Querying an agent or publisher is one of the most nerve-wracking things that you can do as a writer; you put your work out there, and hope to avoid rejection. It goes without saying that the quality of your manuscript will ultimately decide the success of your writing career, but a good quality query will make the path to publication smoother and quicker.
So, how do you write the kind of query that has manuscript requests flooding in?
The Fantastic Five (Factors)
A good query is made up of five main elements;
- What you are selling
- OPTIONAL – Bio (this would come before closing)
Opening – Address the agent by name, spell it correctly, and lead with your best foot, so to speak. If you have credentials and previously published works you could mention them, and if you have met the agent before (especially if they requested your manuscript) mention this right away. The most common opening, especially for new authors, is to give the hook of your story.
What You’re Selling – Detail your title, any subtitles, genre, and category. Resist the urge to over state or boast; be business like and concise.
Hook and Synopsis – Writing an effective hook and synopsis is an issue all on its own, but your hook should deal with three main points: your protagonist, the conflict, and the stakes. Your synopsis should be attached to the query and be roughly one page long.
Closing – Bring you query to a close in a clear, compact way; think two or three sentences maximum. There’s no need to state that you are simultaneously querying, but you should mention if you’ve had interest from another agency. Give contact information, and thank the agent for their time.
Bio – A bio is not something that would necessarily be required at all, and it’s not wise if you’ve never published before. If you have you should mention the books or short stories you have published as well as giving a small amount of personal details.
Email queries are certainly an option these days, always check to see if the agent lists a preference on their site, but keep in mind that email queries should be formatted differently. They will also be read more quickly, and any mistakes will be glaringly obvious; be sure you proofread thoroughly.
For email queries;
- Contact information should go at the bottom after your signature
- Use Block Style; no formatting, no indents,
- Place anything that should be in italics in CAPTIALS
- Copy and paste your query into a word document to check spelling and grammar
Best of Luck!