As you can imagine, we get a lot of queries from potential clients who are hoping to secure an agent. We’ve seen some beautiful queries! And although we usually gain a client through existing relationships or meeting a writer at a conference, we have signed a few people through the query portal on this site.
Before I continue, know this: a query letter is a business letter that shares who you are, what your project entails, and how you believe we will be a fit. Each query should have these elements:
- A succinct summary of the book.
- Your platform numbers.
- A demonstration of your understanding of the agency you’re querying.
- A friendly, open tone.
- Your qualifications for tackling this subject.
- Possibly: quotes from your readers for social proof.
- Typically one page of single spaced type (if you were to paste it in a Word doc).
Not all queries include all these aspects. Some queries are rambling, others are way too short. Nonetheless, here are the 7 WORST practices of queries:
DO NOT DO THESE SEVEN THINGS!
- Fail to read what an agent is taking and what they’re NOT representing. No, I will not acquire a novel about a hallucinogenic protagonist, nor will I sign an author writing about atomic cockroaches taking over the world. I typically don’t represent any fiction, but if I did, it wouldn’t be trippy psychedelic prose or end times shenanigans.
- Assert your over-the-top awesomeness with words like “sure-to-be-a-bestseller” or “literary genius” or “God endorses my work” (accompanied by a typo-filled query).
- Address your query to someone else.
- Fail to proofread your query for spelling and grammar problems. We will automatically delete those queries.
- Demonstrate your naive understanding of the publishing business by saying you’ve written your book, and it’s 8,000 words. Most NF books are 50,000 words.
- Berate the agent for asking for platform numbers. (Platform is a reality of the current publishing environment, and it’s part of our responsibility as authors to find our audience, however that may look.)
- Give up if you get a rejection. This is one no. A rejection is simply a roadblock, not a pervasive declaration of your worth.
I know more queries will come through the portal at the beginning of the year, and I look forward to seeing yours! I hope this little list helped you to do just that.