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Before You Start Writing Your Query Letter—Do This First

query letter

Literary agents look for signs that you are on your way to an exciting career that they’ll want to be part of. So before you even begin to write your query letter, set yourself up for success by establishing a strong foundation with these important pre-query steps!

Learn how the publishing industry works. Writing a query is one thing; writing a query and understanding the way that the publishing industry works is another. Prepare to take charge of your career by learning how you fit into the larger publishing industry and also into your particular book genre. Without knowing the big picture, your efforts will be limited by what you don’t know.

To get a good sense of the world in which literary agents and editors operate, start with our book: The Writer’s Relief Field Guide To Literary Agents.

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From effectively targeting markets, writing dynamic query letters, building authors’ online platforms, and much more—find out how Writer’s Relief can boost your exposure and maximize your acceptance rate.

Create an author website. Even though your book isn’t published yet, it’s important to already have a great website when you’re approaching literary agents for the first time. A well-designed, informative author website shows agents you understand the importance of marketing and promoting your book—and it’s a great way for agents to learn more about you as an author.

Having a website demonstrates that you are creating a foundation to support a fan base. If you’re ready to build your author website, Writer’s Relief has a sister company, Web Design Relief, that specializes in budget-friendly websites for creative writers.

Make connections. You don’t necessarily need to know anybody in the industry to get published—in the end, it comes down to one thing: the writing. However, if you do a little networking with writers organizations, you might find it’s easier to get agents to seriously consider your query. Referrals from an agent’s clients or colleagues carry weight in query letters.

Rewrite your book. Once you think your book is done, go back and write it again. Then, when it’s really done, have a freelance editor take a look at it. Why frontload your efforts? If you submit the book and it doesn’t get any takers, or if it has a few close calls, your revisions won’t ever be greeted with the same enthusiasm as your initial project.

Build your publishing credits. As we mentioned, it’s not impossible for a writer with no publishing credentials to get a major book deal. That said, agents like to see writers who have at least a few publishing credits, because this demonstrates not only a commitment to the craft, but also some popular interest in their writing. No publishing credits? No problem. Here’s what to do.

Remember, Getting A Great Book Deal Takes Time

Patience is one of the most important skills you’ll need if you want a long career as a writer. So don’t shortchange yourself by rushing ahead and skipping these key steps to lay strong groundwork for your books. Even if it means delaying your query letters by six months or a year, remember this: That’s just the blink of an eye in the lifespan of a great book. And your project is worth it!

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: What’s the best thing a writer can do for his or her career besides writing a great book?

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