How to Write a Query Letter
By Editorial Intern, Anjali Ajmani
Writing a query letter can be scary if you’re not familiar with what goes in one. You want the agent or publisher to pick up your story with gusto. You’ve finished your book, and you feel great about it. You’re ready for the next step: submitting it to a publisher. Here’s an overview of what goes in a query letter.
- The beginning of your query letter should introduce your manuscript. You want to provide the agent or publisher with a first impression. Include your word count, the genre of your work, and who the target audience is.
- After you’ve introduced your book, insert a sound bite. The sound bite is an interesting clip from your story designed to hook the reader. It is not a summary or a synopsis. The sound bite is supposed to attract the agent/publisher and make him or her want to learn more about your story. For example, John Green’s sound bite of The Fault in Our Stars might go like this: What does love mean to two teenagers battling cancer? Keep in mind that a sound bite can be a question.
- The synopsis can follow the sound bite, but note that the synopsis usually isn’t in the query letter. A synopsis is usually submitted with the manuscript as a separate document or attachment on a submission page. The synopsis is, of course, a summary of your story. The synopsis can be a paragraph or two. A synopsis of The Fault in Our Stars could be the following: Cancer patient and book enthusiast Hazel Lancaster meets and befriends Augustus Waters, a former cancer patient, at a cancer support group. Hazel and Augustus travel to Amsterdam to meet Hazel’s favorite author, where Hazel then falls in love with Augustus and must come to terms with the fact that his cancer has come back.
- You should introduce yourself in the last part of your query letter. Tell the agent or publisher who you are, what works you’ve written and published (if any), and your occupation. Don’t get too detailed, and don’t make your letter read like a resume. The agent/publisher doesn’t need to know where you used to work.
When you’re finished, get someone to look over it for you before you send it out. You want your query letter to be the best that it can be. Realize that it might take a few drafts to get your query letter just how you want it. Good luck!