It’s very exciting when you finish your book, but the next step is to actually sell it. Once you find the perfect agent that you want to send it to, you have to write a query that will make them say yes.
But how do you do that?
I just finished a course of query letters and sent my query out to over 30 agents. For the first time ever, I actually got a response to my queries! Here’s what I learned about writing a query that can help you sell your manuscript, too.
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How to Write a Query for Your Dream Agent:
A query letter is a proposal for someone to want to publish your manuscript. It’s your first step to intrigue someone in the publishing world that your book needs to be on a shelf.
I don’t know about you, but this has ALWAYS been an intimidating step for me. 😖
Start with the Proper Formatting when You Write a Query Letter.
There’s a specific order that you’re supposed to write a query letter in. It’s the way all professional queries are written and will make you look like you know what you’re doing.
1. The Greeting:
Hello, First and Last Name is the greeting I choose to use. This avoids using the wrong pronoun and keeps you from being vague, with a ‘Dear Agent’ greeting–Nobody wants to keep reading something that’s not even addressed to them!
2. Your Connection
This is a great spot to say how you know the agent. Sometimes I get submission offers from conferences,
If you haven’t had the privilege of connecting with the agent personally, you shouldn’t skip this step. Research the agent and find something you can relate your story or you about that will create a connection.
For instance, they love bagels and so does your MC or they’re from the suburbs and so are you. Even a stretch is better than nothing. I always use Manuscript Wishlist, Literary Rambles, or interviews to find interesting facts to include in my query.
3. The Story’s Hook
What’s one sentence that will intrigue your reader? You want to evoke curiosity and make them think that they want to find our more. The hook and connection can be reversed when you write a query, but most suggest listing your connection first to get the agent to care.
I recently heard an interview with an agent at a conference who said to avoid questions. Especially, if they can answer no because the agent won’t see the reason to care (Apparently, they’re looking for a reason to say no and who can blame them! They receive hundreds of submissions to sift through a month.)
Instead, think of a statement that will introduce the reader to your story–sometimes a strong first line will work here, too!
4. The Summary of Your Story
After your hook, you will give a summary to explain your story in more detail. I would avoid introducing any words, places, or characters that the agent won’t have any reference to–Unless you plan on
When I had aspects of my world listed, a reviewer told me that those features only confused the reader, since they didn’t have the context of the story. They had me cut those parts out and only focus on the main details to get the agent to read the first pages.
Your goal here is to make the reader hungry for more and turn to your attached manuscript. Use that as your inspiration as you think of how to sell your story!
5. Your Bio
You want to tell them about yourself, but you don’t need to go in-depth. This should be limited to 1-2 sentences on why you’re the most qualified to write this specific story.
Maybe you’re writing a picture book for schools and you’re a teacher or you’re writing a
Try to think of something more than you’re a member of SCBWI.
6. Your Sign-Off
This is a conclusion when you write a query. I normally state that the story is either below or attached (Depending on their specifications) and what all they are looking for.
For example, below is the first ten pages of NAME OF AWESOME KIDS BOOK. The manuscript is complete and can be submitted at your request.
Then sign your letter with at least sincerely, your name. But I like to include ‘thank you for your consideration’. 😊
The Things to Avoid when You Write a Query Letter:
There are a few key elements you should DEFINITELY avoid, if you want an agent to either read your query or choose to read your manuscript:
- Spelling/Grammar Errors–It needs to be proofed. (Tip: I read mine out loud to make sure I didn’t miss any errors)
- Photos/Graphics–This is not a craft project.
- Rambling on for too long–Get to the point and stick to it.
- Querying before the book is ready–If it’s not finished or polished, it’s not ready to send. No exceptions.
- Know what the agent sells–Check what they’re selling to know if they’d even be interested in your genre.
- Missing Word Count, Genre, Target Reader, etc.–Even if they’re at the end, they need to be there somewhere.
- Sounding cocky–Don’t say this is the next best-seller or they’re going to love it. It gives a bad vibe.
- Lying about yourself–Don’t stretch the truth just to seem credible. It’s better to be yourself because eventually, you’re going to have to be.
Start Your Agent Search Here:
After you’ve set up a baseline for your query, you will want to do research before you finishing writing your query letter. I like to start with the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and highlight all the agents that I can submit my manuscript to.
This is a list for all agents that sell children’s books and it gives a little background on each agent, along with their contact info, in the book.
Once I know who to submit to, I’ll research more about them to find a connection and decide if they’re really a fit for my manuscript and overall writing career.
Get your 2020 copy so you can write a query today!
After I start submitting, I create a Google spreadsheet to keep track of my submissions. This way I know who I’m waiting to hear back from in case I get an offer for representation or publication. It also lets me know how long it’s been since I sent a query to know if I need to wait longer.
The querying process does take time and most authors don’t get an offer for representation the first time they submit. So be persistent and believe in your story!
Be sure to check out these other articles before you submit a manuscript:
- Know if Your Manuscript is Ready to Submit
- How to Find the Right Agent for You
- 5 Publishing Mistakes to Avoid
- The Ugly Truth on Being Rejected
- How to Know if Your Pitch isn’t Working
- 25 Questions to Ask an Agent
- What’s a Comp Book & Why Do You Need to Know Them