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Mastering The Art Of Sending Query Letters

When you are sending out query letters, you should always remember that “knowledge is power.” Ignorance may be bliss in some industries but when it comes to the publishing field, you should gather as much information as you can about everything. In publishing, you put yourself in a better position by finding out more about agents. You should always read an agent’s submission guidelines and follow all the rules when sending your query letter.

If an agent says “query only,” you should send the query letter alone. Don’t even think about sending anything else because your letter will quickly be put at the bottom of the pile or even in the trash. If an agent says “query and synopsis,” that’s exactly what you should send. If an agent says neither of the two, you should include the first five pages of the book simply because the agent might be curious to find out what you have written. Furthermore, agents are always looking for the next bestselling author and they may take a peek at your first five pages. The first pages of a book should be fantastic with no errors, and an excellent ‘hook.’

In the past, agents frowned upon electronic query letters but these days they are more open to the idea. In fact, a good number of agents now prefer that you send them query letters electronically. You should include the accompanying materials, such as your synopsis, in the body of the email. Never put these files in the form of attachments unless you are expressly asked to do so.

You should always send query letters in batches. However, avoid sending query letters to different agents in the same agency in the same batch. When you send query letters in batches, you will save time that you can spend on writing. You should arrange your batches of query letters intelligently to avoid conflicts like the one mentioned above.

What if you query the first 20 agents on your list and in the course of about two months receive 8 rejections and 12 non-replies? How do you interpret that? The first thing you should take from this is that some agents don’t tell you when they reject your work. It is becoming a common trend for agents to avoid replying instead of sending rejections. In this situation, you can also assume that your query letters were not impressive enough and were therefore ineffective. You want to make agents ask for your full manuscript or chapters of your book. The best thing to do is to rewrite that query letter and make sure it has enough ‘zing’ to catch agents’ attention.

If you get written rejections, you should know that most rejections are most likely form letters. These are pre-drafted letters that agents send to avoid wasting a lot of time responding to authors individually. Sometimes you will notice that an agent responded to your query personally and, though this is a rejection, it should be encouraging because an agent saw something in your work. However the response was drafted, don’t rack your brain to interpret it and never write agents back asking for an explanation.