Even though I haven’t landed the agent right for me yet, I have written my fair share of queries and had some luck of my own on getting requests.
At the beginning it was a bit shaky, but once I compared writing queries to something I was more familiar with: employment cover letters, fundraising letters, and any other basic business letter I’d written in my marketing and public relations career, the process became a whole lot easier. Because I figured out selling myself and my book was no different when writing a query than selling myself for a job or selling a product.
Here are some of the tips I’ve learned that might make some sense to you when writing query letters:
In the letter itself:
- Tell the agent why you wrote to them and why you want to work with them. When I was part of a new employee search and had to read hundreds of cover letters, it was obvious who sent form letters and who took the time to customize it just a smidge. And to be honest it was very hard to want to put people with form letters through to the next round. If they didn’t take the time to personalize the letter just a bit (and it doesn’t take much with queries. A simple I saw your listing on XYZ and saw you are interested in XYZ genre…I like your clients XYZ books…etc. Just be honest and truthful in why you picked them.) then it makes it look like they didn’t want to work there. And you don’t want an agent to feel that you don’t want to work with him or her, do you?
In the hook or book summary:
I’m not exactly an expert of these things. I’m still learning how to write queries, just like many of you are. But here are a few tips I’ve learned so far:
- Be specific. When selling a product such as a vacuum you’d never put “it sucks up stuff” would you? We’ll yeah, pretty much every vacuum does that. But the more specific and to the point with your pitch it’s going to make it sound more interesting and make it so the agent won’t want to resist it. For example, instead of saying: “After Nicole moves to a new city her life turns upside down,” I’d use specific examples from the book that feel out of the ordinary and could cause a life to “turn upside down.” Plus, I’d use specific city names, people names, store names, etc. The more specific you get, in my opinion, the better the pitch sounds. Plus, you can explain what your book is about in fewer words.
--Emily, Miss Awaiting an Agent