The Anatomy of a Query Letter

I am within a few months of the publication of Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students – working on final edits, waiting to see my cover and read the catalog blurb. It’s more than a little surreal knowing I’ll be holding a book – my book – in my hands in the fall. And it’s made me very reflective of the journey I took to get here.

A journey that started with a query.

Querying in nonfiction is similar to querying fiction – with a few notable exceptions. First, there are much fewer agents to query to for fiction. This was particularly true for me, as the book deals with a very small niche market – gifted education.

Secondly, platform matters. A lot.

Otherwise, not too different. You still need a hook, a premise, a secondary hook. Let’s look at my query (then called Walking on the Rim of the Volcano – I know, sucky title!)

Dear Agent:

According to the National Association of Gifted Children, there are approximately three million gifted children in the United States, or about six percent of the student population.  These children not only have strong cognitive abilities, but they also possess a unique emotional profile.  While we have many programs, books and advocate groups supporting the needs of other exceptional children, like those diagnosed with Autism and mental illness, there is very little recognition of the unique needs of gifted children – especially in the area of emotional development.    

 {This was the initial hook – not as succinct or flashy as a fiction query, but it gives the reason why this book premise is unique}

Parents are an important key to the healthy emotional development of any child.  This is particularly true for gifted children, whose emotional profile can lead to problems with peer development, academic motivation and the development of a healthy self concept.  Despite the need for more support for parents of gifted children, there continues to be very few resources. 

 My proposed book, WALKING ON THE RIM OF THE VOLCANO:  UNDERSTANDING THE UNIQUE EMOTIONAL NEEDS OF GIFTED CHILDREN, is designed to fill this gap by providing parents a comprehensive guide to understanding the unique emotional development of gifted youth, the potential problems inherent in the characteristics of giftedness, and the nature of the extreme emotions often demonstrated by these children. 

 Not just a book of theory, my book discusses proven parenting strategies that assist in the development of  healthy, well-adjusted children.  Case studies provided throughout the book illustrate the common problems facing gifted children, as well as different approaches to work through these areas of difficulty.  Coaching ideas for teachers provides for an additional layer of support to both the parent and the child.

{A detailed explanation of the premise and why it fills a specific void in the market place.} 

As a School Psychologist working with school-aged children, I see, first-hand, the unique nature of gifted children, and the impact of the difficulties these children face as a result of their giftedness.  In addition to working within the schools, I teach both parents and educators about the social and emotional needs of gifted children, ways to work with difficult behaviors, and approaches for dealing with extreme emotions, including anxiety and anger, at home and at school.   

 {The ever-important platform – why I am the right person to write the book}

I would be happy to send you my completed proposal and sample chapters for your review.  Thank you in advance for your time and consideration,

{professional close}

Nothing flashy or amazing in this letter. Yet, I had amazing results with it. I sent 10 queries, received 6 proposal requests and 1 offer of representation – all within six weeks. Two and a half months later I sold the book.

And now, in a few more weeks, I’ll get to see this dream realized.

If you ever have any questions related to the nonfcition process, let me know – I’d be more than happy to try to answer them.

My journey is still in the beginning stages for fiction. I’ll be sure to share those stats with you (and man, they are SOOOOO DIFFERENT) one day too.

Happy Tuesday!

 

2 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a Query Letter

  1. What an exciting time for you! Thanks for sharing this query letter, it was helpful. I’m guessing you had completed the book before querying. It’s obvious you had a well-crafted letter, and had done your homework on agents. Well done!

  2. I am a query letter junkie! I love reading them–especially the ones that got results. Thanks for sharing yours and although I’m sure I’ve said it before (and will probably say it again in a few weeks) CONGRATULATIONS!!!

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