Writing A Query Letter
Finding a literary agent was always one of my top goals as a writer. I learned early on that having a literary agent opened doors of opportunity to have my work submitted to big named publishing houses. In the eight years I have been actively writing and trying to promote my work independently, I have made a lot of mistakes and taken paths that didn’t lead me to my ideal destination. However, I don't regret one moment of that journey because it has shaped me into the writer I am today. I feel blessed to have been able to take away so much knowledge and understanding from this experience because at the end of the day, that is what it means to me to be an author, having these life changing experiences. After wallpapering my walls with rejection, I learned to keep going, keep researching and to keep learning the trade. Instead of doubting myself, I took those rejections and discovered how to reinvent my work and find an agent to represent my writing. For me, this journey is about becoming the greatest writer I can be. I don’t need or want to be the best; I just want to reach my personal best.
There is a formula to finding an agent. Statistics show that writers have a one in one thousand chance of finding an agent. Some statistics claim it's one in two thousand and others say only 2% of authors have agents and most agents only accept two to four new clients a year. Those numbers can seem daunting, impossible, and crippling, but I looked at it as a goal. I mentally prepared myself for the copious rejection that awaited me and promised myself to reach out to two hundred literary agents per genre of books I have written. But before I jumped straight into the waters, I needed a plan.
I made a list of what I would need to venture out into the vast world of finding a literary agent online.
1: An edited and completed story for fiction
2: An edited query letter
3: An edited cover letter
4: A list of 200 literary agents accepting submissions in my story's genre
5: A notepad to record the agents I queried and their response
6: A brave face to accept rejection and keep going
First things first, I had to learn the art of writing a query letter, cover letter and book proposal. In this post I will be writing how to write a query letter. It may not seem like a query letter is extremely important. You may be thinking that if you have written the next Harry Potter, you won't need an impactful query letter. You might believe that an agent will read your sample pages and instantly become mesmerized with your work and offer you a letter of representation. I wish that were true and for a lucky few who have connections, that might be true for them. Unfortunately for the rest of us without a connection that's not how this works. You must convince the agent to read your sample pages and you do that through a damn good query letter.
How To Write A Damn Good Query Letter
A query letter should be simple, to the point, and no more than four paragraphs. A query letter is an invitation for an agent to read more about your book. It is not supposed to overpower the agent or drown them in the story or your history as a writer.
1: Open with a personal and strong greeting:
I spent a lot of time researching agents, I wanted them to want to represent my work as much as I would want to be represented by them. In your opening sentence connect with the agent, mention something personal, but not too personal that you have read about them. Wrap that into your opening. I once received a response from one of the top literary agents of all time. He personally responded to my query letter by saying my letter was one of the most humane query letters he had received and found it to be thoroughly written. Then he thanked me for writing such a query letter. He was currently closed to submissions and was not taking on any more clients, but he encouraged me to keep going. That proved to me I was on the right track on how to write my query letters. Often agents receive hundreds of submissions a week, and it becomes too many for them to respond to ones they pass on. If you receive a personal rejection letter, take that as a sign you wrote a damn good query letter.
2: Sell the book in two sentences:
In your opening paragraph, craft your hook so its sharp and precise. You don’t want to keep repeating yourself, show the agent you are confident in your work without bragging or saying, “I just wrote the next Harry Potter.” Be professional with your hook. The idea to writing a good hook is to show the agent why your book stands out amongst the thousands of books in your genre.
3: Finish the first paragraph:
Inform the agent that this is a completed manuscript and include the word count, genre and mention other books that are similar to yours.
4: Include an alluring synopsis:
A synopsis is comprised of major elements in your story. You must include the plot, your main characters and the climax of your story. Explain what the conflict is and how does it drive your story. Keep them wanting more but give them enough where they feel satisfied.
4: Include a bio
Do not confuse a bio with bragging. Agents want to know why you are the one to write this book, what are your credentials and why they should place their faith and trust in an unknown author. What they don’t want to read is why you are better than your competition. Keep it modest with facts not opinions. List your social media sites and online presence, include any independent marketing you have done for your books. Give credit to the people who have helped you along the way, give names of bloggers and online presence who have been promoting your work. Include any relevant educational experience you have, awards you have received or writing accomplishments. If you are a self-published author, include how many books you have sold within the first year of your release and list any advertising you did to help promote your book. Agents want to know you have an audience, if you don’t have an audience yet, tell them how you would go about getting one.
5: Send the query letter to your editor to be proofread:
Your query letter is your business card and resume wrapped up in one. It needs to be free from grammar mistakes and spelling errors. The more pride you put into your query the more successful it will be.
6: Closing the query letter:
Keep this part simple. Thank the agent for their time and consideration. After you sign your name include your contact details and all social media sites.
Once you have your damn good query letter go to go, commit to submitting it to two hundred agents. Below is a free online site to search for literary agents:
Good Luck! And Much Love! xo