Goldilocks: Nonfiction Book Query Letter

Are you struggling to write your Nonfiction Book Query Letter to literary agents?

Once you find literary agents that indicate that they represent authors like you who are writing nonfiction books in a particular genre, then your first step in the traditional publishing process is to send them a Query (pitch) Letter.

Many great prospective authors ask Goldilocks year after year…

Why is it so hard to get published?

In many cases, they have spent years, and possibly thousands of dollars on books and courses developing their craft. They submit to the appropriate markets (literary agents and publishers), yet rejection is always the end result.

What is the big stumbling block?

Well, you guessed it, a weak Nonfiction Query Letter.

This Letter is often the most important document submitted in the publishing process. In many cases, it determines whether an editor or agent will request that you send your Book Proposal as the second step in the Nonfiction Book Publishing Process.

A great Query Letter makes a good first impression and gets you to first base, on the other hand, a bad one means you strike out and you earn a swift rejection.

While it may seem redundant to require a three-step process (query, proposal, manuscript), for a nonfiction book the method actually expedites the procedure for you and your agent

or a publisher. That’s because it’s much faster for them to review thousands of one-page queries to choose the few that hold promise than it is to plow through thousands of thirty-fifty page book proposals.

In the end, they will most likely remember your name and that they‘ve requested your Book Proposal as the next step in the process, unlike the hundreds of unsolicited (not queried) proposals that they have to review, if they do at all. You as a prospective author will remind these people that you have already submitted your Query Letter because as part of your Nonfiction Book Proposal you will be sending them a copy to jog their memory.

In the case of the big publishing houses, they generally only accept agent-pitched proposals.

Here are just a few of these publishing giants…

  • Penguin Random House
  • Simon & Schuster
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Macmillan U.S.
  • Hachette Book Group

Goldilocks, what is the difference between a Nonfiction Book Query Letter and a Fiction Query/Proposal?

As noted earlier, your Query Letter is the first step when pitching a nonfiction manuscript, it usually is no longer than one page and the copy is tightly focused. If your query is accepted by your literary agent or publisher then the next step is to send a very long Nonfiction Book Proposal containing several components including some sample chapters which you should have ready meaning completely edited before sending out your Query Letter.

Time is precious, don’t make an agent wait to receive your proposal.  Strike while the iron is hot. At this point, only a small part of your final manuscript needs to be written.

On the other hand, after submitting your Fiction Book Query Letter/Proposal, you must be prepared to send a fully edited complete book manuscript as the next step in the Fiction Book Publishing Process.

Let’s continue…

There are several types of nonfiction books and here are a few…

  • A narrative about yourself (memoir)
  • A narrative about someone else (biography)
  • A narrative about something (broadly called narrative nonfiction; think Sea biscuit the race horse)
  • A prescriptive book (a book that helps the reader learn or do something better, such as a how-to, self-help or business book)
  • A reference book
  • An illustrated book

… and so on.

Components of a Strong Nonfiction Book Query Letter

  • Author, contact information
  • Personalization: where you customize the letter for the recipient
  • Reason for writing this Query Letter:

Are you pitching to a literary agent or directly to a publisher?

(The latter is pretty rare)

  • What you’re selling: genre/category, anticipated word count, title/subtitle
  • Hook: a compelling description of the narrative (a short outline/summary of the topic covered)
  • How Your Manuscript will be Positioned in the Marketplace

What makes your book unique, or its unique selling proposition?

  • Short outline/summary of your manuscript topic
  • Target readership: who will buy this book and why? (it cannot be everyone and anyone)
  • Your bio, platform and credentials to write the book
  • Thank you and closing

It’s important to remember that your Query is a Sales Letter equipped with a Call-To-Action, not a listing of features and benefits.

Does this process feel very daunting to you as a prospective author?

Don’t worry, Goldilocks is only a click away and can help you ghost this very important tightly focused letter.  You can get a better feel for how she will compose your Query Letter by visiting her Methodology/Process page…

Goldilocks Methodology/Process: Nonfiction Book Query Letter

Once you have read how Goldilocks composes this Query Letter and have seen sample phrasing, give it a whirl and try your hand at writing the copy for this Letter.  She will be available to critique your Query at a very reasonable rate.

Please contact Goldilocks with any questions that you may have…

Contact Goldilocks
E-Mail her:
Pick up the phone: 914-944-1474

Goldilocks Wishes You Luck with Your Journey to Become an Author!