Home > Literary Agents > Strong Query Letters: Why They Are Important

Strong Query Letters: Why They Are Important

You get only one shot at any particular publisher or a literary agent. That makes it vitally important that you get it right the first time around. You’ve slaved over your manuscript, pouring over each word, perfecting each little segment. Then comes query time. You no longer have the patience or the interest to devote to the query letter. Big mistake.

A query letter is really a showcase of your writing skills. If the agent doesn’t like the first couple lines of your email (I say email because a huge number of agents now work solely by email), that delete button is a mouse click away.

So what are agents looking for in a query letter?

* Professionalism

* Typo free, attention grabbing queries. Information should be very focused. If you say things like “this book is very gripping, with lot of passion and drama …”, it’ll come across as filler information. Besides, a lot of books fit this description. How is YOUR book different? Show, don’t tell; i.e. a couple lines about the circumstances the characters find themselves in will do a better job of showing this drama, as opposed to telling us there is drama in their lives.

To get an idea of what kind of queries grab attention, check out:

The Guide to Literary Agents

James Russell Publishing

On a more personal note, Literary Agent Jane Gelfman sponsored a query writing contest. I made it to the semi finals, so she offered a personal critique of the query, which was highly appreciated (but no offer of representation, darn it!).

Since the plot of my novel is very involved and I was trying to keep my query tightly focused (which is the right thing to do), I didn’t give too many details (which is still okay, but there needs to be a balance). So Ms. Gelfman felt my query sounded a little disjointed because she felt I was veering away to an entirely different plot.

For me, this information is extremely valuable, because I now know what to fix.

What grabbed her attention, she said, was my first line: All Pullamma wants in life is a husband and a municipal water connection, not necessarily in that order.

Which proves my point – the first line of your query has to be a killer.

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Categories: Literary Agents
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