How to Write a Proper Query Letter
How to Write a Good Query Letter
There are many novel writers who have really done a great job in their novel but their work fails to reach the market because they don’t know the trick of approaching the agents. A query letter is very vital for a novel writer, especially if you want to get the chance to work the most renowned agents or publisher to make your novel great.
To make your dreams of being the next great novelist, you need to master the trick of writing a good query letter. That is why we are here; we want to make you and your novel great by giving insights on how to write a good query letter. This article will, therefore, discuss what a query letter is, the importance attached to it and the main thing, how to develop a good one to make your work stand out.
What is a Query Letter – Definition
A query letter is a single paged letter usually not more than 300 words sent to agents or publishers with an aim of trying to convince them to take up what you have written probably a book. The purpose of a query letter is to give a synopsis of your book to the agent, say something about yourself and hopefully, the publisher or agent will be interested in reading more of your work.
A good query letter should definitely be short, on point and sweet. The secret about writing good query letters is just to follow the known format and be sure to include all the important information in a manner that will excite the agents or publishers.
Proper use of Query letter format
- The address should be the first item on the page
Just like any other formal letter, you should begin with the addresses. Start with your address followed by the agent’s address. Make sure the agent’s address is correctly inputted in the letter. It should have the name of the agent, the name of the firm they are working for, the address and the contact information.
- The letter should be short
You should note that agents have a busy schedule, therefore, ensure that your letter is short and on point. If you write something too wordy, then there is a high chance for it not to be read. Apart from that, the agents my just run through the letter to pick the main points, you, therefore, have to ensure that all your important points are well put.
Ensure that your paragraphs are short, make use of short sentences, should be interesting and above all, maintain the one-page length.
Your query letter should not have more than five paragraphs.
- Your query letter should look formal
Being a professional business letter ensure that your query letter looks as formal as possible. Therefore, make use you only apply basic formatting and use only the prescribed fonts. The following are some of the guidelines:
- Use 12 point font
- Your letter should be single spaced
- Follow left margin alignment throughout the letter
- Use either Arial or Times New Roman font
- Use the basic formula
Query letters have their prescribed formula that you need to always follow when writing your own. Using this formula ensures that no information is left out and also increase the probability of the agents going through your letter. The following is a brief guide:
- Start with contact information
- Greetings in Line one
- 1stparagraph: This is where you personalize the letter, make the introduction and bring in the hook
- 2ndparagraph: This paragraph carries the synopsis of your work
- 3rdParagraph: A brief about you
- 4thParagraph: The closing
- Finish with the farewell
- Sign off
Writing a Query Letter – Step-By-Step Tips
The following are the tips for writing a query letter.
- Start with greetings
The best way to start your query letter is to greet the agent by his/her name. This is the best way to capture their attention as it will straight away indicate that you have done enough research. Apart from that, it will also show that you perfectly know what you are doing.
Make sure write your query letter to an agent who works in a line related to what you are doing.
For example: If your book is about romance, seek out agents who deal with such genre.
The best forms of greeting for a query letter include:
Dear Henry Will
Attn. Mr. Ferguson
Never ever attempt to address your query letter in the form of “To Whom It May Concern” this will receive a red flag immediately.
Make sure you do your research before sending your query letter.
- Make your Query letter Personal
Your first paragraph should be predominantly about the introduction. In this paragraph, state the reasons why you settled on that agent. The reasons may vary but the most common ones are maybe you once met in a certain seminar or conference, or maybe you share something in common. Regardless of the reason, ensure that you include something that will connect you with the agent.
You can begin your letter by bringing out any relationship you have with the agent. This can be having a mutual friend, a lecture from the agent, your meeting; probably you attended the same seminar or any other form of relation.
If you have nothing in common with the agent, you can choose to highlight the authors that have been represented by that agent
After the introductions, you can bring in details of the book such as the title, the number of words and the genre.
Don’t forget to mention that your manuscript has been edited by a professional. This increases your credibility.
- Hook the Agent
In your second paragraph, you should focus on creating the hook. The purpose of the hook is to give the agent a reason to continue reading your query letter. Basically, the hook should be concise. It should also be engaging such that it highlights the protagonist, his/her purpose and the challenges he/she is facing.
Make sure that you create suspense here so that the agent would want to follow through to get the twist in the story.
- Write the Synopsis of your Book
After hooking the agent, the next paragraph should be about getting into your book by providing a summary of your work. Make sure your synopsis is compelling so that the agent will want to read more of your work.
The tricks to have a compelling synopsis include:
- Give an explanation of the setting of the story
- Make sure that all the important characters are mentioned
- Provide details about the characters rather than just giving their description
- Give a brief of yourself
Let the agent know who you are by providing a brief biography. Your biography should include your writing experience, writing credits, any previous work that has been published; make sure you the name of that work also include your awards and add any other thing that makes you the best author.
This should be brief and should only have the information that relates to your story. The purpose of this paragraph is to build your credibility and make you stand out as a qualified writer, especially in that genre.
- Show your Gratitude
In your last paragraph, make sure you thank the agent for going through your work. This shows that you understand how busy they are and how privileged you are that they read your letter. This should be simple, you end by saying:
I am grateful for your time.
You can also mention any other material that you have attached to your query. This is guided by the submission guidelines provided by either the agent or the publisher.
Apart from that, if you have completed the manuscript you can state that it is available for him/her to read.
Lastly, reiterate your willingness to provide any other information on the agent’s request.
- Sign off your letter
Being a form of a business letter, make sure that your farewell statement is appropriate. This includes:
Leave some space (For your handwritten signature), then type out your full name.
- Proofread and Edit
After finishing writing your query letter, make sure you take some time to go through it over and over again to make sure you have done it correctly. Editing is very important since a query letter is very sensitive. Having any form of error in your query letter reduces your credibility and your letter can be discarded immediately since the agent will immediately assume that your letter is full of errors. Make sure you proofread your query and make the relevant corrections. You should always check out for:
- Spelling mistakes
Also, make sure that the agent’s name and the name of the publishing firm are correctly spelled. You can also get in contact with us if you have a problem because we do have writing agents who will sort you out in your paper.
How to Send the Query Letter?
- Make sure you adhere to the submission guidelines
Many agencies and publishing company usually provide their submission guidelines to be used by writers who intend to seek their representation. To make your query look credible, ensure that you follow what your agent or publisher has stipulated. The following are some of the components of guidelines:
- The format of the letter
- Attachments to include with the query letter
- The mode of sending either through mail or Email
- How to address physical queries
- Add a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope
When sending a physical address, make sure you add a SASE. This will make it easy for the agent to get back to you. It also serves as a motivation for the agent to reply to your query letter since they won’t have to bother themselves looking for your contact information.
- Make a Follow-up
After writing your query letter, the best thing to do is to wait for your agent to reply. If the agent takes a long time before responding to your query, you need to make a follow-up. If you mailed the agent your query letter, you can follow up using the same address. The same should be done for emailed queries.
Note: Do not follow-up in person or do not make a call. Also don’t do it repeatedly.
Sample of Successful Query Letters
The following is an example of letters that managed to win agents.
Dear Ms. Chloe,
On your agency’s website, you are looking for middle-grade fiction and I am glad to introduce my novel, The Girl Power. This novel has granted me the opportunity to attend Writers Conference at Paris. It was also named as the best upcoming novel in the Creative Writers Competition.
This story is set in the city of Georgia. It is made up of almost 34,000 words. The tone is kind of similar to the one used in the works of Kate DiCamilo, “Because of Winn-Dixie.”
The Girl Power is a story of a nine-year-old girl, Lucy Adam, an impulsive dreamer. She is devoted to her missing father but this is put in jeopardy since her mother wants to remarry.
Despite the fact that everyone has accepted the death of her father, she is still haunted by the fact that the body was never recovered from the wrecked plane leaving Lucy to always dream that one day the father might come back. This stubborn focus makes it hard for her to have any affection for David, her mother’s fiancé or his beautiful daughter, Beth. Lucy is determined to stop this wedding in an operation dubbed Finding Mary, Ben’s ex-wife. She intends to get the two of them together. She succeeds in her first step but unfortunately, riots break out in the prison shuttering her dreams.
I’m a 2002 graduate of the Institute of Writers and Literature and my work has been largely published in True Love, StoryPlus, and Child Life.
Thank you so much for your time. Attached is the first ten pages of the work and I look forward to hearing from you.