Here’s the deal.
No matter how amazing your book is, your query letter must be even better.
Because a writer query letter is the first point of contact between you and your literary agent or a publishing house. It’s your chance at a brilliant first impression. It’s also the stage where many writers stumble and fall.
Let’s have a look at everything you need to know when it comes to crafting the best writer query letter, shall we?
What Is a Writer Query Letter?
Once you’ve finished writing and self-editing your book, it’s time to reach out to a literary agent who will represent your book and offer it to publishers.
But while many writers think that a short email and a complete draft of their book will do the trick, there is actually a standard procedure all writers ought to stick to.
And that is…drumroll, please…writing a query letter.
A query letter is essentially your marketing pitch. In a few paragraphs, you are telling an agent why your story is so unique and amazing, why it stands out among other works in the industry, and why they should represent you.
Yes, it’s a big deal. Which is why your query letter should be the absolute best you can make it.
RELATED READ: How to Write and Structure a Literature Review
Why Do Writers Need a Query Letter?
The answer is pretty simple: because it’s usually a requirement.
And whilst you might think that deviating from the norm and not writing a query letter will help you stand out (I’ve certainly thought about it before), the opposite is the case – literary agents receive dozens of query letters per day and only take on a limited number of authors per year, which means that anything that goes against their requirements might go immediately in the bin.
Agents simply don’t have enough time to pay attention to writers who don’t abide by the rules. Therefore, always check each agent’s individual requirements before sending them your work and make sure your writer query letter is just as good – if not better – as your book.
5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Query Letter
Moving onto the specifics, here are 5 tips for crafting a high-quality writer query letter that will immediately draw the reader in.
#1 Hook the reader with a strong opening
This one very much depends on your individual circumstances because there are many different ways to begin a query letter.
After “Dear [name]”, consider the following:
- Start with the synopsis of the book, immediately drawing them into the story (for example: “Katherine is a sixteen-year-old girl who wants only one thing: to get her brother back. After he disappeared under mysterious circumstances last autumn…”)
- Begin with the basics so that the agent immediately knows whether your story fits their expertise and focus (for example: “I’m writing to seek representation for my 70,000-word Young Adult book called Hunted…”)
- Focus on your previous accomplishments if you’ve already been published (for example: “I’m writing to seek representation for my second novel Missed Opportunities. My debut Lea has been published with X two years ago and has been nominated for Z and Y since then…”)
- Mention that you’ve met in person before if that’s the case (for example: “I’ve attended your panel at the X festival last year and found your advice incredibly helpful. I’m now seeking representation…”)
#2 Write a gripping synopsis
Every query letter ought to include a synopsis. This is essentially the blurb of your book, or in other words, the text that you usually see on the back cover of novels.
The synopsis should:
- Immediately reveal the appeal of the story and describe the primary drive and conflict
- Show an awareness of the publishing industry, either by comparing the novel to other titles (“the dazzling magic of Caraval meets the sharp darkness of The Poppy War trilogy”) or by simulating the style of blurbs of other books in your genre
- Be around 100 words long (keep it crisp and to-the-point)
- Avoid going into too much detail when it comes to the resolution of the story (remember, you want to hook the reader, not to explain the whole plot)
#3 Include an author bio
After the synopsis comes the bio.
Keep in mind that this isn’t the part where you speak about your writing aspirations or dreams (in fact, those should be kept to a minimum because they apply to every writer out there, so it brings nothing new to the table).
Instead, summarize your past accomplishments. This can be a previous publishing deal, a nomination or an award in a writing competition, a university degree that’s related to writing, a writing festival or program you’ve attended, or anything else that comes to mind.
Keep it short and sweet: “I have graduated from X with a degree in Z. My short story K appeared in L and I won the Y award for another one of my stories, P.”
If your book is about a particular topic that means a great deal to you (for example, if it’s about a certain mental health issue that’s under-represented in society), describe what led you to write the story and why you think it’s valuable.
#4 Personalize your writer query letter
Since agents receive so many queries per day, one way to ensure you stand out is to go the extra mile and personalize your letter.
Writers tend to contact multiple agents at once to speed up the querying process, which means many just copy and paste a standard template. Therefore, showing that you’ve properly researched the agent’s work can go a long way.
You can do that by:
- Mentioning some of their other clients and explaining why you think your work fits in with their clientele
- Talking about the genre they focus on and why your book is the perfect fit
- Referencing something they’ve said online or mentioning that you’ve seen them talk at a panel at a specific festival
RELATED READ: How to Write the Perfect Book Press Release
#5 Keep it professional
If you think that writing in an unusual font or including a colorful background will help you stand out, think again. More often than not, it will make your query letter seem less professional and credible.
Stick to the basics:
- Times New Roman, 12
- Maximum of 500 words
- 1.5 spacing
- Begin with “Dear [name]”
- End with “Thank you for your consideration” and include your contact details
Hire FirstEditing to Write Your Query Letter
If you’re struggling to write a great writer query letter, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
That’s what editing services are for, after all! Over the years, FirstEditing has helped many authors perfect their query letters. Don’t hesitate to reach out – you’ll be able to collaborate with Ph.D. editors, subject matter experts, and professional writers.
If you’re an aspiring author, your query letter is one of the most important things you’ll ever write. Make sure you give it your all.