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How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

A query letter is basically a way for you to pitch your idea about your book to a literary agent or indeed a publisher. It is usually only a one page letter which is short, simple and to the point.

The query letter should essentially contain a little bit of information about yourself, as a means of introduction to the literary agent, and is a way for you to promote and sell your book to them. If they like the idea, they will then either request to read your manuscript or book proposal so the query letter is extremely important and is the first rung on the ladder.

The query letter is your best chance of being published and you need to make it stand out. Your letter is a sales pitch and what you send will help them to determine if they want to know more.

So how do you go about this?

Before you start, ensure that you have targeted the right agent for your book, so find a literary agent that matches your book’s genre. This is vital when sending query letters to an agent. Once you have found a suitable agent, you can find lists online via and in The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook; you can then start to write that letter. Other information that will be documented will include what material they are currently accepting and rates of pay.

So how do you format your letter?

The first rule is to follow their guidelines completely if you want your query letter to be read. This is the most basic rule to follow, however, there are a few unwritten rules.

If you are sending in a query letter via email always make sure that you additionally send in a SASE, so the editor can then notify you about your work and if it has been accepted. Some agents only allow written query letters to be sent.

As already stated, keep the query letter to one page. Format to industry standards, so produce on white paper, use black ink, Times New Roman and size 12 font. Make sure that you include the agent’s name and your contact details. Make sure that you spell the agent’s name correctly.

Address the letter to the agent and then include the basic information about your proposed book. It is also a good idea to include a one-sentence summary and the word count of your book; even if it is not finished you can give an estimate.

The main part of the letter is obviously about the plot and characters, but make sure that this is no longer than 200 words. You also need to add a little information about yourself; it is a good idea to add links to social media sites so that they can find out more.

Finally, you just need to end by thanking them and adding that if requested you will send additional material.