A query letter is a short & sweet one page (300 words) note introducing yourself to an agent and asking if they’re interested in representing your book.
First, you need to understand what an agent is and does for you…
Literary agents (aka authors’ representatives), serve as intermediaries between writers and potential employers such as publishers and television producers.
An agent sell is the person who sells your manuscript to potential publishing houses (such as: Random House, Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster. In addition to finding a publisher to publish your manuscript, agents also negotiate contracts, pursue publicity, and advise clients in their careers.
The majority of literary agents work in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, and Los Angeles, but can represent authors from all over the world.
Secondly, you must realize that an agent only makes money if you do, and they are looking to spend their time on a book they can sell (really their dream is to find that next bestseller!!!). You have to realize that each agent may receive a dozen or more queries a DAY (= 4272+ / year), and only sign 2 to 5 authors per YEAR. The point is you have one shot at making a great first impression!
They are way more than a salesperson! Think of your agent as your partner… Literally!
When they are deciding on representing you, they need to know, feel, think, and see that they can get along with you!!! DID I MENTION THEY ONLY MAKE $$$ IF YOU DO?
How to Write a Query Letter
HOW TO WRITE A QUERY LETTER
Fiction Authors – you need to have a finished and polished manuscript before you begin querying.
1st paragraph (1 to 2 sentences)
Introduction (your bond – what you have in common… think as if you were dating this person). This is your opening paragraph, your hello.
2nd paragraph (1 to 2 sentences)
Your book’s hook! Probably the most important line(s) in your query. The hook: the description of your story and the most critical query element; 150-300 words is sufficient for most narrative works. Your hook should offer a moment of intrigue, peak the reader’s interest, provide an interesting factoid that leaves the reader wanting to read more.
3rd paragraph (1 to 2 sentences)
The housekeeping: your book’s genre, category, word count, title/subtitle, Sticky Mash Up
4th paragraph (1 to 2 sentences)
Bio note: something about yourself, usually 50-100 words: writing credentials, what makes you an expert on the topic, your industry knowledge/activity, author platform information.
5th paragraph (1 sentence)
Thank you & closing: final details, whether your mss (manuscript) has been professionally edited, for non-fiction – if the proposal is finished.
WHAT AGENTS DON’T LIKE
Words in Bold
Talking about more than one book in a query
Not having a finished manuscript (fiction writers)
Poor story telling (fiction writers)
Querying more than one agent at a time (and then not telling them)
Querying the wrong agent (they don’t represent your genre – wasting their time)
Not having the right amount of word count for the genre
Asking for free advice
Making them think or do work just to read your query
Emailing them to find out if they read it
Example of query letters
A typical example of an agents submission requirements (each agent will have similar but could have different requirements):
Submissions should consist of a one-page query letter detailing the book as well as the qualifications of the author. For fiction, submissions may also include the first ten pages of the novel or one short story from a collection.
Our primary areas of interest include literary and commercial fiction and narrative nonfiction. We do not consider business, how-to, photography books, poetry, screenplays, self-help or Westerns.
Cornerstone Literary Inc. charges no reading fees.
If sending a query via post, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Cornerstone Literary Inc.
4525 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 208,
Los Angeles, CA 90010
We receive hundreds of queries each month and make every effort to give each one careful consideration. We appreciate your patience in waiting 6-8 weeks for a response before contacting us with a gentle reminder.
You may also send queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot guarantee a response to queries submitted electronically due to the volume of queries received.
Examples of a book deal $
A ‘Nice’ deal = $50,000
A ‘Very Nice’ deal = $50,000 – $99,000
A ‘Good’ deal = $99,000 – $250,000
A ‘Significant’ deal = $250,000 – $499,000
A ‘Major’ deal = $500,000+