All aspiring writers, we have something for you!
We know that you have spent years researching, writing, and rewriting your book, and now it’s FINALLY ready to go out into the world. Congratulations to that!
But if you thought that writing a book was the hardest part, then we are sorry to burst your bubble, because the worst part is only yet to come.
By that, we mean writing a query letter. It is one of the most important letters you can ever write in your writing career, because it is the best way to make connections with agents and editors. And if not done right, it can result in a series of rejections that can break your morale.
So, whether you are writing a fiction novel or a non-fiction book, a query letter is the only thing standing between you and your publishing dreams.
Don’t know the formula to a striking query letter?
Not to worry, dear aspiring writers! In this blog, we will get down to the nitty-gritty of writing a killer query letter that will help you woo publishers and editors, and have your manuscripts on their desks in no time!
Are you ready for this? Then let’s go!
What Exactly is a Query Letter? (Definition)
A query letter is a formal letter written by writers to literary agents editors or publishing houses to get them excited about your book and convince them to publish it. It neatly condenses a book into a single page, giving a glimpse into the literary work and its author.
So, it usually includes an introduction to your work, a brief synopsis of your plot, and a short bio of you as an author. This means that you have around 200-400 words to seduce your literary agents into reading your manuscript.
In essence, it’s advertising your writing ideas without overselling them. Now let’s find out why writing a query letter is crucial!
Importance of Writing a Query Letter
Okay, we’re just going to come right out and say it – a query letter has one and only one purpose, and that is to grab the attention of a literary agent and convince them into reading your work.
Simple, right? Wrong. It’s not as simple as you think. In fact, it’s actually a lot of work.
Literary agents devote years of their life to a book. They are constantly traveling along with the author in their publishing journey. So, when they receive around a dozen or more query letters a day, they might only accept around four or five a year.
Your query letter is the first impression you can make on an agent. It will help them decide whether your story and idea are worth taking a look at.
Remember, your book is just one amongst hundreds, so writing a good query letter is your only chance at standing out from the crowd. It shows the agent that you have done your research and put in effort to even personalize your letter.
Whether you are experienced or completely new to the world of writing, a query letter is your first step in getting your manuscript published.
So yes, a query letter is extremely important if you want your book to hit the bookstores.
So, it’s time to move from author to salesman, and get your query letter ready for your agents.
How? We’ll show you!
Read more: Apology Letter: Definition, Format, Tips & Examples!
Tips to Write Query Letter
Before we get started, there are a couple of things you need to do in order to ensure that your query letter is outstanding. Let’s check them out!
Tip 1. Stick to a Basic Format
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the format of a query letter, but it’s ideal that you follow the basic formula that most query letters follow. It should look like a formal one-page business letter. Here’s a basic format or structure that you can fall back on:
- The greeting
- A hook that introduces the book
- A brief synopsis of your story
- A short bio about yourself
- Thank you and sign off
This will capture the essence of your book and will ensure that all the relevant information are included. Try not to get too wordy as most agents are busy people who barely have the time to read your detailed narration. So, keep it short and sweet!
Tip 2. Research About Your Agent
The last thing you want to do is write a query letter for your fiction novel to an agent who specializes in non-fiction. That’s effort and time wasted. So make sure that you do your homework and research about your agent, their history, and background before you begin writing a query letter.
Tip 3. Study Other Successful Query Letters
The best way to ensure that your query letter is on par with excellence is to study the successful ones. Spend time going through actual query letters written by successful writers so that you have a rough idea about how to write one on your own.
Tip 4. Write an Outline.
You only get one page to make your agent fall in love with your writing, so you need to be fully aware of what exactly goes into your query letter. The best way to do this is to write a rough outline so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. This will make the actual writing process a lot easier.
How to Write a Query Letter? Follow these steps:
Now that we have established those points, let’s get down to the real business of writing a query letter. Here goes:
Step 1. Address the Agent by Name
Start your query letter with a greeting. No, don’t use generic greetings like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Literary Agent”. Come on, you can do better than that! You did your research and background checks, so capture the agent’s attention by addressing them by their name. But make sure you spell their name right.
It’s such a small aspect, but it goes a long way in showing that you put in effort rather than merely following a generic template.
Step 2. Create Your Hook
Your hook is a concise and engaging opening that condenses the essence of your plot into one sentence. The idea is to grab the attention of your agent and get them excited about your work. So just cut right to the chase and present an eye-catching introductory line.
You can open the sentence with a setting, a character, a central event, or even a theme. Here are good some examples of how you can start a grabby hook:
- “It was the year 1945 when the World Ward II had…”
- “Meet Elle Roger, a secret agent trying to…”
- “While driving late night in the city, Jack discovers…”
Step 3. Provide a Summary or Synopsis
After the hook, you use the next paragraph to provide a slightly more detailed description of your story through a summary or synopsis. This is where you basically sell your manuscript. So it’s best you write this section just the way you would write a copy at the back of your book.
Your summary either makes or breaks your chances, so spend a little more time on it. Explain the who, when, where, and why of the story – this includes a description of your plot, your main character, the setting, and the lurking conflicts. Don’t give away the ending, instead leave them on a cliffhanger wanting for more.
Step 4. Include a Short Bio
This section is all about you and only you. Here, you briefly lay down your biography, writing credits, awards, previously published works (if any), and any personal experience that shows your expertise. Now’s not the time to be shy, so just flaunt yourself.
Even if you don’t have a list of publishing credits, present other relevant achievements to show what kind of a writer you are. For example, if you have a blog that gets around 10,000 pageviews a month, then mention it, OR if you have conducted multiple writing conferences or seminars, then put that down. Remember, you only have two or three lines to spare, so include only the ones that really boost your author image.
Step 5. Personalize Your Letter for Each Agent
You have already done your research about the agent you are trying to win over, so now it’s time to put all the effort into written words. In this section, you can explain why you’ve chosen this specific agent by referring back to their previous literary works or something they said at a public event.
You can add a twist of personal touch in your letter by pulling the agent’s own preferences or area of expertise into your own work to demonstrate that you have done your homework before picking the right option. It’s subtle, yet highly effective.
Step 6. Thank the Agent and Sign Off
In the final paragraph, you can mention that your manuscript is completed and available to read, and also mention that you are prepared to send additional information if the agent requests. Then you can wrap up your letter by thanking the agent for reading your letter, and sign off.
Don’t overdo with your gratitude, keep it short and sweet. Something as simple as “Thank you for your time” should do the trick. Use appropriate terms like ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Yours Truly’ or ‘Regards’ to bid farewell and sign off from your letter.
(Also, if you are sending a hard copy of a query letter, then don’t forget to include your contact information like phone number and email.)
Step 7. Proofread Proofread Proofread
A spelling error here, a grammatical mistake there, and some typos to top it all, and your query letter will easily find its way into the trash. They are a big no-no, especially when you are trying to convince a literary agent or editor that you are a good writer worthy of their attention. Therefore, you must proofread. Make multiple people proofread if you must. In the end, make sure that your query letter is completely error-free.
Follow all these steps and you will have a spectacular query letter in your hands!
But before you go, we’d like to give you a bonus tip and a surprise!
Here’s the bonus tip: Make sure the format of your query letter is uniform and neat. You don’t want your letter to be uneven and sloppy in appearance, so stick to a default font and size and make sure there is proper spacing between sentences.
And now for the surprise…
What if we told you there’s a tool out to help you make a query letter? Yes, you heard that right!
With just a couple of clicks here and there, you will have a neat and professional query letter, all in a matter of minutes!
Don’t believe us? Then brace yourself for the next section!
Read more: Letter of Authorization (Authority Letter): Definition, Examples & Steps!
Bit.ai: The Ultimate Tool to Write a Query Letter
Writing a query letter is no walk in the park. All the research you have to do, the writing involved and the editing process is extremely difficult and downright stressful.
And when you are that stressed out about something, the formatting and appearance of your query letter would be the least of your concerns. But that doesn’t mean it’s important. So, what to do?
We present to you Bit.ai, a cloud-based documentation platform, that assists you in the creation, collaboration, and sharing of beautiful documents.
Bit.ai has an extensive template gallery that provides you with over 70+ templates, which you can use for creating your query letter. You can even change the color theme of the document with one click.
You don’t have to worry about the formatting of your query letter anymore because Bit comes with an auto-formatting feature, which automatically formats your entire document and gives it a very uniform and consistent look.
Not just that, Bit support 100+ file formats which allows you to embed web links, PDFs, graphs, etc. to your document. This means you can add a link to your blog, professional website, or portfolio in your query letter. Isn’t that amazing?
What’s more? With bit’s integrated documents, you can easily collaborate and work together with multiple people on your documents. This allows you to give access to your friends or family who can then proofread and co-edit your query letter before you send it out.
All-in-all it’s the whole package deal for your query letter! Get Bit and make your lives easier!
Publishing is notorious for its rejections. Whether you are a new author or an experienced author you probably had your fair share of rejections.
But with a good query letter ready by your side, your dreams of publishing may not be so far away.
Sure, it’s a daunting task, but in this blog, we have equipped you with the right steps to create a killer query letter. And with Bit at your service, you can rest assured that your writing process will be a lot easier than before!
So, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
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