This article discusses how to write a query letter for a short story collection—a follow-up to a previous post, entitled How To Publish A Short Story Collection: Tips For Getting Agents’ And Editors’ Attention For Your Short Stories. In it we discussed strategies for tackling the obstacles that can make it difficult to publish a short story collection, and we offered some solutions. Keep reading to find out:
How To Write A Strong Query Letter To Pitch A Short Story Collection
Research the market carefully and target only agents or publishers who actually work with short story collections. Then, research their submission guidelines and follow them exactly. Include your very best work—a professionally formatted and carefully edited group of stories, especially those that have been published. If you have any positive reviews for published pieces, include those as well.
In your query letter make it clear that you are submitting a collection of short stories, and include their genre (science fiction) or common theme (sports). Use vivid, powerful writing to capture the editor’s attention in the first paragraph and get them excited about your work. You may also describe a few of your most interesting stories in this section. If you have a personal tie-in with the agent or editor, this is the place to mention it.
In the next section (your professional writing bio), highlight your credentials—education, writers’ residencies, awards, and publication credits—and downplay the negatives. Do not reference past rejections or refer to yourself as an “amateur” or “weekend” writer. Never tell the editor that your stories still need some work.
In closing your query letter, be sure to thank the editor or agent for his or her time and offer to send sample stories (if attachments are not welcomed) or the complete collection. Proofread your query carefully, run it by someone you trust, and don’t forget the self-addressed stamped envelope if querying by regular mail.
• One single-spaced page is sufficient. Use one-inch margins all around, and adjust if necessary to keep it to one page.
• Use standard (8½ x 11 in U.S.) letterhead. Avoid overly colorful stationery and hard-to-read fonts.
• Include your current contact information and a word count of the entire collection.
• Address the query to the appropriate agent or editor (with the correct spelling, of course).
• Use formal salutations, and use the editor or agent’s full name.
For more information about how to write a query letter, please begin with How To Write Cover and Query Letters That Get Attention. At Writer’s Relief our submission strategists compose professional cover and query letters on behalf of our Full Service and A La Carte PLUS clients. Contact us today (email@example.com) for more information.
Photo by Ed Yourdon
I always have the most trouble with choosing which stories to summarize/point out in the query letter! I usually have my husband choose the most “interesting” ones for me and tell me why, and those are the stories and reasons I highlight for agents. I’m not objective enough!
My short stories nearly always tie in with my poetry. One invariably inspires the other. Often I write a poem where most writers would write an outline and I use it the same way: not as a blow by blow but as a theme and purpose setter. So I’ve done a few short story collections that are interpersed with the poems that accompany their themes. Even my novel length work includes at least one poem. I’ve seen sort of writing habit in the ocasional book, which is some I enjoy. Sometimes Anne Rice, for instance, will include poems by her husband or herself in her novels, but in general, I haven’t seen publishers asking for this. Are there any that even want to see this? How does one go about marketing a short story and poetry collection or a novel that includes poetry?
Debra, Good question. Poems do show up occasionally in other works. We love when that happens! Agents and editors often do too. Pitching a collection that is a mix of stories and poems to an agent can be rather tricky, since big publishers generally aren’t publishing that kind of thing right now. We would recommend entering the collection in contests or approaching independent presses. As for a novel that includes some poetry…that’s not really a game changer (assuming the book is a novel first and foremost). Agents will consider novels that have a few poems tucked inside.
This has been the most useful post I have read on letter writing. Thanks a lot.
Really wonderful post. Very well explained.
I’ve been writing for many years. I’ve written over 20 books, mainly thrillers but recently moved into crime.I write from personal experience and that’s probably my problem. I’ve been a marine, in the NZ SAS, a det/Sgt in the NZ Police, and a 3-stripe Chief of Security on cruise ships.
I cannot get an agent to read anything these days, and would give up except I’ve won s/s competitions, had a book ALMOST turned into a movie, and had wonderful critiques from other writers.
Ah well, it keeps me off the streets and out of the pub,
This is really interesting. I’ve always tried to write legal fiction but find the thing that holds me back is time and being consistent. I think you need to be able to commit to at least one hour every day – I’m all a bit stop/start because of the day job! Ah well, maybe when things calm down!