New Libri Press has only two editors, so take what I say with a grain (or lump) of salt. We don’t represent every editor (or agent) out there—by a long shot.
Small (micro) publishers, especially newer ones, tend to be more forgiving and flexible than larger organizations. We are more casual. We tend to be technology savvy and submissions by email are the norm (the preference).
All that said, when you go into Microsoft (where I have worked) or Amazon (where I have worked) for an interview do you wear jeans with holes in them and a ratty T-shirt? You are allowed to wear those as an employee, but would you interview that way?
I hope not.
The query email (let’s not even call it a letter for many organizations) is still your interview. It’s your preliminary interview. The full interview is still the manuscript, but first impressions are important. Dress up a little bit. You can wear those ratty jeans (as I do) after you are in.
The simple stuff is important:
1) Don’t have dumb misspellings in the query. We all make mistakes, but catching it in that 200 word query should be easier.
2) I am sure this has been said a million times, but cute and wacky don’t work very often in a query.
3) In the age of Facebook, Twitter, etc., there is a temptation to do super brief, one liner queries. Just as too much isn’t great, 140 characters or less doesn’t really cut it either.
4) Need it be said, read the publisher’s/agent’s website.
5) We don’t need to hear that your goal is to get the book published. We don’t need to hear that the book will make us millions. We don’t need to hear that we would be stupid to turn it down. We don’t need to hear how great the novel is. Or how thrilling. Or how romantic. This is a bit of the old show not tell. Don’t tell us how to feel about the novel. Show us, via the novel and the query.
This sounds like a rant. It really isn’t. We love getting manuscripts and we have seen a steady average quality and quantity increase. The problem is, as we see the volume and the average quality go up, guess what happens with first impressions? They matter more.