents. You might connect with a great agent who understands your work, knows your audience, and can help you find a great publishing house.
If you don’t get any bites from the literary agents you send your query letter to, self-publishing is still an option—but you never know until you try!