What is a query letter?
A query letter is essentially a cover letter for your manuscript. When you send your manuscript (or sample pages per the agent’s submission guidelines), you should include a query letter introducing yourself and your manuscript. There are different formats, but the generally accepted items to include in your query are:
- A personalized intro (the agent’s name and why you opted to query them specifically)
- Manuscript metadata (book title, genre, audience, and wordcount)
- Comparable titles
- Brief plot outline
- Author info (prior publishing credits if applicable, and a few tidbits about yourself such as your career, hobbies, or family info)
What is a comp?
When an agent or editor refers to wanting “comps” in a query letter, they mean “comparable titles”. Comps are other books similar to yours that help them understand the structure, tone, or style of your book. When providing comps, it’s usually wise to choose books that were recently published in the same genre, and to avoid blockbusters.
What does mswl stand for?
MSWL stands for “manuscript wish list. Agents and editors often share their MSWL on their websites, blogs, Twitter feeds, and elsewhere to let their followers know what kind of books they’re looking for. Keeping an eye on an agent and editor’s MSWL can help a writer gauge incoming and outgoing trends, and the fit of an agent or editor before querying, but should not discourage writers from querying if their book is not on an agent or editor’s MSWL. Sometimes, they don’t know what they want until they see it.
What is a high concept book?
The plot of a high concept book an be easily and succinctly explained in a few words. For example, “Man breaks up with girlfriend, realizes what he’s lost, then spends the rest of the book trying to win her back.” This is true of most commercial fiction, though not all. Literary fiction (a.k.a. more character-driven stories) can be described as “low concept.”
What is upmarket fiction?
Upmarket fiction toes the line between commercial fiction and literary fiction, or high concept and low concept. To be considered upmarket, a book needs to balance the fast-paced entertainment appeal of commercial fiction, without sacrificing the meaningful character development and thoughtful prose of literary fiction. Finding this balance gives a book broader appeal and makes it more saleable.