If you’re seeking to get published, query letters are an important tool for the journey. There are hundreds of places online to learn how to write a good query, but I wanted to give you a simple, straightforward set of instructions.
Queries should include the following three elements:
- Something about the book – enough to make the agent want more.
- Something about you – tailored as appropriate for your book.
- Some content from the book pasted into the email—IF the agent requests it in their guidelines, which I do.
Tips for a great query:
- It starts with a few sentences designed to make the agent want to read your book. To figure out how to do this, read the back-cover copy or Amazon copy of your favorite books. The goal is not to give a detailed synopsis, but instead to write something interesting and informative enough that they want to read more.
- Author bio for non-fiction: Include some information about yourself, specifically why YOU are the correct person to write this book. What are your qualifications? Are you a published author? What’s the most important thing the agent needs to know about your platform?
- It should be no longer than the equivalent of one typewritten page, about 3 to 6 paragraphs (not including the sample pages). For non-fiction books where platform is crucial, you may need to make it a little longer.
- This is a letter, not a book synopsis dropping into their inbox out of the sky. You are writing to an actual person. So it’s best if the query is addressed to the recipient by name, and it should not only give your pitch and your personal information, it should be structured as a letter, and have some of your personality in it.
- Include the genre and word count. If you don’t know about genres, please do some research and learn prior to querying. Include your anticipated final word count, making sure it’s appropriate for your genre.
- Check the submission guidelines of each agent and/or publisher you’re querying, if possible, so you can be sure to send them what they want. A few agents want you to attach a book proposal, but most do not.
- No attachments, please, unless specifically requested in the agent’s guidelines.
- Please don’t ask the agent to click on a link, such as a link to your website or blog. Your signature can include links to your blog or website.
Below is a hypothetical query letter that I made up based on a popular book. This shows how you pitch the book, tell who it’s for, and give the agent a bit of information about yourself as well. Hope this helps!
Dear [agent name],
In my non-fiction book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, I dispel the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness, and I show how it is actually our most accurate measure of courage. When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.
Vulnerability isn’t a popular topic – it’s subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. But nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, or hurtful as standing on the outside looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena — whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, or the creative process. Daring Greatly means allowing ourselves to be seen, and without vulnerability, we can never have true courage.
This book is for anyone who has ever asked themselves — what would I do if I weren’t afraid?
As a PhD and LMSW, I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals as they’ve gathered the courage to be vulnerable, and this book is based on twelve years of intense cultural research. I’m a professor at the Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and my Ted Talks have been viewed over 2 million times. I have two previous books published by Penguin, The Gifts of Imperfection and I Thought It Was Just Me. I’ve been featured on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, the Today Show, and The View. My blog receives 50,000 views per month.
My book is projected to be 65,000 words, and I’ve prepared a book proposal with three sample chapters. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary, looking for authors with long-term publishing potential. She represents Christian fiction and non-fiction, with a particular fondness for strong spiritual memoirs and books that address contemporary issues in Christianity. www.rachellegardner.com