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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How to Write a Query Letter

As a writer, you will write many queries and send them out to many different agents and/or editors. It is highly important for new writers to understand how to set up a query letter and what should go in one.

1.    Use Times New Roman or Arial at a 12-point font.

2.    Keep the margins at 1 inch and do not indent.

3.    Single space with one space between paragraphs.

4.    In the top left hand corner include the agent’s name, the agency’s name, and the address. In the top right hand corner include the date. Ex: February 2014

5.    Always address a specific agent and make sure their name is spelled correctly!

6.    Generally, the first paragraph is supposed to give all the information about your manuscript: the title, which I like to type all in CAPS, the genre (sub-genre), and the rounded word count. Ex: 95,000 words.

7.    In the first paragraph you can hint at what they can expect to find in your book. In my query for my supernatural-thriller series I mentioned they will “meet dangerous criminals as well as ghosts, angels, and even gods.

8.    With the query for my series, I included a sentence before the first paragraph to hook the agent. You can also add a couple of sentences to hook the agent into your story. I did the same at the end, above the bio, to close the story line and hopefully entice agents. 

9.    The second paragraph is dedicated to the story. Introduce the main character and what his/her main conflict is during the story. You can stretch this into another (shorter) paragraph to summarize the main points of the plot, if you have to. You don’t have to tell everything though!

10.  The next paragraph can indicate who the intended audience is for your novel. I did this in the first paragraph of my query letter.

I made my query letter blurry because I don't want to
share it yet, but this shows you the format.

11.  The last paragraph is your bio. If you don’t have publishing credentials, do not stress about it! Talk about your book. Will it be part of a series? Are you working on or have the sequel finished? Mention any writing awards or contests you’ve won, classes you’ve taken, if you have your degree in English Literature, and any writing groups or associations you belong to. If you have publishing credentials list a few places that have published your work. This is also where you can mention your pen name if you use one.

12.  Finally, close the letter by thanking the agent for considering your novel.

13.  At the very bottom, always include “Sincerely” with your name, address, email, and phone number; all the possible ways they can get in contact with you.

14.  Keep the query letter to one page.

15.  Spell check and read your query several times, even out loud to make sure it sounds good. Or let others read it and offer their opinion. 

16.  Include an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) so the agent can send you a reply.

17.  Then mail that sucker out!

18.  If you are emailing a query everything above still applies, but you will have to copy and paste the query into the body of your email.

19.  For an e-query, make sure the subject line says, “Submission: The Title of Your Story”.

20.  Always read the submission guidelines on an agent’s website for specifics of how they like queries sent to them. They may only accept e-queries or snail mail. Or they may tell you something specific to put in the subject line. Always follow their rules! And make sure the agent you are sending to accepts your genre.
TIP: Create a professional email address. Ex: You don’t want to send a business letter from


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  1. This sounds like a perfect query letter.
    I know I ought to do this instead of putting my work straight onto Amazon but I am hopeless at knowing how to use a 'hook', and do not very good at promoting myself or my work. However, I can see that if I don't bother I'll never get anywhere!

    1. Thanks, Fanny! Wanting to skip the query, and synopsis (which I'll be blogging about next week), is normal. I wish I could help by saying the best way to describe your book, etc. but every story is different. I haven't even found the right formula yet for my series. lol

      Best of luck to you, Fanny! :)

  2. Do agents still take snail mail queries? I thought they all moved to email queries. I haven't looked into it though, so I'm guessing you know better than I do. :)

    1. Surprisingly, a lot of agents ask for only snail mail queries. Odd right? I have two separate lists for queries. One is for agents who accept e-queries, and the other is for those agents who only accept queries through snail mail.

  3. great professional advice!
    spelling & submission requirements & brevity! keys!

    1. Yes, they are Tara. :) Thank you for your comment.

  4. Interesting post, Chrys. I am definitely bookmarking this one because I will be looking for agents to represent my adult writing once my summer schedule kicks in and hoping, my novel will be a bit more polished=) The best advice here, though, is paying attention to the guidelines! I'm sure many agents get annoyed when people submit work without reading the guidelines first. I'm also surprised about the snail mail. But then again, I have always been a fan of this type of submission. Odd, I know!

    1. Agents probably throw out or delete a ton of queries because they don't follow the guidelines. It is a must to pay attention to their rules!

      For some reason, I always feel more comfortable when I send out a query through snail mail than e-mail. I think it's because an email's format can change and I know exactly what my letter looks like when it's in print. And part of me still thinks snail mail is romantic. :)

      Best, best, best of luck to you, Gina, for when you start sending out queries! :D


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