write queries, cover letters, synopses, outlines, author bios, and more

You’ve come to the spot where we’re going to learn everything that could be in a submission package you put together for an agent or editor. If you’ve had a look through CWIM, the CBC member list, or other publications, you’ve probably heard the words listed above before. And guess what? People will give you different definitions of these terms all the time. It’s completely crazy. BUT I will tell you how C LIU defines everything. I hope it will make sense to you, too.

  • query letter – formatted like a business letter. Its purpose is to briefly pitch your work to its intended recipient (be it agent or editor). Read post, anatomy of a query letter.
  • cover letter – also formatted like a business letter. Its purpose is to put something official-looking on top of your manuscript if the editor or agent has requested your work. Read post, anatomy of a cover letter.
  • synopsis – a ONE page summary of your book – beginning, middle, and end. Written in third person, present tense. The synopsis should be interesting to read and clearly spell out what happens in the book without belaboring it. Read post, anatomy of a synopsis.
  • outline – a chapter-by-chapter summary of your book- few sentences per chapter, max. Almost always reads like a run-down of events. That is not to say you can’t make it interesting!
  • author bio – a couple of graphs MAX about who you are
  • SASE – a self-addressed stamped envelope
  • SASP – a self-addressed stamped postcard

There will be more on each of these items as I get time to write them. If you want to know now, tell me your thoughts.

Otherwise, go to step eight – pray.


6 thoughts on “write queries, cover letters, synopses, outlines, author bios, and more

  1. Hi Cynthea!
    I wanted to ask you this question. The one magazine I was going to submit my story to it says do not query first,but this still means I follow the guidelines of writing the cover letter to the editor in chief,synopsis,etc? Do the same rules apply to a magazine and for an article(I’m pretty sure it does unless of course they specifically say not to?)
    Thanks Cynthea..this website is a cure all and you have the VIP goods because you have been there done that..a real pro at this by now! Thank you for priceless information that I would be lost without!!!

    1. Yes, for magazines like Cricket, you send in a cover letter and the manuscript together if they say DO NOT QUERY FIRST. Versus sending a query letter separate from your actual submission.

      Since magazine pieces tend to be short, there is no need for a formal synopsis.

      You should write your cover letter like a query letter though, in the sense that you should give the editor a brief idea of what your manuscript is about to help pique their interest.
      In my opinion, something short and to the point oughta do it. E.g.

      Dear So and So:

      I am submitting ARTICLE TITLE for MAGAZINE X for your consideration.

      Pitch Part I (you probably don’t need a pitch part II for short works like magazine articles)




      See my query letter article for what these parts entail.

      Good luck!

  2. THANK YOU so much Cynthea for clearing up my confusion about the magazine submitting process. You made it very easy for me to understand and now I know what I’m doing/what not to do.
    Cynthea comes to the rescue again! (you ever think about writing a super-hero girl book..you could use yourself for the model of it..you do save the day for aspiring writers!)

  3. Hi Cynthea, Thank you so much for sharing your articles. It has helped me to create my very first manuscript! Your instructions were very very helpful.
    I have a question though. I have written a children’s story book that comprises of eleven short tales. I am trying to make my proposal for submission. One of the guideline says, I need to write a synopsis of the work.
    While another guideline says that I need to write short paragraphs outlining each chapter.
    As you mentioned that a synopsis has to have a beg/middle/end .. I am wondering how do I write a synopsis of the book in totality? How do I mention all the 11 stories in a synopsis? I am thinking correct?
    Please help me clear my confusion. I really appreciate your great work!

    Thanks a ton!
    Deepti from India

  4. For the publishers that want a query only, with no manuscript or art samples, do you send a cover letter with it, or only the QL?

    Is a cover letter manuscript inclusions only? (or in my case a dummy book).

    1. Just the query letter if you are not sending anything else with it.
      Yes, if you send in something like a dummy book, you would definitely include a letter to indicate what you are sending them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *