Query Queries: What Should My Query Letter Look Like?

Creativity is encouraged when it comes to querying, but there are some basic guidelines all query letters should follow.

  • First, be sure you follow any rules the agent or agency has posted on their website. A surefire way to get a rejection is to deviate from what the agent wants to see.
  • Note that the vast majority of query letters are expected to be no longer than one page typed. Think of your query as an exercise in being concise!
  • Start with a personal greeting (Dear Mr. Brown), rather than something generic (To Whom It May Concern). When agents see the latter, they know you’re sending out queries to anyone with an email address.
  • Show some specs. Most agents want to know the genre, word count, and other pertinent information up front. This should be accomplished in 1-2 sentences.
  • Give a brief synopsis of your story. This is the place to show your writing chops. Hook the agent from the first sentence, and don’t overload on details. One good recommendation I’ve heard is to think of this synopsis like the back of a DVD cover. Short and sweet and something that will make you want to see the movie!
  • Tell the agent who YOU are. For non-fiction, this is especially important—agents will want to see that you have a platform and that you are an expert in your field. Keep your “about me” paragraph to 3-4 sentences, and be sure to mention any other published works or relevant industry experience (e.g. you are a member of RWA or SCBWI).
  • Wrap up with another personal touch. Tell the agent why you want to work with them and how excited you are to be considered by the agency. Be sure to provide your contact information as well.
Where to go for help:

One of the best places to see query letter dos and don’ts is Query Shark, where queries from all sorts of fiction genres are critiqued.

Another good spot to look is Writers Digest’s Successful Queries, where dozens of agent-nabbing queries have been posted. There are also a bunch of agents out there who will post advice on blogs or on Twitter, so be sure to follow any agent you’re interested in to see what types of queries they respond to.

And of course, I’m happy to help with any query issues you might have.  I enjoy writing synopsis and query letters, so don’t hesitate to check out my services page, then let me know how I can help!

Query QueriesWriting Life

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