Do’s and Don’ts for Writing the Query Letter

Do’s and Don’ts for Writing the Query Letter
February 14, 2017 No Comments » For Authors, Writing Advice J.K. Allen

So last week we broke down the query letter paragraph by paragraph, but I wanted to talk a little more about query letters today. Query letters are so crucial and important to get right. So today let’s talk about dos and don’ts for writing the query letter.

  • Do personalize. Always personalize your greeting. Research agents before you query and show you’ve done your research. Agents will appreciate that and throw away your query if it’s obvious you didn’t. No listing more than one agent at a time. And explain why you’ve chosen that agent to query.
  • Do not include too many characters. Secondary characters don’t matter here. This is about your protagonist, the antagonist, and the main conflict. This is not a synopsis where you list everything that happens and everyone. Focus.

[bctt tweet=”Don’t include too many characters in your #query. Focus on your MC, antagonist, and main conflict. @hijinkswriter #writingtips #OurWriteSide” username=”OurWriteSide”]

  • Do jump right in. Don’t waste time trying to introduce yourself in the first paragraph. This is all about your book. Start with the book’s stats (title, genre, word count) and hook. Talking about yourself comes later in the bio.
  • Don’t say your book is the next best seller or that you’re the next Stephen King. It’s fine to compare your novel to different works, but be realistic. Don’t sell yourself short when you’re listing your credentials or platform, but don’t brag about your novel. It’s off-putting and laughable.
  • Do sell your story. Do more than just tell your plot, make it intriguing. This is the time to let your novel shine.
  • Do not ask rhetorical questions or start with a cheesy hook. These are not successful strategies. They’re way overused and won’t help set you apart.
  • Do list your credentials that are relevant and credible. No “my mom loves my book” or “Oprah would pick this.” But do list any publishing credentials or education experience. Also if you have specialized training in the field addressed in your book, include that in your credentials. But don’t list anything published in a scam or any shady credentials. It just shows you don’t know the market.
  • Do not mention copyright or use the copyright symbol on your work. It’s insulting to the agent. They’re not interested in stealing your work.
  • Do specify which market your book appeals to and which genre it’s in. Do not say readers of all ages will love your book. It just shows you don’t understand your market or genre.

[bctt tweet=”Specify which #market & #genre your #book appeals to. @hijinkswriter #query #writerslife #writingtips #ourwriteside” username=”OurWriteSide”]

  • Do not talk about what a good movie your book would make. You’re selling your book and the agent is not Hollywood. Get it published first, then worry about movie rights.
  • Do keep it professional. Don’t be too informal or casual with the agent. You want to be respectful.

Like I said last week, the query letter is something you’ll want to write and then rewrite, rewrite, and then rewrite again. You won’t get it perfect the first time, but the great thing is you don’t have to. The best writing is rewriting. So take these tips into account and get 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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