Breaking Down the Query Letter

Breaking Down the Query Letter
February 7, 2017 1 Comment For Authors, Writing Advice J.K. Allen

So you’ve written your novel and are ready for the next step. If this includes traditional publishing, the next step is querying agents. And the query letter is so important. It’s the chance to find an agent for your book after all. So you need to take it seriously. So how do we write our query letter? Let’s break it down now.

We start the query off with a personalized greeting. Always, always personalize your query. Research who you are sending your query to and make sure they are a match for your novel. Next, include your novel’s info; genre, title, word count, and target audience. If it helps to clarify your work, compare your novel to well-known titles. But beware of grandiosity. Do NOT say you have the next bestseller or that you’re the next Stephen King. Realistic comparisons only.

The next two or three paragraphs go to telling your story; the plot, the main characters, and the conflict. Be concise, this is not a synopsis where you detail everything. And keep it interesting. This is where you sell your story. This is by no means easy and will take some serious rewriting. Focus on your protagonist, their main goal, how the antagonist is preventing them, and what’s at stake. Be sure to mention what makes your story unique.

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queryNext up is your credentials and experiment. Do you have education experience? Are you a part of any organizations or affiliations? Did the agent request any partial or full manuscripts from previously? Have you won or placed in any writing competitions or contests? Have you published anywhere? Give yourself credit. Also, if you have any specialized training or experience in the field your novel is written in, here’s the time to list it.

End your query by thanking the agent for their time. Include social media information so they can check out the awesome platform you’ve been building (you have been building it right? Start now!) Unless your social media presence is out of date or very low.

So let’s look at a made up example:

Dear Ms. Name,

Your website indicates that you are currently looking for new romance works. My novel, The House by the Sea, comes in at 60,000 words and can be compared to Novel Name by Author Name.

JANIE GREY just lost her best friend, her mother, in a sudden accident. The shock of it all doesn’t stop when she’s informed her mother owned a secret house along Virginia’s coastline. Janie goes out to the old house to investigate and try to find a piece of her lost mother. But when she gets there she finds another mystery, gruff groundskeeper ANTHONY SCOTT.

Anthony upkeeps houses for owners who live out of town, but the last thing he wants is to be involved in their messy lives. He doesn’t want to be involved in anyone’s lives. But new owner Janie won’t stop ambushing him while he’s on the property. Her good looks and unstoppable mouth are more than just distracting, they’re dangerous. Will she get past his well-built defenses and worm her way into his heart?

I am currently a member of Romance Writers of America and have been published in Publication Name. < FURTHER CREDENTIALS >

Thank you so much for your time. I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript per your submission guidelines. I look forward to hearing from you.


Keep in mind this is just an example and that you won’t get this all right the first time. But all good things need some hard work to do right. Keep rewriting and keep refining and send those queries out! What do you think needs to be included? Share below and happy querying!


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J.K. Allen Julia Allen received her BA in Creative Writing and English from Michigan State University. She did her senior thesis in poetry under the tutelage of Diane Wakoski, but has been focused primarily on fiction as of late. Common writing themes that can be found in her work address identity and the type of strength that can be found in ordinary people. Julia is currently working on a Young Adult fantasy novel and can be found at local cafes in her hometown when writing, and painting, drawing, or reading when not.

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