Query Letter Basics

Query Letter Basics

If you’re hoping to publish a book, having a strong query letter is essential.

When you’re seeking agent representation, a query letter the way to introduce not only yourself, but your book. A good query letter—written in an engaging style that mirrors the tone of your manuscript—should capture an agent’s attention enough that they agree to represent you. If you intend to place your book with a mainstream publishing house, having a literary agent to represent you is crucial, because agents have existing relationships with editors at publishing houses and will fiercely advocate for your book. Without an agent, it’s unlikely that an editor will even read your manuscript.. When an agent reads your query letter, they are already thinking about the editors with whom they have relationships. Do they know an editor who is seeking a book like yours? Have they had success with authors in your genre? Is the writing in your query exactly the kind of prose that agent is passionate about championing? For these reasons, you can see why a query letter is a very important step in your publishing journey. Having a good query letter can make all the difference.

While it’s a fact that more and more authors are self-publishing their books, if you want to publish with a traditional publishing house, working with an agent is crucial. But agents receive hundreds of query letters from authors—how can you make yours stand out and get results?
An effective query letter needs to be persuasive and concise. It needs to demonstrate to an agent that you have an engaging, original voice. And it needs to get an agent intrigued about your book project.

A query letter should include the following components:

A greeting

You should address the agent directly, and explain why you think they would be a good fit to represent your book. You need to personalize this part of the query letter: sending out form letters that read “Dear Agent” is a big no-no. As author and former agent Nathan Bradsford explains, , your letter should explain why you’re interested in working with this particular agent: “Show the agent that you put in the time and have targeted them in your search. Mention an interview or a book they’ve represented.”

A synopsis of your book

This is the most important part of your query letter: it should tell the agent what your book is about, and also demonstrate your writing style. This section should use the same writing style that you use in your book, so that the agent can see your talent as a writer. Describe your project in vivid language, making it clear not only why it’s important and necessary, but why it will sell. The agents at The Knight Agency remind authors that the query letter is the first introduction agents have to your writing—you want to show them what you can do.

Biographical information

Finally, your query letter should include a paragraph that provides biographical information about you, the author. However, this isn’t the place to tell your complete life story. This is the place to convince the agent that you are an expert, and the ideal person to be writing your book. Explain how your background makes you the perfect person to publish a book on this topic.

Writing a query letter is an art—but, as these examples show, it can be done successfully.

The team at Kevin Anderson and Associates are experts at writing query letters that help sell books. We can craft a query letter that will make agents take notice of your book. Contact us today to find out more about our writing and editing services, and how hiring a ghostwriter can help you reach your publication goals.

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