3 Query Letter Tips

Query letter tips.
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on Pexels.com

Now that agents are back at work after the holidays, I’m getting ready to start querying. Sigh.

Why the sigh? Because that means wrangling a query letter. If you put a little thought into you letter, you’ll have a much better chance of hearing yes. Here are three tips to get a positive response.

Check What They Represent

There are so many places to read up on what an agent represents. SCBWI has market listings in The Book. Agencies have detailed sites. Agents post profiles, including what they represent, on Manuscript Wish List. These profiles frequently include detailed wish lists.

Yet one of the most often heard complaints from agents is that people send them things that they don’t represent. If an agent only wants middle grade and young adult fiction and they love dogs, do not send them your picture book about dogs. Just don’t. If they only represent fiction, don’t send nonfiction. I’m not even going to try to detail every possibility.

Check to see what they represent. Send them what they represent or don’t send them anything.

Names Matter

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but an agent wants you to get their name right. This means that you need to call James Agent James Agent. Not Jimmy or Jim. Not Janet Agent followed by an apology. James Agent.

And what about Mr., Ms, or Miss? Check to see what they prefer. Many agents have this on either the agency site or their Twitter profile. I shouldn’t say ‘or.’ I bet that a lot of them have it on both.

If I’m not sure, I just go with James Agent. “Dear James Agent…” No one has rejected me for this . . . yet.

Manuscript Summaries and Expectations

Many queries are accompanied by sample pages. Check and see how many pages this agency/agent wants.

When it comes time to write your summary, make sure that something that happens within those sample pages can be found in that summary. You don’t want to write a high stakes summary and then send 5 samples pages in which your character is researching the origin of their sir name. You don’t want to hook the editor with a romance that doesn’t start up until page 45.

This doesn’t mean that your summary cannot go beyond your sample pages. But you don’t want to get the agent excited for something that they do not get to sample.

Agents want to find material to represent. Send them what they want, call them by name, and tempt them with a summary they get to sample in the pages you’ve sent.


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