Dear Editor – What is the difference between a query letter and a cover letter?
—Marissa, the Valley
QUERY LETTER: A query letter accompanies a book’s manuscript. It’s understood that your manuscript will not be read unless the agent connects with the content of the query letter, therefore, a summary of the manuscript must be included. The main goal of the query letter is to convince an agent to look at your manuscript.
COVER LETTER: A cover letter accompanies a shorter work such as a short story, poetry, an essay, or an article for a magazine, and need not summarize the work. Since the piece is small, it is presumed the editor will review it.
BOTH: Beyond the differences noted above, much of the content in query and cover letters is similar—and, sometimes, confusingly, the terms are used interchangeably. Either letter should be concise, interesting, free of grammatical errors, and formatted to today’s standards. Remain professional and gracious because you are, after all, asking for someone to give you their time.
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Answers by Christine Van Zandt, professional freelance editor and owner of Write for Success Editing Services, www.Write-for-Success.com