Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Promise Kept

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Still no power at home, so, yet again, please excuse any typos!

Back on December 10 I posted about the Slush Pile (the what?? — please check out that earlier post) and promised that I would also write about the query letter. This is a brief but detailed letter written to interest an editor in your manuscript. It’s like the cover letter you send with a resume.

Before you prepare your query letter, be sure to read the writers’ guidelines on the publisher’s Web site. Then follow my handy-dandy lists of what to do and what not to do to write query letters that sell:

1. Open with a strong statement or paragraph to grab the editor’s interest. Make your query stand out.

2. Present a fresh, well-focused idea that a publisher can’t help but want to publish.

3. Tell how this book will serve its readers and the market (i.e., show you know the publisher’s list).

4. Detail the structure of your book — give its length, a few facts, anecdotes, interviewees.

5. Explain why you should write on this topic (mention any special training or experience you have).

6. Keep your letter short — about 250 words long and definitely no more than a page.

7. Polish your letter (i.e., don’t send your first draft); this is your first chance to show your writing style and quality.

8. Match the correct publisher’s name with the correct address (this is especially important if you are sending the same query letter to a number of publishers). Check this on your letter and your envelope. Re-check it.

9. Proofread your query letter carefully. Proofread it again. Then have someone else proofread it.

10. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope (if requested).

1. Call attention to your inexperience.

2. Describe how your mother/friend/students like the idea (unless one of these is a publisher).

3. Address the editor by her/his first name or by the wrong name. Doublecheck the spelling of the name, too.

4. Send off a sloppy-looking letter.

5. Enclose photographs that are less than top quality (if you send photos).

6. Discuss fees.

7. Request advice from the editor.

8. Say how great, funny or different your idea is — instead, make it obvious.

9. Add childish decorations to the page or handwrite your letter.

10. Forget to include your address, phone number and e-mail address.

For more about query letters take a look at

Oh that snarky shark!

And Another Thing …
It was on this date in 1972 that Lester Pearson, Canada’s 14th prime minister died. In just five years during the 1960s, his government introduced Medicare, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan and the Order of Canada to the country, as well as instituted the world's first race-free immigration system and of course gave the country its own flag — and all while wearing a jaunty bow tie. He is also the only Canadian to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

And how did he receive the nickname Mike? His squadron leader in World War I decided Lester was no name for a flying ace, and that Mike suited him better.

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Elizabeth MacLeod

Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod has written over 50 books for children. Her most recent book, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, was published by Annick Press.

Go to Elizabeth MacLeod’s Author Page