Why must I write a query letter?
If you happen to have great connections and are a known author or personality, you may not need
to write a query letter, but most of us are not in that position. A query letter is your first step to securing either an
agent or an editor. Most agents and editors do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so the main point of the query letter is to
get the agent or editor to ask you for sample chapters or for your entire manuscript. Keep this in mind as you attempt to
pack the most information you can into this one-page letter. Also remember to include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE)
so the agent or editor will respond to your letter.
What does a query letter look like?
The query letter uses the standard business letter format. Do your research so you can address
your letter to the particular agent or editor to whom you are sending your letter; avoid the generic “Dear Sir or Madam” and
“To the Editor (Agent).” In the body of the letter, you should include a paragraph for each of the following: briefly
describing your novel; briefly describing yourself as an author; briefly describing the audience who will read your novel.
In addition, you may want to begin with a hook to gain the agent’s or editor’s interest and end with a closing paragraph that
encourages the agent or editor to request sample chapters. Make sure to leave room at the bottom to type your name with space
above this to sign your name.
Remember that an agent or editor evaluates you on your ability to write. You can be sure that
if you cannot write a query letter, you will not likely gain the services of an agent or an editor. I have included an example
of a poorly written query letter
and a well-written query letter
Both are examples of letters that I sent out to different agents; please note that I have altered the address information.
Check out pages 35 - 41 of the 2008 Guide to Literary Agents for more information.
A final word about querying agents and editors: Don’t let the rejections get to you. Every
author has received numerous rejection letters throughout his or her career. Remember that not only is the agent or editor
evaluating your writing, but they are also determining whether you or your novel is a good fit for them, for their company,
and for the current day. If your writing really is exceptional, you could still be rejected simply because you do not have
the type of novel the company is looking for at the moment. You may need to try another company or wait for another time.
Being rejected is simply part of the process. It will make the acceptance feel even more exciting.
has additional information about query letters.
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