Your query letter is the first thing an agent will see when considering your manuscript. It’s no secret that agents receive a lot of query letters from writers hoping to get their novels published. So how do you make sure your query letter shines?
Many aspiring writers wonder how to write a query letter that will catch an agent’s attention. The key is ensuring your query is well-written, professional, and tailored to the specific agent you’re querying. You can also refer to some query letter examples to better understand how to craft your own.
What Is a Query Letter?
A query letter is a one-page letter sent to literary agents to get them interested in reading your book. A query letter aims to prove that your book has potential and that you are a professional writer.
The Importance of Writing an Effective Query Letter
A query letter is the first impression you’ll make on an agent or editor; unfortunately, it’s often your only chance to make a good one. In fact, many agents and editors say that they base their decision of whether or not to request a manuscript solely on the quality of the query letter. So it’s essential to take the time to learn how to write a query letter that will get their attention and make them want to read more.
According to literary agent Victoria Strauss, a good query letter has three essential parts:
1. A great hook that grabs the agent’s attention and makes them want to read more
2. A brief summary of your novel that gives the agent a taste of what it’s about
3. A little bit about you, the author, and why you’re the perfect person to write this novel
When Should You Send the Query Letters to Agents?
The best time to query agents is usually between October and December, or what’s known as “the slush season.” Agents are more likely to read your query during this time because they’re not as inundated with submissions as during the regular submission season (January to September).
How to Write a Query Letter
Many people believe that the query letter is the most important part of getting an agent. It’s not. The most important factor in getting an agent is whether or not your work is good enough. However, a well-written query letter can get you past the slush pile and into an agent’s hands for consideration. Here are a few tips on how to write a query letter that will help your chances of getting read.
Use a Professional Format
Your query letter should be formatted like a business letter. This means it should be single-spaced with plenty of white space and no more than one page in length. The font should be easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Arial, and the margins should be set at one inch. Include your contact information at the top of the letter and the date.
Include a Heading
The heading of your query letter should include the word “query” and the title of your book. For example, “Query: My Great American Novel.” This lets the agent know right away what the letter is about.
Create a Strong Hook
The first sentence of your query letter is the most important. It’s your chance to grab the agent’s attention and make them want to read more. Start with a strong hook that grabbed their interest in your book. For example, “When thirteen-year-old Alice steps through the looking glass, she enters a world that is both familiar and strange.”
Give a Brief Synopsis
The next few sentences of your query letter should give a brief synopsis of your book. Be sure to include the genre, word count, and any other relevant information. For example, “My Great American Novel is a 100,000-word work of historical fiction set during the Revolutionary War.”
Explain Your Qualifications
The next section of your query letter is where you explain your qualifications. This is your chance to tell the agent why you are the best person to write this book. Include information about your writing experience and any relevant education or training. You can include the following:
Your Career: If your current or previous work is in a field related to writing a book, mention it. For example, include that information if you’re writing a book about dogs and working as a veterinarian.
Your Education: If you have a degree in English or creative writing, you should also mention it. You can also include any other degrees or training that you think might be relevant.
Special Research: If you’ve done any special research for your book, mention it here. For example, if you’ve interviewed experts in the field or traveled to the places where your book is set, be sure to include that information.
Previously Published Work: If you’ve had any articles, essays, or stories published in magazines or journals, this will help your case. Be sure to include the name and circulation of the publication.
Your Platform: Your platform is your ability to reach potential readers through your own channels. This might include social media followers, a blog or website, or a previous book done well.
Close the Letter With a Grateful Statement
End your query letter with a grateful statement, such as “Thank you for your time and consideration.” You might also want to include a sentence about why you chose this particular agent. For example, “I was excited to learn about your interest in historical fiction and believe you would be the perfect agent for my book.”
Proofread Your Work
When you are finished, proofread your letter carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes. You want to ensure that your letter is perfect before sending it off. In every business, first impressions are important, and your query letter is no different.
A well-written query letter is important in getting an agent’s attention. By following these tips, you can write a letter that will stand out and make the agent want to read more. Be sure to proofread your work carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes, and send your letter confidently.