Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Publishing as a Second Language, Part Two—Cover Letter vs. Query Letter

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

If you missed the first post in this series, Linda covers Glimpses From a Writer's Glossary

Of all the terms new writers hear when they begin their careers, cover letter and query letter are some of the more confusing. Both are letters that go to editors, so shouldn’t you just write a good letter and be done with it?

Cover letters and query letters each have their own functions. It may not be a deal breaker if you send one in place of the other, but it may look unprofessional.

Cover Letter: A cover letter is used when your material has been requested by an editor or publisher. Its basic purpose is to thank the editor for his or her willingness to look at your manuscript and serve as a reminder of how you are connected.

For example, a cover letter might read something like this. “Dear (Name of Editor), It was such a pleasure meeting you at (Name of Venue). Thank you for the opportunity of sending my manuscript, (Name of Manuscript), for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, (Your Name).

Query Letter: The word “query” comes from the same root word as question. Your query letter is asking a question. The question you are asking the editor is “May I send you my manuscript for consideration?”

Your query letter will be longer than a cover letter but no more than one page. Single space with a line space between paragraphs. This is your sales pitch so make it the best sample of your writing that you possibly can. Use business letter format. Be sure to find out the current editor’s name. (This may involve some research.) If you are sending your query letter by snail mail, be sure to include an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope).

A good way to start your query letter is to use the opening paragraph of your article or the back cover copy of your book. Then in the next paragraph tell a bit about why you are qualified to write about this subject. This is not the place to list all your educational achievements. Just tell why you are qualified and passionate about the subject. The next paragraph tells more about your manuscript – number of words, status, when it could be delivered, etc. Finally, thank the editor/publisher for his or her time and consideration.

A professional cover letter or query letter could be the editor’s introduction to your writing. Make sure your first impression is a good one.

Writers need to know the difference between a cover & a query letter - @LindaGilden (Click to Tweet)

Linda Gilden is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She finds great joy in time spent with her family. Her favorite activity is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing children!

To find out more about Linda, her writing, and her ministry, visit You can also connect with her on Twitter @LindaGilden and Facebook at Author Linda Gilden.


  1. Thank you so much, Linda! I'm a published author but I still find these confusing. You make it so clear.