How to Write a Query Letter: Tips from Bestselling Authors
So you’ve finally finished that manuscript, congratulations! Now it’s time to turn that story crafted from months of blood, sweat, and tears (and love, of course) into a book on the shelves, but where to even start? If you’re pursuing the traditional publishing route, the first step is to find yourself an agent who loves your story as much as you do. In order to land an agent, however, you must craft a query letter that is gripping, concise, and well-written. So here are our top 10 tips on how to write a query letter that reels in that agent.
1) Keep things short and sweet.
Don’t go overboard explaining things. You’ll want your query letter to be as concise as possible. The conventional length for a query is one single-spaced page.
2) Start with the hook.
In each letter, you’ll insert a line towards the beginning that serves as your hook. A good gauge as to whether or not your hook is working is to test whether or not it gives you, the author, chills. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
3) Don’t stress about your bio statement.
Each letter has a 1-2 line paragraph with a brief introduction into who you are/your writerly accomplishments, but don’t sweat it. This statement certainly doesn’t need to be fancy, as your writing will speak for itself.
4) Read the backs of your favorite books as a guide.
While the art of the query letter differs from that of the back-of-the-book blurb, reading the backs of your favorite books is a great way to observe how other writers concisely capture their plot in a short amount of lines. When observing, take note of where the hook is and how the author captures the plot without spoiling the ending (This is key!).
5) Write your query similar to how you’d write the back of your book description.
After observing the back-of-the-book blurbs of other writers, apply what you’ve learned to your own story. What is the one thing that would make the reader have to buy this book? That’s what you need to hook your agent with.
6) Tell the agent how your book could be marketed.
Agents are able to sell books when publishers can quickly understand who the book would sell well too. So if there’s an audience that would gobble up your book, let that be known!
7) Query broadly.
There’s no need to query only 3 agents at a time, regardless of what you’ve read. Send your query to 5-7 agents in the first round, get some feedback and incorporate the advice that may or may not be provided. Once that round is over, feel free to send to another 5 or more at a time. You’re the boss!
8) If you want one agent in particular, let them know.
If you want a certain agent, send it only to them, and let them know this is an “exclusive query” and that you won’t send to any other agents for at least 30-45 days (you choose the length of time, don’t give them a range as I have done here). Explain why you believe they are the perfect agent. This increases the odds that the agent will actually take the time to peek inside.
9) Prepare for rejections.
So. Many. Rejections. Piles of rejections. Heaps of rejections. Family-style spaghetti bowls full of rejections. Don’t give it a second thought. Just keep writing and querying, and at some point, say screw it all and self-publish if you’d like. Just keep writing so long as you enjoy it.
10) Finally, know that receiving rejections is okay.
In our opinion, receiving rejections is a good thing, as it’s indicative of the fact that you’re putting yourself out there, you’re doing the work, and you’re one step closer to your goals. After all, query letters aren’t concrete.You can always start over if the feedback you receive isn’t what you were hoping for.
We hope you enjoyed our 10 best tips on how to write a query letter! If you ever have questions about writing a query letter or the writing process in general, field your concerns to our Facebook community of 2,000 friendly writers.
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Victoria Scott started Scribbler in 2017 after traditionally publishing an impressive number of books with companies like HarperCollins Harlequin Scholastic and Macmillan. Victoria is an Uber-hailing city girl who is passionate about writing and helping other writers find their voice.