How to Write a Stellar Query Letter

The publishing landscape is rife with hopeful authors querying agents. This means you need to know how to craft a query letter that’s going to completely knock the agent’s socks off.

Be ready
Don’t jump the gun on delivering queries. You may assume that just because the querying process can be long and arduous, that it will be, but that is not necessarily so ensure that you are ready to send the completed manuscript out at a moment’s notice to capitalize on any hype you are able to build up with potential agents. You don’t want to send a rushed version, you want to start by putting forward the best product you possibly can.

Do your homework
Knowing people is very helpful in this industry, so networking will always be a beneficial step for you when seeking an agent. Perhaps while you’re writing the manuscript, you can get a head start by putting your efforts into attending events where people who are in the know might be. This can help you get your foot in the door.

Think of it as a sale
While it can be difficult for authors to distance themselves from their work, it is a necessary step. Consider your book as a product, and be prepared to pitch it as you would any other product or service you would be looking to sell. Highlight the manuscript’s strongest points, and use your words to entice the agent into choosing you.

Keep it brief
Agents can receive a dozen or more queries per day and might reading the query on any device from a computer screen to a smartphone screen. As such, make sure your email is optimized for either one. Keep your explanations short, and don’t include unnecessary information. The gold standard is to keep your query between 200 and 400 words total.

Make them notice you
Start with something that makes you different from other contenders. Point out something important: have you published work before or received any form of recognition for previous work? Do you know one of their clients or colleagues personally? Did you previously attend an event where that person was present? Have you met them in the past? Any of these things could be a great way to get the agent to notice you. If none of the above applies to you, don’t worry. Put your story first and let that be your noticeable feature.

Include the key info
Your key information is the title of the book, its genre, and its word count. These points are extremely important, can all be included in one sentence, and will give the agent a good hint as to whether they will be interested in pursuing a relationship with you.

Explain the premise
Give yourself a few sentences to hook them with the premise of the book. Make it concise, clear, and as irresistible as possible. This is your hook and is the part that’s going to get you in with the agent, so spent some time considering how to use this space to your advantage.

Talk about yourself
A brief bio about yourself as an author is also a nice touch in a query and can help the agent know if you are an author they would like to work with. You can add this anywhere in the letter, but remember that the book is the star of the show, so try not to overshadow it.

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