Query Writing Tips

There is a LOT of information out there on how to build a useable query to send to Literary Agents. Before I went indie I tried this route. First off, you need to research your literary agents. Some agencies only accept certain types of books; fiction or non-fiction. Some of them require that someone else backs your submission, that is already an author or saw your stuff and supports you. This is obviously very difficult to do.

What most unpublished authors are looking for are new literary agents that have a few years under their belt, at least one hit book, and are accepting new titles. A good way to find literary agencies that may work for you is finding famous writers in the same genre and looking at who their literary agency is. You may not get their literary agent but someone else in the same company. Make sure you research each literary agent you are going to submit to; some have restrictions on submitting to there literary agencies at the same time.

How to write a Query:

Step one is having a one sentence snapshot of your book. Literary agents are busy, and you have to wow them in few words. Have an introduction that is both a hook and covers your central theme. When doing this it is good to look at the specific literary agent. They may absolutely love urban fairytale books and that is exactly what your book is about. Your snapshot sentence should mention that! Don’t end with the unique quality of your book; start with it.

The Query is three parts on ONE page:

1) Introduction

2) The Book Pitch

3) About the Author

Alright, you’ve picked your agency, you’ve narrowed down your specific agent. You know what they do and how you can pitch it to them BEFORE you start look at their submission guidelines. (For example most mail submissions require a SASE-Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.) Now that you have a handle on the format it is time to get writing!

It is important to keep a few things in mind when you are writing these three sections up. Keep it professional. and concise Proofread the heck out of your Query. This is particularly important when it come to the agency’s name and the agent’s name. How bad would that be if you Queries the wrong agency? An additional important note that I picked up during my research; when pitching fiction focus more on the plot than your bio. When doing non fiction that is focused on an aspect of your life, elaborate more.

Start writing samples; remember to call out details that specific agents will like or focus on. Unfortunately, there is no sure fire way to write the text but make sure you stick to the 3 big parts. If you have those and specialize it you improve your chances. Make sure that when you finish you have at least one person edit it and read it over. Make sure the grammar is as flawless as you can get it.

When emailing submissions most literary agents want you to put the text into the body and not in an attachment. They can also require synopsis, outlines, and/or chapter samples. These all have their own rules and should be treated as separate documents that give varied degrees of information. That is a quick and dirty on how to write/improve queries for literary agents/small publishing companies. It is half writing and half research.

Happy writing.

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2 thoughts on “Query Writing Tips

  1. lilpickmeup says:

    So far I haven’t submitted to a ton of agents. But, a handful and ironically enough I have received really nice and encouraging rejection e-mail responses. 🙂 Even from some that vow they don’t even respond to you at all unless they are interested. It’s like they really took the time to respond to me and encouraged me to keep pursuing other agents. Interesting. So far, I heard from 4. Some agents are very specific and want a really lengthy outline especially for non-fiction. Ugh. I haven’t done those yet. I have to basically go through my book and breakdown each chapter. They also want a section that compares my book to what is currently out there or popular. I am planning on doing this next. So far for the handful I sent, I only sent the query letter. I haven’t heard back from 2. We’ll see.

    • K.T. Munson says:

      I am glad to hear you had success with nice email replies. I did a test, wrote up an extra query for a different book I had finished and sent it via email. I got a blanket response from tons of people. However, there were a few that were unique. Local publishers and newer agents seem to at least look over the query. Ironically a local publisher responded positively but I didn’t feel like they were the right fit for me. I wasn’t very impressed with them. There in lies another important lesson on Queries, send them only to agents you actually want to work with. If you get an offer, talk with them thoroughly to make sure they are the best fit. Imagine all that time wasted on the wrong literary agent. Try to find someone who is passionate about your book! Good luck and I hope to hear a success story soon!

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