Your Working Tools
• "Query letter" - What an author uses to sell an idea for a book to an agent or editor. A typical query letter begins with a “hook" to grab the agent’s interest and continues by describing the idea, briefly. The query letter also contains the writer’s unique qualifications to produce the work product. A query letter is strictly a “business letter" and should read like one.
• "A proposal" - A book proposal is a detailed presentation of a book an author wants to write. It generally includes a description of the book, the likely market for it, a chapter-by-chapter outline, an author’s bio, and a sample chapter or two, as well as some other thoughtful comments. You are not writing the book now, as this is a sales manuscript. A proposal is also a tool that the agent uses to sell the book to the editor—and that editor then uses to sell your project at the editorial board meeting (the publisher, other editors, marketing people, possibly booksellers for foreign sales).
• Writing “on spec" - Short for writing on speculation, or, in other words, without an assignment. (Most often this term is reserved for magazine writing.) Since there’s no guarantee they'll get paid for their work, most professional writers do not write on spec. However, if you are writing fiction books, the entire book must be written if you are a newbie (and sometimes the second).
• A "submission" - A submission is a query or manuscript (also referred to as an “ms." or mss.) an author sends to either an agent or an editor.
• What is a tearsheet? A tearsheet is a page taken from a periodical or other publication. It is also called a “clip." A tearsheet can either be your published work, or it can be an article written about you.