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Query Letters And Cover Letters: What’s The Difference?

Writing a great query letter is the first step in getting your book published. The query letter is the only way to introduce your work to agents. Many writers get anxious at the thought of writing query letters. However, writing query letters does not have to be a daunting task. When a writer masters the basics of writing query letters, he is one step closer to getting his book published. In this article we shall detail the basics of query letters and cover letters.

The differences

A cover letter is the letter that authors write to literary journals and magazines. This letter is sent together with an author’s poetry and prose and its purpose is to introduce his work.

On the other hand, a query letter is a specific type of cover letter. Instead of being addressed to literary journals and magazines, a query letter is addressed to literary agents. These agents introduce authors to editors who work in publishing houses. Literary agents also represent authors of poetry and short stories but very rarely do so.

Query letters also exist in the freelance writing business. It is a letter that pitches a nonfiction article to editors of news magazines and other periodicals. The query letter we are interested in is the one sent to literary agents.

Another difference between query letters and cover letters is the blurb/synopsis. A query letter must have a synopsis of the book or other work but a cover letter mustn’t have one. People who send cover letters also send part of the material they are introducing to an editor and assume the editor will read it.

Do query letters and cover letters have similarities?

Agents and editors want to be given information in a clear and concise manner. They don’t like gimmicks and also don’t like it when authors write long explanations about the books they are introducing. Both types of letters are intended to introduce an author’s works. They have basic information about the work being submitted and and include an author bio.

The main purpose of a query letter is to convince an agent to read the materials sent together with the letter. A cover letter introduces an author’s work and doesn’t try to convince an editor to read the work because he is expected to do so anyway.

The length of cover letters and query letters is another thing they have in common. Both should not be longer than one page. Industry standards dictate that the letters must use Times New Roman font, 12-point character size, and the lines should be single-spaced.


Query letters and cover letters are very important because if an editor does not read them or fails to be impressed by them, then an author’s work will not get any attention. Every agent has submission guidelines that dictate how query letters for him should be made and submitted. Failing to follow these guidelines almost guarantees that the agent will not consider the defaulting author’s work.

Both query letters and cover letters have formats that they are supposed to follow. The industry dictates how these letters should look and authors have many places to find the formats.