How to write the best query letter

Perhaps, one of the most important things that you can ever write is your query letter. This is especially true if you desire to secure traditional publishers for your book. No doubt, you need to write the best query letter to attract their attention. This query letter can stand between the dreams of you and your traditional publisher. Therefore, it makes sense to know how you can write a convincing query letter. You should remember that this letter can have several elements that you need to include. This article discusses how to write the best query letter.

A query letter

A query letter is just a one-page letter that you need to send to literary agents so that you can get them excited about your manuscript. In most cases, you have one page and at least 300 words to attract a literary agent into loving your story. If they are happy with your story, they can request your manuscript. 

The query letter needs to be short. Your goal should be to squeeze at least 80,000 words of your book into 300 words. Besides the near constant rejections most writers usually experience, crafting the best query letter can be the hardest part of writing. 

You should note that a query letter is simply a marketing page that discusses your novel without overselling it. You should never go beyond one page. The truth is that you may appear unprofessional if you decide to go more than one page. And, many literary agents may not even consider your query letter that is over a single page. 

Writing a good query letter

You should also note that you should avoid being clever in your query letter. This is because there is a specific standard for a query letter that you need not to deviate from. Ideally, you need to format with the address placed at the top of a page, and right justified. Then you should write the address of your agent, this time left justified. 

You should also utilize a personalized greeting, meaning you should acknowledge the literary agent by name. Also, keep the query letter’s body between three and five paragraphs. 

The first paragraph gives you the chance to hook the potential literary agent. You need to share any connection you possess with the literary agent. This means you can mention that you met them at a conference or just state that you love specific authors that they represent. 

But if there is no specific connection with the literary agent, then you can get into action right away. You need to keep the agent reading in this paragraph. Therefore, you can share the genre and title of your manuscript. This is also the best place to include the word count of your book. The word count is important information that a good query letter should always have. 

After hooking the literary agent, you now need to summarize your story in the second paragraph. You should discuss the main characters in the story, what happens, and the choice they need to make now. However, you should not give away the whole plot. Leave the literary agent wanting more, so you need to structure it in a cliffhanger. 

In the third paragraph, you should write your bio, though you need to ensure that it’s relevant to writing. You can impress your literary agent by writing awards and credibility, or related writing experience. Remember to keep this paragraph short, so it can be two sentences, but not more than this. After all, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with a query letter.


Tips to help you write the ideal query letter

You need to avoid using short sentences and short paragraphs. You should note that your query letter is just part of hundreds of query letters that your agent needs to read. There is a chance that they are skimming a couple of these query letters. Therefore, you can make it easier for them by writing easy to read sentences.

Also, you should utilize a similar tone to the narrative. The query letter needs to have the same tone as your book. Hence, you should mirror the same language that you utilize in your novel. If your book is funny, then you can include some of the humor in the query letter. If it’s flowery, then you can use elegant and ornate language to sell your story.

You should also follow submission guidelines. You need to read individual guidelines before you decide to send your query letter. In most cases, literary agents tend to like different things. You can find some agents that can only accept submissions that are sent by email while others accept email submissions and other ways of submitting the query letters. The good thing is that they usually tell you how to submit your query letter.

It’s also a good idea to address each specific literary agent. Using a general address can mean that you are targeting several literary agents, though this can be true. But you can have a great chance to engage the literary agent by just stating their name.

Aside from this, you should also say why you are pitching your novel to that specific agent. Perhaps, it’s because they represent other writers you love and are in the same genre as your novel. You should avoid letting the agent connect the dots, so you need to be clear right away.

Even better, you can also mention that your novel has been checked by a professional editor. Literary agents like a polished manuscript. They can notice authors who have put an extra effort to get their manuscript edited by professionals. This makes you appear more serious and professional, and can add an extra weight to your query.

Above all, two or even three queries can rarely have an impact. To find a good literary agent, you usually have to send several query letters. Even some of the bestselling authors had to deal with rejection. Therefore, you need to make sure that you send many query letters to increase your chances of being accepted.

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