Writing a Query Letter

Writing a query letter is tricky, striking the crucial balance between informing and persuading. Hard facts rather than verbosity are your best ally here and these are the points an agent or publisher will look for you to cover in your query letter.

  • Succinct information about the novel, why you’ve written it and if there’s anything that makes you qualified, as it were, to write it – for instance, relevant knowledge, experience or understanding. Whose novels it could sit beside on a shelf, or the famous ‘a hybrid of [one author or title] and [another author or title]’.

  • If you can point to any market research/trend figures as to why your novel should do well, point away. This can be a persuasive fact, so it’s worth doing a little research.
  • Any writing experience/qualifications/courses/successes, and professional input – for example, mentioning that you’ve had critiques or editing from Fiction Feedback shows your commitment to writing a novel to publishable standard.

  • Current writing projects – if you’re part way through a sequel using the same characters, or if your Work In Progress is something else entirely, say so but make it clear writing is a regular activity in your life.
  • Now, why you’re writing to that particular agent or publisher. Something that appeals to you about them, whether it’s a novelist on their list with whom you feel you have some similarities (not too much or they’ll perceive it as a clash), or something from their website that resonates, or some other element. But don’t miss out this point. Of course they know you’re sending off your submission to several agents or publishers at a go (though don’t say so), but you have to find some reason for submitting to them.

  • Keep it as succinct as you can.

  • In tone: don’t beg, but don’t make assumptions either. Treat your query as if you were writing to a potential client with that balanced yet unspoken mix of ‘it would be nice if you were interested’ and confidence in your work.

Fiction Feedback offers a Submission Package Special where we assess your query letter, synopsis and novel (or narrative non-fiction) opening. Have a look at the item in News and Views.