Posted in Publishing, Writing

How to Write a Successful Query Letter


You finally did it. You worked days and nights for months to complete the first draft of your novel. You put it away for a few weeks to let it cool in a drawer under your desk. You’ve taken it out and read it all the way through. You’ve revised the manuscript a few times. You’ve had some people look at it. You revised it again. You read it again. It’s been a long time coming, but you finally feel comfortable to start sending your work out into the world.

A Query Letter Means Everything!

But before you can reach an agent or a publisher to get to that next step, you’re going to need to write one more page… a query letter. This letter is just as important, if not more so, than that completed manuscript. All those hours of blood, sweat, and tears will mean nothing if you write a sloppy query letter.

Here are some tips on writing an eye-grabbing query letter that stands out from the (massively) huge crowd.

1. Address the Right Agent

Yeah, this one’s kind of important. You might be spitting out thirty queries a day to different agents, but do take the time to address the right person! If not, any chance of that agent reading your letter is kaput.

2. Put Your Book Title, Length, and Genre as High Up as Possible

The agent doesn’t want to spend five minutes trying to find out if your coming-of-age story is 20,000 words and aimed at children, or 140,000 words and aimed at science fiction junkies. They want to know right away if this project is for them. If you’re writing an 80,000-word women’s fiction novel, make sure the agent knows it as soon as possible.

3. Get to the Point Quickly

Agents are reading dozens of query letters a day (maybe hundreds?). They don’t want to skim through three paragraphs to find out what your story is about. Condense your story to a one-paragraph pitch (two, max) and really think about and revise every single word of that pitch. There should be no doubt in your mind that every beat of your pitch would make anyone with a pulse and a brain to want to request your full manuscript.

4. Write a Blurb about Yourself

Now’s not the time for an ego, but you should put in a brief paragraph before wrapping up that details your credentials for writing this novel. If you wrote a book about an entertainment lawyer and you’ve spent the last twenty years in entertainment law, mention that. If your short fiction has been published in a couple magazines, mention that. Any publishing history is worth putting here, but refrain from talking about the special time writing for your high school newspaper.

5. Include All Your Contact Info

It’s important if an agent wants to get a hold of you that he or she has all your contact info, which includes your phone number and e-mail (most important), as well as your home address. Thank the agent or publisher for their time and put all your contact info after your name.

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to writing a great query letter that will be your best tool for getting your work published!

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