What You Need To Know About Query Letters
Author: Equally Entrenched
While query letters vary from author to author and agent to agent
(depending on an agent's guidelines) I do believe there are some crucial
points that fit every query and for that matter, every cover letter if you
are sending along sample chapters or a manuscript.
- Query letters should be no longer than one page. Got that! A five-page
letter isnt a letter anymore. All I want from a query letter is
the basics. If you are sending to an agent whose guidelines require double-spaced
letters it is usually okay to write a two-page letter. No longer though!
- Always include your address, phone number, email address, and any other
information that tells me where you can be reached. You would be surprised
at how many query letters I receive without this information.
- Include the title of your book and its genre. Is it a romance, romantic
suspense, cozy mystery, the first book in a mystery series, a historical
novel, NF business, womens fiction
Whatever best describes
your book in three words or less tell me. It gives me a quick idea of
what Im looking at or even if it is for me. You might be amazed
by how many people send letters without a title.
- Provide an overview of the book, and make it shortjust a paragraph
or two at the most. I dont need to know every little detail, I just
need to know the key facts and what makes this book different from every
other book on the shelf. If you're having a hard time doing this, read
some of the copy on the back of books you already own. Pay attention to
how clear, concise and short the copy is. What does it tell you? Who,
What, Why, Where, When and How. That's it. This might take a number of
rewrites to make it perfect, but don't get discouraged. Have friends and
family and anyone who hasn't read your book read your paragraph. If they
aren't impressed and inspired to read your material it's likely an agent
won't be either.
- Include A brief bio of the author (you). No more than one paragraph
long. I want to know any publishing experience you might have or any experience
that relates to the book.
Creating a one paragraph bio can be tough I know. People like to talk
about themselves. Let me give you some hints though. Are you the leading
neurosurgeon in the country? That only matters if you are writing a NF
medical book. If you are submitting a romance I could care less at this
point. Just like you could probably care less about the fact that I like
to ride my bike or pet my dog. That said, it never hurts to add a sentence
of personality. So yes, if you have kids and dogs, feel free to mention
For those without publishing credits, don't worry. Just mention that you've
been writing for years or that this is your fifth completed manuscript.
No need to go on and on though about how you've been writing since high
- And never forget an SASE. Lately Ive been receiving a number of
queries that ask me to just reply via email or I can just throw it away
and theres no need to reply. I dont mind doing that once in
a while, but to be honest thats not how I prefer to do things. Please
stick to the guidelines and include an SASE.
Remember, query letters don't need to be fancy or splashy, they just
need to capture my attention and the best way to do that is the paragraph
that describes your book. If you have a mystery, show me how your hook
is different from every other mystery out there. Agents receive literally
hundreds of queries a week and neon paper isn't going to impress us. Only
good writing and original ideas are going to do that.
Copyright 2002 'Equally Entrenched' is a literary agent who spends time in
the WritersNet forums helping to dispel the many myths that distort aspirant
writers' views of the publishing world. EE (as forum regulars know her/him)
was kind enough to let us post this informative insight into query writing.
Read it carefully; the author spends a lot of time reading and judging query
letters' merits in helping writers become published authors. (Please Note: We
at WritersNet respect EE's wish to remain anonymous but we also know that the
information here is based on extensive agenting experience.)