Tag Archives: sample query letters

What Is a Query Letter?

“Sweep the most eligible literary agents in the world
off their feet… and get them fighting over the
opportunity to represent you.”

In short, that’s how I answer the question:
“What is a query letter?”

If you want a literary agent to fall in love with you and your book (so you can get a major publisher and a major book deal), you have to write an irresistible query letter (revealing why you and your book are “highly desirable”).

What is a query letter?

Hold on a second…

Okay, I’m back.

Had to grab a calculator.

Tap, tap, tap… tap, tap.

What is a query letter

It looks like (during the time that I was a literary agent), I read
approximately 60,000 query letters (give or take a few thousand).

What is a query letter?

A piece of correspondence written by an author trying to get
the attention of a literary agent.

What is a query letter?

Sometimes boasting, begging, bribing, ranting, raving,
wandering, dazed, hazed, and/or confused.

What is a query letter?

Sometimes genius.

I’ve read query letters that gave me goose bumps, caused me to
gasp, and made me scream (yes, some are really that good).

What is a query letter?

Something I’m going to help you write…

What is a query letter?

A query letter is the only way to get an agent to read your completed or partial manuscript (or get a literary agent). Even if you meet a literary agent at a writers conference, have an opportunity to pitch your work, and he/she tells you that you should send the manuscript (or partial) to their office.

Your manuscript (or partial) better be accompanied by a query letter (although, in this case,
it would be more accurate to call it a “cover” letter).

What is a query letter sample

What is a query letter?

A formula.

Although every query letter should be slightly different depending on the author and the book genre (or category), there are certain query letter rules or guidelines that should be followed.

What is a query letter?

One page.

And, no, you shouldn’t cram in extra information by shrinking your font or expanding your margins. You get amateur status instantly if you do that. You also get one step closer to the recycle bin.

What is a query letter?

Four paragraphs, not three.

Most people writing books and teaching workshops about query letters are sharing incomplete information. Many authors don’t realize this and neglect to include important details that could make the difference between representation and rejection.

What is a query letter example

What is a query letter?

In a word, poetry.

And, by that I don’t mean that your query letter should rhyme (please don’t).

What I do mean is that a well-crafted query letter packs a lot of important information into a small space (one page). That means the best query letters craft sentences  with multiple layers of meaning (to make the most use of the space). For example, a single sentence in your query might identify your target market, show that you understand your market, compare/contrast a similar competing title, and let agents know that you have a sense of humor.

In essence, many sentences in your query letter should communicate at least two things. That’s always my goal when I’m helping an author draft their query, although it’s certainly not easy to do. However, when you do pull it off you’ll get responses like this one from Laurie McLean with Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in La Honda, CA. This is part of a reply she sent me after I queried her about one of my former clients (who’d lost his publisher).


laurie mclean larsen-pomada literary agency“Dear Mark… Your query letter was, bar none, the absolute best
I’ve ever
received pitching an author’s work. Short and direct,
yet packed with
information. I’d be a fool not to beg you for
a look… please mail it to my
personal address so it won’t
get mixed up with the hundreds of pieces
of mail and
packages we receive each week.”


What is a query letter?

A long shot… let’s say, one in a thousand.

Most literary agents get a least a thousand query letters every month, and they have a 95-98% rejection rate (don’t shoot the messenger).

success what is a query letter

What is a query letter?

Something to take seriously, since many of the authors you’re competing with are referrals, already famous, or previously published. Not everyone submitting query letters to literary agents is previously unpublished.

What is a query letter?

A “blink” moment.

A query letter (on average) gets less than 8 seconds of attention before a decision is made
to trash it or keep reading. I’m not exaggerating. That’s what happens when you’re an agent
who’s read tens of thousands of queries.

You get good at finding what you want… quickly.

What is a query letter?

A chance for you to “have me at hello”.

A good opening line can almost guarantee that your entire query letter will be read.
A bad opening line can, well… I think you know.

What is a query letter?

A white canvas that can be painted with
more than a hundred colors.

publishing what is a query letter

Over the years I’ve identified more than a hundred different “ingredients” that you can include in your query letter. It isn’t possible to use all the ingredients in one query letter (and that shouldn’t be your goal). The point is being aware of all the potential ingredients, and using those that will make you and your work more appealing.

What is a query letter?


An example…

Several months ago, an aspiring author emailed to tell me that he’d sent out 200 query letters and gotten 199 rejections. I asked him to send me his query letter and immediately saw the problem. His query letter was only four sentences (and they weren’t good sentences).

He hired me as a consultant and I helped him rewrite his query (a full page filled with great content making him look like the expert that he really is). He just needed some help figuring out what he needed to say, and how he needed to say it.

What is a query letter?

A difficult thing to write if you don’t have successful sample query letters to look at when you’re writing yours. How-to information is valuable (tips and strategies like these I’m sharing with you now), but it’s a lot more valuable when you have query letter examples to look at… showing you how others successfully applied those tips and strategies.

What is a query letter?

Content and style.

what is a query letter style

Most authors focus exclusively on the content of their query letter, but style can be just as important. If you’re a humor writer, show-me-don’t-tell-me with a whimsical query letter. If you’re a romance writer, “flirt” with prospective agents in your query letter.

What is a query letter?

Something you should be submitting to multiple agents (simultaneous submissions). Just don’t tell them I told you. As an author trying to get literary agency representation, it could take you years to get an agent if you approach them one by one. As a literary agent trying to sell books, it could take years to get a publisher if you approach them one by one. Agents rarely do it. Neither should you.

What is a query letter?

A procrastination trap.

Most authors say that the process of writing a query letter is just as hard (if not harder) than writing the book itself. As a result, lots of writers end up putting it off (waiting months or even years to write a query letter and send it off to agents).

template what is a query letter

Don’t fall into the trap…

What is a query letter?

A sales letter.

And most authors don’t know a thing about sales letters.

What is a query letter?

Something that has its own learning curve. You might be confident writing in your particular book genre or category, but you’ll have to study sample query letters and put in some practice time to attain mastery (or even basic competency).

Be patient.

What is a query letter?

A chance for you to show literary agents that you’re
a professional writer who’s easy to work with.

professional what is a query letter

What is a query letter?

A place for good grammar.

What is a query letter?

Not a place for typos.

What is a query letter?

Quite possibly the only thing standing between you and a
top literary agent, a major publisher, and a major book deal.

What is a query letter?

Something you should consider getting help with…

Mark Malatesta

Your “Undercover” Agent

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