What tone to use when writing a letter to an author or making queries on their manuscript is often one of the most crucial yet most challenging parts of an editor’s job. There are many factors to consider: Where are you at in the editing process? Are you speaking to the author directly, or are you addressing a senior editor? Is this the author’s first novel, or are they more experienced? With so many factors to juggle and so many tiny nuances, it’s no surprise that this is the area that trips up most novice (and sometimes more senior) editors.
Last year, a friend of mine was preparing a manuscript to be pitched to publishers and agents. He asked me to read his manuscript beforehand because he believed my editorial experience would provide him with insight regarding the plausibility of his book getting accepted by a publisher or an agent (it doesn’t). I told him the story was enjoyable but in need of structural work. After revising the manuscript twice, he approached me for tips on how to write his query letter, knowing that I’ve been involved with Ooligan. So to help new authors like my friend, I’ve compiled a list of five reminders that are helpful when writing the dreaded query letter.