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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.

Be Encouraged

     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.

     Folio has additional information about query letters.

     If you are interested in contacting Eric Manske, use the e-mail below or follow the Leave Feedback link.