Writing a Query Letter #wwwblogs #writinganovel

query letter pic 3

While it’s true that the world of publishing is changing, and that many authors are happy to self-publish, some writers still wish to find an agent, and so will need to introduce themselves with a query letter.

What’s important

It’s absolutely vital to remember that this letter is the first example of your writing that an agent will see, so make it count. These are the key things to remember:

  • Address your letter to a specific agent – avoid Dear Sir/Madam.  Using a name shows that you’ve selected that agent – not just stuck a pin in ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’
  • Make it clear you’ve done your homework – state why you’re approaching that particular agent (similar authors? Looking for your genre?)
  • Make your book sound interesting
  • State the genre and word length
  • Include any details of your writing history – competitions, publications, experience
  • Keep it formal, keep it short, be business-like
  • Do include EXACTLY what they’ve asked for

Structuring your letter

When I’m helping my clients to write a query letter, this is the basic structure I suggest:

  • Paragraph 1 – why you’re writing and what you’ve included
  • Paragraph 2 – a VERY brief, two or three sentence summary of the book
  • Paragraph 3 – brief details of any relevant writing experience/successes
  • Paragraph 4 – the fact the manuscript is complete and word count. Also, state if you are working on a series, a new novel etc. Agents like to know that you have longevity
  • Paragraph 5 – contact details including a telephone number and an email address

What not to do

  • Don’t make jokes or try anything wacky – they’ve probably heard and seen it all before
  • Don’t spell the agent’s name incorrectly
  • Don’t forget to include your submission (apparently that does happen!)
  • Don’t come across as arrogant – if the agent takes you on you will have a very close working relationship, so you don’t want to sound as if you’ll be a pain in the backside
  • Equally, don’t beg or sound needy – agents need writers!

Most important of all, be professional. Yes, we’re all artists, and creative types and so on, but publishing is, first and foremost, a business. This is a business letter – treat it as though you’re applying for a job (because you are). Good luck!

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25 comments

  1. The odds on getting accepted are often cited as thousands against, but a friend who worked n publishing said he was amazed at how many were written in crayon, completely without punctuation etc. Such ineptitude must be higher now with so much self publishing. Don’t take the odds against success too seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I took a class on query writing by literary agent, Maria Vicente. It was an amazing and enlightening experience that made me realize, my query started off very poor. All the research I had done, still hadn’t gotten it up to snuff. After the class, I was proud of the query that I had written, and was ready to begin sending it out to agents. I would highly recommend the classes on Litreactor.com, especially the ones on query writing. You’ve covered all the major points here to be sure. It’s the polishing of your words, and deciding which information is good to include, that can sometimes be tough. You are a wealth of knowledge, Alison. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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