How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent
by Kelly D. Smith (originally posted on ryanlanz.com) Recently I did something I never thought I would do. I queried an agent. See, there are so many options out there for authors that I never really thought it would be worth it for me (personally) to bother. So I just figured I’d always stick to just submitting my work to publishers, then one day sick of rejection after rejection from publishers, I decided it was time to try something new. And for some reason, an agent seemed like the right thing to try. So, I set aside two weeks to polish up my manuscript (And oh gods am I thankful I did!) and I got on the hunt for agents.
It took me a wile. I used WritersDigest for this mostly but tried a few other websites and books; theirs was the one I liked the best and finally I found one.
I sent my first three chapters off to beta readers to get honest opinions before sending it to an agent, and during that time, I read a lot, both fiction and nonfiction. One of the books I read was WritersDigest’s Guide To Literary Agents. And one of the things that really stuck out to me was that they suggested sending it to more than one person. So I started looking for more.
Then it occurred t me. There are so many books I love; why not see who represents them?
So, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in this, but I do want to offer a couple tips. Read other ones Writers Digest has a whole section on their website for this! Personalize it. Please, don’t put “Dear Mr/Ms.” When you’re looking for an agent, normally agencies will have you address an agent that you feel would be the best suit for your manuscript, therefore you should at least put their name! But really, while researching I could not believe how many un-personalized query letters I found. I’d want to shoot people if I was an editor! Do your research Of course you shouldn’t figure out where they live or anything, but look for interviews, skim through their Twitter, or even just read what the website has about them. Know what they really like, not just what they are willing to accept.
I mean, you want to tip the odds in your favor, right? Make a good impression. Don’t make it too long It seems like query letters are about a page. Try not to make it too long, and try to keep it to the point. I find this formatting works best: This is just my opinion though! Dear ____,
Intro, why think they would be a good fit for your manuscript. If you’ve read anything by them, or reference an interview, Tweet, etc.
Hook about your book. Sum it up in a sentence. Why does it sell. For example, is it Gossip Girl meets Sons of Anarchy? Is it about a family who loses everything and struggles to find hope by traveling the world? You get the drift.
The details. This is more about your book. Now that you have a nice little “hook” give the details.
A little but about yourself. Publishing credits, contest won, etc.
Close with thank you! Again, I’m not an expert; I’m not even sure if my query letters worked or not! So don’t just take my word for it, but this was how I felt I formatted my query letter to the best that it could be. Open with a strong sentence. This was what I opened with: I was thrilled to find out that you represented [Author name] [Book title], one of my favorite books. I have just finished Catch a Wolf, the first book in a fantasy/romance series. It is 54,000 words, and I would be grateful if you would consider representing it. I saw a 2014 Tweet discussing how Fantasy is one of your bread-and-butter-genres. I am submitting To Catch a Wolf for your consideration. It is the first book in a series with a romance/erotica subgenre. Keep it professional 99% of the time, an agent seems to say they want a professional query letter. Not something written from the characters point of view, or anything like that. Don’t stop with this post! I can’t stress this one enough. There’s lots out there on querying, sometimes I felt too much, so don’t stop with just one. Guest post contributed by Kelly D. Smith. Kelly is a Canadian author who spends most of her time typing. Smith was homeschooled her entire life, leaving lots of time to follow her passion, which she quickly realized was writing. She is a multi-time, best selling author who spends her free time blogging, reading, cooking, or playing outside with her dog.