Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Fiction Book Query Letter/Proposal

The stand-alone Fiction Query Letter/Proposal has only one purpose, to seduce your literary agent or publisher into reading/requesting your full book manuscript.

The Query is essentially a sales piece and for some writers, it represents a completely different way of thinking about your book, it means seeing your work as a marketable commodity.

Before you begin the Query process, have a finished and polished manuscript ready to go. It should be fully edited and the best you can make it. Only start this process when you are comfortable with your manuscript ready to appear being between covers on a major chain bookstore shelf or being featured on Amazon.com

Remember that a book is not considered as such until it is published and beforehand it is a “work” or a “manuscript.”

Here are the components that Goldilocks considers when composing/compiling your Fiction Query Letter/Proposal.

Simply click on each one and be taken further down the page where you will find a very detailed explanation of what should be included in that part of your Query submission.

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Introduction

You may occasionally hear about a Fiction Book Proposal as a Fiction Query or a Fiction Proposal.  The components that make up this package include as its focal point, a Query Letter. It will also accompany sample chapters of your manuscript and in some cases a long “synopsis,” but always check with your literary agent or publisher as most of them will list their requirements for a successful Fiction Query submission. This document compilation bears little to no relation to a typical Nonfiction Book Proposal.

If you have your completed novel ready, and you should, then the next step is to write the Query Letter. The purpose of this document is to introduce your book and hook an agent or editor so they want to read more and will eagerly request to see your entire work/manuscript. Think of it as a Cover Letter for your resume.

Remember that a novel is not considered a novel until it is published.  It is a “work” or “manuscript” in progress up until that point.

As mentioned before, when submitting a proposal for a fiction book, your entire manuscript should be complete. (The exception is, of course, if you are a multi-published fiction author. In that case, you will likely not need a Query Letter at all, and your proposal format will be different.)

Keep in mind that with a Query Letter, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Use short sentences and block paragraphs for ease of reading.

Imagine this, your Letter is one of hundreds that your potential agent must read through this week. They’re probably skimming through quite a few of those letters. Make it easy for them to scan yours by employing crisp, easy to digest sentences.

This is also important, your Query Letter should evoke the same tone as your novel. Mirror the same language that you use in your book…

Is it funny? Inject some of that humor into your Query Letter

Is it flowery? Use ornate and elegant language to sell your story. But be careful with wordiness.

When submitting Book Queries, your Letter has precious little time to grab the attention of the literary agent reading it. If you don’t get to the meat of the book right away, yours might end up in the recycle bin.

Goldilocks devotes a separate Methodology/Process for creating your Fiction Manuscript Synopsis (only include this component if your literary agent guidelines require you to do so) and you can find it here…

Notice that there are two versions which will be addressed separately and there are reasons for choosing which one to submit with your Query Letter.

Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Fiction Book Synopsis (Short/Single Page Style)

Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Fiction Book Synopsis (Long Form)

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Create the Title Page

This is the easiest part of your submission. Type the title neatly centered on one page. You should enter “A Novel” as the subtitle. Also, remember

Not to forget the date you are submitting your proposal. Finally, include your name, mailing address, phone numbers, and an E-Mail address

(It is suggested that you use one that shows your full name or your Website address and not one that has a jumble of numbers and characters.) Also, Gmail is fine but refrain from using either Hotmail or Yahoo mail. You want to show your literary agent/publisher that you are a professional and that you mean business.

______________________________________________________________________________

Sample Cover Page

A Book Proposal for

GOLDILOCKS AND HER THREE BEARS IN THE MODERN WORLD

A Novel

Submitted by

Linda Odubayo Thompson

3 Steven Drive#6

Ossining, NY 10562

Office: (914) 944-1474

Cell: (914) 420-2509

linda@goldilocksmeansbusiness.com

Presented on

July 10, xxxx

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

Notice that the title of your book should be fully capitalized and all lines are centered.

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The Importance of Literary Agent Research

When you’re writing your Query, it stands to reason you are researching agents and editors, either beforehand or at the same time. You want to send your book proposal to those who want to represent your genre and who fit with your needs. If you haven’t done research, do it now! Don’t query the whole world!

In your Query Letter, it’s smart to mention some of that agent research and you will do that right up front and center as part of personalizing every one of these letters individually to your prospective literary agents/publishers.

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Personalization: where You Customize the Letter for Each Recipient

This is your first opportunity to engage with your literary agent.

Remember, your Query is a sales tool, and good salespeople develop a rapport with those they want to sell to, and show that they understand their needs. Make it clear that you’ve done your homework, that you care, and that you’re not blasting indiscriminately.

Will you be automatically rejected for not personalizing your query?

No, but if you do take the trouble to do so you’ll set yourself apart from the large majority of writers querying, and that’s the point.

There’s nothing more impersonal than using a “to whom it may concern” address/greeting. This shouts, I’m sending this Query Letter to every single agent on the eastern seaboard. And, while that’s probably the case, you’ll miss a valuable opportunity to individually engage the agent (or assistant) by simply using their full names.

What’s in the very first couple of sentences of the query?

This varies from writer to writer and from project to project. You put your best foot forward, or you lead with your strongest selling point. Here are some common ways to begin a Query…

  • You’ve been vouched for or referred by an agent’s existing client or if you’re querying a publisher, you might be referred by one of their authors.
  • Maybe you met the agent/editor at a conference or pitch event where your material was requested (in which case, your Query Letter doesn’t carry much of a burden).
  • You heard the agent/editor speak at a conference or you read something they wrote that indicates they’re a good fit for your work.
  • Mention excellent credentials or awards such as, you have an advanced writing degree from a school where an agent is known to recruit clients, you’ve won first prize in a national competition with thousands of entrants, or you have impressive publication credits with prestigious journals or New York publishers.

Note: You shouldn’t include a blanket statement mentioning a blog or previous books. Not all agents have a blog, so that could get you in trouble. And most of them won’t believe you’ve done the research unless you can mention specific books that they have represented. Take the time to customize each of your Query Letters. You’ll see better results.

Examples of Strong and Weak Personalized Leads

Here’s a strong one…

In a February interview on the (name of blog,) you praised BY THE MOONLIGHT and indicated an interest in “literary fiction with a genre plot.” My paranormal romance BENEATH THE RED SAILS (85,000 words) blends a literary style with the romance tradition.

Weak opening…

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to star in your own reality TV show? What if you were the only one who didn’t know the cameras were rolling? Find out in my book.

Another strong opening…

Please consider my 75000-word mainstream novel about a man whose seemingly ordinary life turns out to be the center of a well-crafted conspiracy. After reading some of the novels you represent (list names of two books,) I feel that my book will fit with your interests. 

Writing “good” leads communicates one important thing to the agent or editor you are querying, and that is that you sent your proposal to them on purpose. If you’ve made the effort to do the research, then they may be more inclined to spend the time to read your full proposal.

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Manuscript Specifications

Book Title

One of the first things you’ll have to introduce is your novel’s title. Naming a book can be difficult, but it is important that you spend time developing it. Why? A catchy

One can make or break your Proposal.

Finding that perfect title can be frustrating, especially if the publishing house you will be working with, eventually rejects it. Your aim should be to hook your agent or editor

Where you are sending your proposal, but don’t get too attached to your title. Their marketing department may revise it later.

Genre Identification

After you’ve determined your title, you should identify your audience. You do this by naming the genre. This may seem like a minor part of the Query, but it’s actually very important.

It tells the agent or editor where your novel will be shelved in a store. It also tells them if your work is something they represent. Not all agents and editors sell romance novels or memoirs. In fact, most specialize in a few genres only. This is why you were able to identify the literary agent or publisher correctly in the first part of this Query because you did your homework to properly pinhole the correct representative to pitch your novel.

When choosing a genre, don’t make one up. This may seem like common sense, but one of the biggest pet peeves of agents and editors is when authors include a non-existent one in the Query Letter. “Vampire Fiction” is not a genre, for example. The appropriate classification for a vampire story is “Paranormal.”

How do you know what your genre is?

Think of where you’d find your novel in a bookstore.

Would it be in fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, romance, or somewhere else?

These are general genres that are safe to use. Young adult is also one, so if you write for the under-eighteen crowd, this is what you should use.

Manuscript Length 

Since your manuscript is fully written before you write your Proposal, it should be easy for you to get a word count. The typical length for a first-time novel is between 80,000 to 120,000 words. Some agents only accept debut novels under 100,000 words. Be aware

of your word count. If it’s shorter than this, but not much shorter, you should be okay. If it’s longer than 120,000 words, you need to trim it down.

Important, never report the number of pages in your manuscript. This can change based on your font and spacing, so it’s not an absolute. Plus, once your novel is typeset for printing, the page number will be drastically different, and the word count will likely be the same, though it is a great idea to mention that your book has been reviewed by a professional editor. Agents love a polished manuscript. They notice writers who’ve taken the extra step of getting it fine-tuned by a copy expert. This makes the writer appear more professional and serious, and will definitely add more weight to your Query Letter.

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The “Hook,” the Meat of Your Query Letter

This is the most important part of your Query. The aim of the hook is to convey the premise of your book in nine sentences or less. Many literary agents or publishers want only just a few sentences and it’s a hard task to manage.

There are hooks that are roughly 100 to 200 words in length, others are a paragraph, and there are some that are shorter, much depends on the genre and the nature of the story. In describing the characters, you usually need to mention only the protagonist, the romantic interest or sidekick, and the antagonist. And don’t get bogged down in minor plot points that don’t affect the protagonist’s choices or the story outcome. Finally, don’t reveal the ending in your hook.

Keep in mind that you are not supposed to be thinking of this as a Novel Synopsis/Summary which is a much longer description of your book’s plot and characters.  Only supply this version if it is required by your literary agent or publisher.

Goldilocks has provided some separate Methodology/Process pages for this important part of some Query submissions…

Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Fiction Book Synopsis (Long form)

Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Fiction Book Synopsis (Short/Single Page Style)

Let’s continue…

To simplify this process, here’s a list of tips to keep in mind when composing your hook…

  • It should cover only the first few chapters of your novel.

By chapter three or four, your readers usually know who the main characters are, what they want, why the goal is hard to reach and this means they understand the main conflict.

  • Focus only on the most important, interesting details of your story.

Mention only the main characters you meet in the beginning of the story and sidekicks can be left out. Usually, the best thing to do is to feature the character who is the focal point of the story and the antagonist.

If a love interest is present, such as in a romance, or another significant character, you may include them, too.

  • Talking about more than three characters in nine sentences may be overwhelming, though and especially if you have to do it using even fewer lines, quite a challenge!
  • Write in third person (he, she), even if your book is in first person.
  • Make sure to speak in your own, unique voice. Think about the tone of your book and infuse that into your Query hook. It’s as much about gaining interest for the plot as it is about your voice as a writer.
  • Leave a little bit of a cliff hanger to hint at what’s to come in the book, but don’t reveal the ending. You want to hook the literary agent or publisher and convince them that they want to stick with your story from beginning to end.
  • Start small and work your way up to nine sentences if required.

This last piece of advice may be the hardest, but it will make things easier. The best thing to do is to summarize your story in one sentence using the following scenarios…

This sentence should talk about the main character’s goals, motivation, and the conflict that stands in the way.

Let’s look at this in greater detail…

Here is a little template that you can use to construct this sentence…

I have a completed (word count) (genre) titled (title) about (protagonist name plus a little about that person) who has (conflict description).

  • Try to answer these questions…

What does your character want? Why does he want it? What keeps him from getting it?

And a template to help you compose this version…

(Character name including small description about that person) and (the conflict they’re suffering with/going through) and (the choices they have to make).

The Three Elements of a Novel Hook

For most writers, it’s the hook that does most of the work in convincing their agent/editor to request your manuscript. You need to boil down your story to these three key elements…

  • Protagonist and his conflict
  • The choices the protagonist has to make (or the stakes)
  • The sizzle or the spark
  • Some genres/categories should add a fourth element, the setting or time period

What does “sizzle” mean?

It’s that unique little thing that sets your work apart from all others in the genre, that makes your story stand out, and makes it uniquely yours. Sizzle means that your idea isn’t tired or been done a million times before.

How do you know if your idea is tired?

Well, this is why everyone tells writers to read and read and read. It builds your knowledge and experience and helps you to recognize what has been done before in your genre.

When a hook is well written but boring, it’s often because it lacks anything fresh. It’s the same old formula without distinction. The protagonist feels one-dimensional (or like every other one), the story angle is something we’ve seen too many times, and the premise doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. The agent or editor is thinking, “Sigh. Another one of these?”

This is the toughest part of the hook finding that special something that creates the sizzle, that makes someone say, “Wow, I’ve got to see more of this!” And this is often how an editor or agent gauges if you’re a storyteller worth being considered for a contract to publish your work.

Sometimes great hooks can be botched because there is no life, voice, or personality in them.

Yet, so-so ones can be taken to the next level because they convey a liveliness or personality that is seductive. You want to be one of those writers, of course!

Examples of Some Hooks That Are Engaging 

The following hooks are inevitably well-crafted, and can help you better understand which ones really excite agents/publishers. While yours would/should probably get into more detail than this one example, it illustrates how much you can accomplish in just a line or two.

(Title of book), an emotionally controversial novel about a palm reader with a sixth sense (protagonist) who, while following her calling, has to confront a dark and uncertain future when standing trial for the death of her best friend’s baby (protagonist’s problem).

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Check for Red Flags in Your Novel Hook

The following situations should not be part of your hook.  They are more suited to the longer version of the story synopsis/summary which should only be submitted if requested by your agent or publisher…

  • Does your hook consist of several meaty paragraphs, or run longer than 200 words?
  • Does it reveal the ending of your book? 
  • Do you mention more than three or four characters?
  • Does your hook get into minor plot points that don’t affect the choices the protagonist makes? Do you really need to mention them?

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Author Bio/Credentials

In the world of non-fiction, a degree or work experience can help you land a book contract. After all, who is more qualified to write a book on finance than someone with a college degree in business accounting? However, this does not always stand true for fiction writing.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If you’re writing a science fiction novel on computers and you have a degree in Information Technology, this might give you a little credit. One in English or a Masters in Writing could help, too, but it won’t guarantee that an agent will take you on.

A lot of would-be authors mistake your Bio for a memoir. You have about two sentences to turn the spotlight on yourself. This isn’t the time to talk about your childhood in the south of Italy unless it is relevant to the novel you’re pitching.

Use your common sense when picking which credentials to mention. The key to every detail in your Bio is…

Will it be meaningful or perhaps charming to the agent/editor?

If you can’t confidently answer yes, leave it out.

In order of importance, these are the categories of pertinent information that should be included in your Bio…

Publication Credits Print and Online

Be specific about your credits for this to be meaningful. Don’t say you’ve been published “in a variety of journals.” You might as well be unpublished if you don’t want to name them.

When you’ve had short stories published in magazines or articles published in a newspaper, these are legitimate credentials. Experience as an editor for any publication or company may give you a leg up, too.

Online writing credits can be just as worthy as print credits. Popular and well-known journals and blogs count! Leave out credits like your church newsletter or those that hold little to no significance for the publishing industry professionals.

General Writing Credibility

It makes sense to mention any writing-related degrees you have, any major professional writing organizations you belong to such as…

Romance Writers of America (RWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and possibly any major events/retreats/workshops you’ve attended to help you develop your career as a writer.

You needn’t say that you frequent a specific Online community, or that you belong to a writers’ group the agent would’ve never heard of. (Mentioning this won’t necessarily hurt you, but it’s not proving anything either.)

Avoid cataloguing every single thing you’ve ever done in your writing life. Refrain from highlighting stuff about starting to write when you were in second grade, how much your writing has improved over time or that you are happy because you have returned to writing in your retirement years.

Just include 1 or 2 highlights that prove your seriousness and devotion to the craft of writing. If unsure, leave it out.

Should you mention self-published books?

That’s totally up to you. Sooner or later this information will have to come out, so it’s usually just a matter of timing. Lots of people have done it, and it doesn’t really hurt your chances. If you do mention it, it’s best if you’re proud of your efforts and are ready to discuss your success (or failure) in doing it. If you consider it a mistake or irrelevant to the project at hand, leave it out, and understand it may come up later.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your self-publishing credits make you somehow more desirable as an author, unless you have really incredible sales success, in which case, mention those numbers and how long it’s been on sale.

Work/Career

If your life’s working vocation/profession lends you credibility to write a better story, by all means mention it. But you shouldn’t go into lengthy detail.

Special Research

Did your novel come about as a result because of some intriguing or unusual research (you spent a year in the Congo), tell your literary agent about it?

Major Awards/Competitions

Most writers should not mention awards or competitions they’ve won because they are too small to matter. If the award isn’t widely recognizable to the majority of publishing professionals, then the only way to convey the significance of this is to talk about how many people you beat out during the contest. Usually the entry number needs to be in the thousands to impress an agent/editor.

What if you have no fiction writing credits?

Should you say you’re unpublished?

Absolutely not, that point will be made clear by fact of omission.

Many novelists wonder if it’s helpful to list nonfiction credits. They are notable credits when they show you have some experience working with editors or understanding how the professional writing world works. That said: Academic or trade journal credits can be tricky, since they definitely don’t convey fiction writing ability. Use your discretion, but it’s probably not going to be a deal breaker either way.

It’s not wise to draw attention to your lack of credentials. Plenty of first-time novelists land an agent without having published anything before, so it’s not something to worry about. However, mentioning you’re a first-timer in a Query may make an agent or editor wary of signing a contract with you, so just omit the Bio Section in your Query Letter.

Example of a solid bio…

A professional writer for more than 30 years, I’ve had short stories published in literary journals such as (names of journals.)  My first novel manuscript was a finalist for a (list name of prestigious award in writing). I am co-founder and editor of the online literary journal (name of publication,) and also write the (name of blog.)

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Closing/Showing Appreciation and Next Steps/Options

You rarely read much advice about how to properly close a Fiction Query Letter/Proposal, perhaps because there’s not much to it, right?

You say thanks, sign your name and you are done! But here’s how to leave a good final impression. Use your talents as a writer to really finish your Query with a bang. Remember that those who are evaluating your submission should be hooked by your first sentences and impressed by your final words.

  • Thank your literary agent, but don’t carry on unnecessarily, or be incredibly subservient, or beg.

Avoid this type of verbiage…

“I know you’re very busy and I would be forever indebted and grateful if you would just look at a few pages.”

  • There’s no need to go into great detail about when and how you’re available. Make sure your Query Letter/Proposal includes, somewhere, your phone number, E-Mail address, and return address. (Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for snail mail queries.) It is recommended that you put your contact information at the very top of your letter. It is not necessary to repeat it again at the bottom of your Query submission unless you are sending your submission via E-Mail, in that case this is where to enter this information.
  • It’s not a good idea to introduce the possibility of an in-person meeting.Don’t say you’ll be visiting their city soon, and ask if they’d like to meet for coffee. The only possible exception to this is if you know you’ll hear them speak at an upcoming conference, but still don’t ask for a meeting. Just say you look forward to hearing them speak. Use the conference’s official channels to set up an appointment if any are available.
  • Remember to offer sample chapters (if the agent does not accept sample chapters in the initial query) and/or the complete manuscript (only if it is finished, of course).
  • It is not necessary to state that you are simultaneously querying multiple literary agents or publishers. Everyone assumes this, send them out in batches of three to five or more, if you’re confident in your Query quality. That being said there is a great big “BUT” and that is that each one you send out should be personalized for each literary agent/publisher you are pitching. Otherwise the rest of the body of your Letter/Proposal can remain the same from one submission to another.

In closing your Query, you don’t have to state that you are pitching to others simultaneously. However, if the manuscript is under consideration by another agent or editor, state that fact if or when someone else requests it.

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Sample Chapters Submission

Unless you are told otherwise, include the first three chapters (and yes, a prologue is a chapter), but no more than 50 pages of your manuscript. Make sure they are complete, are the first chapters, and if the third one ends at page 51 send 51 pages. If chapter three ends at page 80 then you only send two chapters. Just use good judgment. Literary agents really like authors who can make good decisions.

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Synopsis Submission if Required By Your Literary Agent

Goldilocks has provided you with her separate Methodology/Process Webpage that will walk you through compiling/composing a really great Novel Synopsis…

If you need to include a synopsis, Place it at the end of the package.

Do you really want people to read this earlier in your Query Letter?

Remember the last thing that they read in your submission should leave them with a really great impression such that they eagerly contact you to see your whole book manuscript.

Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Fiction Book Synopsis (Long Form)

Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Fiction Book Synopsis (Short Single-Page Style)

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Other Important Fiction Query Letter Considerations

  • Never mention your “submission history” with your novel manuscript…

-How many literary agents you’ve queried

-Number of near misses you’ve suffered

-The extent of compliments you’ve received about your manuscript from others

  • Do you have a series in mind?

This is a good time to mention it, but don’t belabor the point. You can devote a sentence or two emphasizing this point.

  • Resist the temptation to editorialize.This is where you proclaim how much your agent will…

-Love your novel

-find out how exciting it is

-See how it’s going to be a bestseller if only someone would give it a chance

-How much the world needs this work?

In addition, try not to oversell your manuscript and never use any of the following sentences in your Query…

  • Get ready to read your next best-seller
  • This book belongs with treasured classics
  • You’ll kick yourself if you pass this one up

Here’s why you don’t want to do it: it’s bad taste, and it’s already implied. Why else would you shop your manuscript if you didn’t think highly of it?

Instead of tooting your own horn, let your work sing for itself.

  • Should I compare my book to another title, or compare myself to another author?

This can be helpful as long as you do it tastefully, and without self-advertising. It’s usually best to compare the work in terms of style, voice, or theme, rather than in terms of sales, success, or quality.

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Some Information You Shouldn’t Include in Your…Fiction Query Letter/Proposal

Here is a general list of pieces of information that you should leave out of your Fiction Query submission and these guidelines should help you refrain from placing related verbiage in your Query Letter.

  • Reviews of your work by other people.

No literary agent or publisher will be impressed if you tell them your friends or family enjoyed your story. Only one opinion matters, and that’s the professional reading your proposal.

  • A request for advice or comments.

A literary agent or publisher will only give you feedback if they feel the urge to. These busy professionals can’t remark on every proposal they see.

  • Submitting multiple stories per query.

Even if your book is the first book in a series, you should only mention one novel per query. You are trying to sell the manuscript you have completed. If you have other ones you’d like to publish, query them separately or wait to talk about them until after you’ve signed with a

literary agent or publisher. If your novel is part of a series, it’s safe to inform them of this fact, but don’t mention the titles or plot points of other books.

In addition, you shouldn’t bother mentioning the following items unless the literary agents you are pitching to requests them as part of your Fiction Query…

  • Your social media presence
  • Your online platform
  • Your marketing plan
  • Your years of effort and dedication
  • How much your family/friends love your work
  • How many times you’ve been rejected

Sometimes you might mention your website or blog, especially if you feel confident about its presentation. The truth is the agent/editor is going to Google you anyway, and find your website/blog whether you mention it or not (unless you’re writing under a different name).

Keep in mind that having an online presence helps show you’ll likely be a good marketer and promoter of your work, especially if you have a sizable readership already, but it doesn’t say anything about your ability to write a great story. That said, if you have 100,000+ fans/readers on LinkedIn or at your blog, that should be in your query letter.

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Red Flags for Query Submission

  • A Query that runs longer than one single page single spaced shows that you have said too much and you should look back over the copy and figure out what information is less important and can be deleted.
  • If your novel’s word count is much higher than 100,000 words, you have a much bigger challenge ahead of you. Eighty thousand words is the industry standard for a debut novel.
  • Ensure you’ve specified your genre, without being on the fence about it
  • Direct comments on the quality of your work. Your Query should show not tell the worth of your writing. On the flip side, don’t criticize yourself, or the quality of your work, in the Letter.
  • Refrain from editorializing your story for the agent/editor, almost as if you were writing a review of your work…

“In this fast-paced thriller, in a final twist that will change your world, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry…”

  • Explanations of how or why you came to write your book, especially if your motivation is so common as to be a cliché.
  • A discussion of trends in the market or your work’s target audience. You need to sell the story, not the genre.
  • For those authors who have previously self-published their work, including that detail in your Query presents a minor dilemma. These days, self-publishing doesn’t usually hurt your future chances of traditional publication, but self-publishing credits don’t make you more desirable as an author either.
  • Talk about how you’ve wanted to write since you were a child
  • how much your family and friends love your work
  • Avoid heavy use of adjectives, adverbs, and modifiers. In fact, try creating a version of your Query without any modifiers, and see what happens.

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E-Mailing Fiction Query Submissions

Literary agent/publisher guidelines may allow for either E-Mail or snail-mail queries. E-Mail versions can lead to faster response times, but they may also be easier to delete or reject. An E-Mail Query may have to get to the point even more quickly than a paper-based document.

Make sure it can be read in a glance or two, without scrolling.

Formatting Your E-Mail Queries

  • Write your Query in Word or Text Edit. Strip out all formatting. (Usually there is an option under “Save As” that will allow you to save as simple text.)
  • Send the document without any formatting including any indents (use block style).
  • Use CAPS for anything that would normally be in italics
  • Don’t use address, date headers, or contact information at the beginning of the E-Mail, put all of that stuff at the bottom, underneath your name.
  • The first line should read “Dear [Agent Name]”:
  • Some writers structure their E-Queries differently than paper submissions (or make them shorter). Consider how much the agent can see of your E-Mail on the first screen, without scrolling. That’s probably how far they will read before responding or hitting delete. Adjust your Query accordingly. Usually the hook should go first, unless you have a strong personalization angle.