Tuesday, May 8, 2018

5 Things Every Query Letter Should Have

You've likely spent a few months revising your manuscript, making sure to remove clutter words, tighten scenes, strengthen plot-lines and create kick-ass characters you're sure readers are going to love (or hate). It is now ready to go out to agents and editors in hopes of publication. But agents receive thousands of queries per month, how do you make yours stand out?

First and foremost, remember that your query is a letter and should be addressed as such. You can address the agent with the standard Dear Saritza, or Ms. Saritza (though I prefer the informal Hi Saritza to Ms. or Mrs.) but DO NOT start your query with To Whom It May Concern, Dear Agent or Ladies and Gentlemen. Our names are everywhere, take the time to personalize your query and make the effort to show the agent you've done your research.

I recommend reading How To Write A Query Letter by Rachelle Gardner as the first stop in your research. Her blog is a an invaluable resource to aspiring authors, so make sure to bookmark her site and spend some time learning about the transition from writer to author.

Now, I can't speak for (nor do I dare to) any other agent but I can tell you what I look for and hope to see in the queries I receive. It starts with the voice! Hook me from the get-go and make sure to include information about your character, plot, setting, conflict and resolution.

  1. Character(s) - who is your main character? What's important about them that I need to know right away? If it's a romance, introduce the main character, then their love interest.
  2. Distinctive Plot - give me a glimpse of your plot or the events in your work that set it apart from others in your genre and this is where you get to make your voice shine. It should read like what you'd like the back cover of your book to say.
  3. Setting - where are you taking me? Time and place are important to the genre and it can be achieved with one sentence: The barrio is no place for secrets.
  4. Conflict - what are the stakes? Why should I care about this book? Make it compelling and make me want to devour the work in one sitting.
  5. Resolution - I represent romance authors. I need to see the Happily Ever After or Happy For Now in your query and clearly represented in your synopsis. But even outside of romance, I like to see that the book provides the reader with a clear resolution to the conflict.
These don't have to be in any specific order but I like to see all five in a standard query letter. Now, this is not true of every agent, so make sure to research.

You can find my submission guidelines on our agency website here.