Query Letter & Book Proposal Guidelines

Query Letters

Writing Query Letters for Magazine Articles or Book Ideas

A Query Letter is a concise letter to an editor in which you attempt to sell him/her on…

  • The value of your idea or story premise

  • Your ability to write about the topic for his/her readers

  • Reading your completed manuscript with interest

  • Helping you shape your article, short story, or book to fit your intended market

Two types of Query Letters

Idea Query

For nonfiction, a summary of the idea, perhaps including a couple of anecdotes, quotes and/or pertinent facts.

Outline Query

For nonfiction, idea query plus a suggested outline of your article.

In your concise query letter, be sure to include

  • Your subject—specific topic (nonfiction)

  • Your thesis—In a single sentence, what do you want to say to the reader? (nonfiction)

  • Your working title (article, short story, nonfiction book, novel)

  • Timeliness—Why this article fits today’s audience. Indicate if it is seasonal. (nonfiction or fiction)

  • Your style—Anecdotal, personal experience, straight reporting, essay, etc. (nonfiction)

  • Your credentials—Qualifications to handle subject; writing credits (optional)

  • Uniqueness—What do you do with this subject or story setting that others have not done?

  • Reader benefits—Don’t tell the editor why you want to write the piece, but do tell why the reader will want to read it!

  • Photos—Will you send any with the article?

  • Time frame—How soon can you have the article, short story, or book ready?

Four Essentials

Be prepared

Do sufficient research so you can write an article with substance. It is often helpful to include a well-written first paragraph for the article. This is true for a short story and nonfiction books and novels, too.

Be professional

Address the editor by name. Check for typos and other errors and submit the query to the appropriate periodical.

Be brief

One page, plus an outline.

Be at your best

Make it a lively sample of your best writing, filled with enthusiasm for your subject and concern for excellence and God’s glory.

Remember A query is your sales pitch for the idea God has laid on your heart!

Book Proposals


A Book Proposal is a query with an outline (for nonfiction) or a synopsis (for fiction) and sample of your writing.

While the length of book proposals may vary, for purposes of this conference, please limit your writing sample to the first pages of a manuscript for a total of 10 manuscript pages, plus your cover letter and other components. Each faculty member will personally be reading many proposals, so this limit on length is of utmost importance.

Please Note: Query letters and market analyses may be single-spaced, but outlines for nonfiction, synopses for fiction, manuscripts (sample chapters) must be double-spaced.

Nonfiction Components

Query Letter

A query letter contains a topic sentence, a paragraph developing your topic, market analysis (see guidelines below), the audience for your book, and your qualifications to write on this topic.

Market Analysis

A listing of 3-to-5 books already available on the market, covering a topic similar to yours. Compare and contrast. Indicate in what way(s) your idea is similar and in what way your idea or your treatment of that idea differs from what others have already done. Why does the market need one more book on your topic?

Table of Contents

A listing of chapter titles and anything else you plan to include. For instance, a Forward by an expert on the topic of your book, List of Resources, Discussion Guide, etc.

Chapter Summary Outline

Devote one short paragraph to each chapter, summarizing the specific idea and any special items about your treatment of it.

Sample Chapters

Include one or two chapters (up to 10 double-spaced pages), starting from the beginning of the book. The first chapter (up to 10 double-spaced pages) is essential. Please limit submission to first 10 pages (this does not include the Query letter, Market Analysis, Table of Contents or Chapter Summary Outline, etc.).

Other Items of Importance (Optional)
  • A list of associations you belong to or contacts that could be of importance in promoting your book.

  • Endorsements you may have that could affect the salability of the book.

  • Indicate how you would be involved in promoting your book.

  • You may have other special materials (newspaper clippings about your biographical subject, photos, etc.). Limit these to one or two samples, please!

Fiction Components

Query Letter

A query letter for fiction includes a story premise sentence, a paragraph that shows the beginning, middle, and end for your main character, the audience for your book, market analysis (see guidelines below), and any qualifications you have to write about the professions, issues, or settings.

Indicate the genre you are writing (contemporary, historical romance, suspense, fantasy, etc.) and where you see it fitting into the current fiction market.

Market Analysis

A listing of 3-to-5 books already available on the market, covering a premise, time period, or setting similar to yours (English castles, lighthouses, etc). Compare and contrast. Indicate in what way(s) your story is similar and in what way your idea or your development differs from what others have already done. Why does the market need one more story in that time period or setting?


Brief summary of the story that shows the main character arc (up to two pages, double-spaced).

Sample Chapters

First chapter or two, consecutive from the beginning and no more than 10 double-spaced pages.


Adapted from An Introduction to Christian Writing by Ethel Herr. Updated by Mona Hodgson, 9.1.2015.