Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Manuscript Formatting Part 2: The E-Query

More and more agents request e-queries rather than snail mail queries, but did you know there are different formatting rules for both methods? Don’t be frightened. We’ll walk through this together. Here. Hold my hand.

Since the norm is to use e-queries, we’ll look at that format, but before you worry about how to set-up your e-query, write the darn thing. Make sure it’s between 150-250 words. The leaner, the better.

All done? Great. Now, let’s get down to the formatting “rules”.

-Subject Line: QUERY: TITLE OF YOUR BOOK (Yes, this should all be in caps.)

-Unlike a snail mail query, there’s no need to list the agent’s info. Go straight to the salutation, where you should be professional, not casual. Ensure you type the correct name. There’s nothing worse than sending an email to Jessica and addressing it to Kristin. Well, there are worse things, but still…

-Spacing: Put a space between every paragraph and don’t indent.

-Settings: Don’t use bold, italics, or underlines in your query because not everyone’s email system is set-up in the same way. You never know what could appear on the other end.

-Title in Query: Capitalize your title rather than using italics for the same reason as above.

-Closing: Use the standard “Sincerely” or “Regards” and add your full name (first and last). If you’re using a pseudonym, sign as yourself and add “writing as” with your pen name. For example: Lynnette Novak w/a Lynnette Labelle. Under your name, add your phone number, city, and state. If you have a writing related blog or website, you can list it there, too.

See? Not so scary, is it? Now hop to it. No more excuses.

Come back for more in this series to learn how to format your synopsis and manuscript.

If you’ve queried, have you done more e-queries than snail mail? If you haven’t, will you send out traditional mail queries or stick to the email version?


  1. Lynnette,

    Thanks for the crash course. I do have a question that you may be able to answer. Here, I assume you are refering to novels.

    When submitting a short story, is it necessary to write a query letter?

    For instance, when I submit, I simply write a short message in the body of the email. "I'd like to submit my story 'so and so' to your publication." Should I be doing more?

  2. Cher,

    You need to query an article, but not a short story, unless otherwise stated on the publisher's or magazine's site. However, you do need a cover letter for your short story. I have a page I'll send you that'll give you all the info you need. Unfortunately, it has to be scanned and I haven't learned how to use the darn thing now that we're using Windows 7. I'll get my hubby to do it. He's the computer-wiz. LOL Watch for it in the next day or two. If you haven't gotten it by then, ask me again. hehehe

    Lynnette Labelle

  3. I've never sent an e-query but you just made it sound not so frightening. Thanks.

  4. Wow! This is a keeper, Lynnette. Thanks so much.

    Susan :)

  5. Lynnette,

    I appreciate that. I hope that's not the reason for some of the rejections. Of course, quite a few has come back with personal rejections. Talk to you in a few days.

    Cher Green

  6. Whew. Thanks for holding my hand;) I've noticed in some sample queries that authors have chosen to state the reason for picking that specific agent. So my question is, since the words have to be kept to a bare minimum, is that something that isn't allowed in an email query? *Goes off to delete a bunch of words*

  7. Thanks so much for the advice! I felt like a fish flopping around in circles on land right next to a lake....if you know what I mean. Probably not.

  8. Coffeelvnmom,

    I think you can still add that as long as it doesn't put you over the word limit. What's more important is that you sell your story with the hook and the blurb. If you have extra room after that, you can add things like you mentioned and don't forget the short bio.

    Lynnette Labelle

  9. I only sent equeries. I was afraid if i did snail mail - i would get an agent who was slower in responses. I needed someone up on the times and eco-friendly :)

  10. Just wanted to say thanks for stopping by at my blog today. I really appreciated it.

  11. Excellent advice. People would be wise to apply it! :)

  12. Oh... I didn't know you should use all caps... and I like "regards" better than sincerely. Yay... thank you.

  13. I am definitely saving this post for future reference! :) And I'm really looking forward to the formating of synopsis.

    Thanks for putting up this information.

    Oh, and I'm glad to hear you liked the title of my book. :) My sister actually helped with that too. She told my original just wasn't right. :P

  14. Good advice! thanks :) saving this post for future ref! I think the part about not using italics, etc is really important... and probably something I'd do if I hadn't been told otherwise... *phew*

  15. Thank you Lynnette, this will be very helpful at my next step after revising my manuscript. I look forward to following your posts ~Jenn