Query Letters

Recently I was asked by two people (different times) to do a blog about query letters. I did write a short one last year during the April A to Z Challenge. http://marissoule.com/q-is-for-query/ If you’re wondering what you should or shouldn’t put in a query letter, please take a moment to read that earlier blog.

A few reminders:

  • It’s the story the agent/editor wants to know about. Make the story the focus of your letter.
  • If you met the agent/editor at a conference or read that the agent/editor has represented/published books similar to yours, mention that.
  • Make sure you spell the agent’s/editor’s name correctly; that you’re sending your query to an agency or publisher that actually represents/publishes stories like yours; and that your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct.
  • Make sure you have included how to contact you if the agent/editor is interested: Use your legal name, email address, and phone number. (If communicating using snail mail, include that address.)
  • KISS (Keep It Simple S*****) Four paragraphs should do it Five or six if you use two or three short paragraphs to summarize your story.
    • One that gives the title, genre, word count, and why you’re contacting this agent/publisher.
    • One (or two or three) that summarizes the story.
    • One that gives any writing credits or marketing plan you might have. (Don’t mention if you haven’t had anything published or any accomplishments that have nothing to do with the story or writing. Do mention writing organizations you belong to.)
    • And finally finish with something like: Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you soon.
  • Make sure you check on-line to see if the agent or publisher has specific guidelines regarding what is to be sent (or not sent) with a query letter; if there are specific times of the year when the agent/editor accepts queries; and if no response within a certain time frame indicates a rejection.

There are several sites on-line that give examples of query letters. A few are: Writers’ Digest on how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter, 23 literary agent query letters that worked, and Query Letter samples.

There are many other examples available. For me the paragraphs that summarize the story are the most difficult part of the letter. Once you have what you think is perfect, let others read your query. Ask them if your query would entice them to ask to see the manuscript, and if not, what turned them off or was missing.

Once you have a query letter you feel best represents your ms, start sending it out. But make sure you tailor each query so the agent/editor feels it is a personal contact.


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8 Responses to Query Letters

  1. Great advice, Maris! Love the updated look here on your blog (sorry, it’s been a while since I visited).

  2. Hi, Maris,

    Very good advice. Query letters do need to be tailored to the guidelines of the agent or editor. We get no where without a good one.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Many I’ve seen (written by new writers) also forget it’s the story they need to showcase. They get sidetracked and start telling why they wrote the story, or why it would make a good movie.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    I think of query letters like cover letters that go with your resume. They need to showcase you to your best! 🙂 Great Advice!

  4. Good summary of what should go into a query letter. Less is better. The story blurb should be enticing like back cover copy. And leave out the personal life history.