Writing

Drafting A Query Letter To A Publisher

The “Hello please buy my book” letter is one of the most nervewracking things you’re going to have to write. But you do have to do it, unless you want to go the self-publishing route, because otherwise your book’s going to linger in your archives for so long that it’ll end up being out of date.

One of the most annoying things when you’re trying to get your book published is how vague a lot of the advice is. “Find a publisher, send a query letter, get a book deal.” Um, yeah. I know. But, like, how?

Now I’m not saying I’ve got this all figured out, but I have one published book under my belt so far, and the query letter I sent to a publisher didn’t get a negative response (though they did ask for a little more detail, but that’s in the outline rather than the email itself… more on outlines in a future post).

So here’s the text of the email I sent them, with details redacted but otherwise intact. 

old book on the desk in library with tablet and Luxury lighting decoration

The first thing I did was made sure they accepted unsolicited submissions. Some places don’t, in which case you’ll need to find an agent or wait for some kind of public call. But if you’re publishing an academic or technical book, you’ll probably be able to find a publishing company who accept submissions directly from the authors themselves.

Then I carefully read through the instructions on their website and crafted an email that responded to all the points they raised. Make sure you do this. It tells them upfront that you’ll probably be easy to work with.

The email I sent went like this.


Hello [Company Name] Editors,

I’m Scar, Senior Editor over at Forensic Focus (www.forensicfocus.com) and writer of digital forensics articles. Last year I co-wrote a book (Windows Forensics Cookbook) which has been nominated for a Forensic 4:Cast award. Windows Forensics Cookbook was published by Packt, but I’m scouting around for a different publisher for a new book I’m writing, with a working title of First Steps In Digital Forensics.

I go to a lot of industry conferences, and I also speak at schools, colleges and universities about digital forensics, cybersecurity and working in tech. I kept being asked by students whether there was an introductory guide that wasn’t just full of technical stuff; a lot of new students were buying excellent books like Eoghan Casey’s Digital Forensics and Investigation or John Sammons’ The Basics of Digital Forensics but finding they weren’t quite introductory enough.

I’m therefore working on a book pitched at readers who are familiar with the subject area, who don’t just want a “Here’s how to use Tool X to perform Function Y” but instead are looking for something higher-level, i.e. what it’s actually like to be a digital forensics practitioner; whether they need a degree and if so in which subject; and whether it’s just like what they’ve seen on CSI.

My research so far has proved favourable; I have a list of about 150 names & email addresses of students who have spoken to me at conferences who’d like to buy the book when it comes out. [Name] [Job Title] [Company] has offered to do the technical editing, and various digital forensics practitioners have offered their knowledge and time for the ‘Interviews’ section. As an editor of Forensic Focus, I’m able to market the book via our database ([subscriber numbers]). I’m also fairly active on social media myself, although my following is more modest; you can find me everywhere @jeviscachee.

I have attached a detailed summary per the instructions on your ‘Write For Us’ page. Many of the subheadings and ideas came from students and practitioners within the industry, who responded to my social media posts and questions I asked them at conferences, and suggested things they would find useful.

I found you after tweeting that I was looking for a digital forensics publisher and you were highly recommended, so I’d love to work together.

Many thanks,
Scar


Now let’s break it down and look at what each paragraph is actually saying to the editors, which will hopefully make it easier for you to apply it to your own proposal.

Hand is writing calligraphic letter starting with dear using old pen on yellow paper

What it says:

I’m Scar, Senior Editor over at Forensic Focus (www.forensicfocus.com) and writer of digital forensics articles. Last year I co-wrote a book (Windows Forensics Cookbook) which has been nominated for a Forensic 4:Cast award. Windows Forensics Cookbook was published by Packt, but I’m scouting around for a different publisher for a new book I’m writing, with a working title of First Steps In Digital Forensics.

What it means: 

This is who I am and where you might already know me from. I’ve already written a book, which has been well received, so I’m familiar with the writing and publishing process.

What it says: 

I go to a lot of industry conferences, and I also speak at schools, colleges and universities about digital forensics, cybersecurity and working in tech. I kept being asked by students whether there was an introductory guide that wasn’t just full of technical stuff; a lot of new students were buying excellent books like Eoghan Casey’s Digital Forensics and Investigation or John Sammons’ The Basics of Digital Forensics but finding they weren’t quite introductory enough.

What it means: 

I didn’t just pull this idea out of my arse; there’s an audience for it. I am aware of the potential competition but my book is different for these reasons.

What it says: 

I’m therefore working on a book pitched at readers who are familiar with the subject area, who don’t just want a “Here’s how to use Tool X to perform Function Y” but instead are looking for something higher-level, i.e. what it’s actually like to be a digital forensics practitioner; whether they need a degree and if so in which subject; and whether it’s just like what they’ve seen on CSI.

What it means: 

This is a brief overview of roughly what you can expect from my book.

What it says: 

My research so far has proved favourable; I have a list of about 150 names & email addresses of students who have spoken to me at conferences who’d like to buy the book when it comes out. [Name] [Job Title] [Company] has offered to do the technical editing, and various digital forensics practitioners have offered their knowledge and time for the ‘Interviews’ section. As an editor of Forensic Focus, I’m able to market the book via our database ([subscriber numbers]). I’m also fairly active on social media myself, although my following is more modest; you can find me everywhere @jeviscachee.

What it means: 

I’m willing to put in the work to find out what my target audience want to see. I’m established enough in my field for other people to offer to help out. I also know what social media is and how to use it. I have professional and private profiles and am willing to use these to market my book.

What it says: 

I have attached a detailed summary per the instructions on your ‘Write For Us’ page. Many of the subheadings and ideas came from students and practitioners within the industry, who responded to my social media posts and questions I asked them at conferences, and suggested things they would find useful.

What it means: 

I am capable of reading and following instructions. I am also capable of taking advice and suggestions from others, and implementing them into my plans.

What it says: 

I found you after tweeting that I was looking for a digital forensics publisher and you were highly recommended, so I’d love to work together.

What it means: 

Exactly what it says.


Have you pitched a book to a publisher? Do you have any tips for first-time authors?

1 thought on “Drafting A Query Letter To A Publisher”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.