How To Write A Query Letter

Ready to write a query letter that will dazzle a literary agent and help sell your book? Great! But, writing is not the first thing to do. It’s the last. What comes first? Research. Your first task is to gather information that will allow you to craft a personalized query letter.

5 Things To Do Before You Write A Query Letter

  • Use Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, Publishers Marketplace, Publishers Weekly or other resources to find agents who represent your genre and accept unsolicited manuscripts.
  • Different agents want different materials in a submission package. Make a list of what each agent wants.
  • Research agents’ authors. Look at their books, websites and press clippings. What about each agent’s work fits with yours?
  • Do any of the agents forbid multiple submissions? If so, you’ll have to query them one by one.
  • Make sure that your book proposal (for non-fiction) or manuscript (for fiction) are completed and perfected. When an agent says, “Yes, I’m interested. Send me your materials,” you’d better be ready to do just that.

Now you’re ready to craft that query letter. What should be in it?

  • Personalize the letter. Why are you querying this agent? What about the agent makes him or her right for you?
  • Who are your target readers? Describe them.
  • With what platform – publicity, social media, speaking engagements, mailings – will you reach readers?
  • What makes you an expert? Detail your credentials.

Think of the query letter as a sales tool. Don’t ask agents to represent you. Convince them that they should.

Smart Author Tip: Explain your book from readers’ points of view. What problem are you solving for them? What are you teaching them?

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