Writer's Digest

WRITING THE LETTER YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SEND

Have you ever written a letter you knew you wouldn’t send? That’s the kind of letter your first query is going to be. You’re going to write it, but you’re not going to send it out to agents or editors. Why not?

Because you’re going to use this letter to (1) make a better query, and (2) make a better book. A query, like the best writing, has urgency and clarity. It’s not dull, but it attends to the business at hand without fuss. It is, of course, a sales pitch directed with passion, belief, enthusiasm or urgency at someone likely to buy the product being pitched. You’re trying to find a reader for your book. And because every editor and agent is first a reader, you’re going to write this letter to the reader who is most likely to want to read your book.

Figuring out who that is isn’t as hard as it sounds, but it does mean you’re going to drop the idea you had of sending a mass email to every agent in annual directories like or . For the purposes of this letter you’re not going to send, however, think about the reader you’ve identified as your ideal audience. They can be someone you know, someone who’s read your manuscript or someone you’ve made up. They can even be you. It doesn’t matter. But you’re going to write this letter with one person, person, in mind because you want your letter to sound focused, personable and

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