Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How To Write a Non Fiction Query

Well, as this is something I have been working on lately, I thought I'd share what I've been learning. I have been querying fiction for so long, I consider myself a pro at it, but non-fiction...yeah, that's throwing me for a loop! Even though the elements are similar, it's just a whole different angle of pitching your book. So, here goes.

What to include in your non-fiction query:

1. Your lead/hook

Just like in a fiction query, your opening paragraph should hook the editor or agent into wanting to find out more. But you also need to clearly state what the book is about. With fiction, sometimes you might leave out some details in order to entice your audience into wanting to read more. But with non-fiction, they need to know what your book is about in order for them to want more, so get right to the point. Start with your strongest material. You could start off saying something like, "In a recent NYT article, it was reported that over 60% of Americans are dying to buy my book." :D You could also use a strong anecdote or comparison.

2. Supporting Material

This is where you back up your thesis (the idea for the book). You could add some preliminary details that you've researched. This is also where you would state why your book should exist. What is the need for it? Maybe mention the strong market for it. Will your book help millions of students pass their math classes? Say so. Will it teach all those frustrated mothers how to deal with fussy children? Point that out. Are the skateboarding teenagers of the world crying out for a book on cool stickers to decorate their boards with? Well this is the book they've been waiting for!!

Sell your idea and back up your claims. Just make sure you do it in a page or less :D

3. Author Bio

As in fiction, this is where you toot your own horn as loud as you can. But make sure the material is relevant. The editors and agents don't need to know how many kids you have or what kind of dog you have, unless your book is about training kids or dogs :D Do you have any publishing credits? Put them in! Degrees, special training courses relevant to your book, any other experiences that prove why you are the best person to be writing this book? Put it in! You want to show them why you are qualified to write the book you are proposing, why you are the best one for the job. So any relevant credentials you have, be they educational, professional, or real world experiences, should be included.

4. Closing

Use strong closing statements to finish off your query. Don't be shy about stating clearly what you are looking for. "I am seeking representation for this book. I look forward to your response." Don't use phrases like "I hope you like this," "I hope I'll hear from you soon." Keep it strong and confident. And be sure to thank them for their time. Being polite never hurt :)

And it is always a good idea to have a writer friend or three look over your query before you send it to help catch those embarrassing typos we all make. :) I'm off to query!! I hope everyone had great holiday weekend :D


B.J. Anderson said...

Thanks for the info! I'll keep it handy in case I get the notion to write some non-fiction. :D I also have a friend or two who write non-fiction, so I'll pass it on.

TerriRains said...

I think that the author bio is especially significant w/ respect to non-fiction. All of the research and knowledge in the world can fail to compel if there isn't something about the author that makes the book seem instantly credible.