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I can’t get enough of tips on finding an agent and writing the best possible query letter. In the spirit of getting excited when we hear these two words — agents and query — I’ve compiled my favourite advice. The information is dumped into two sections:
DOs and DON’Ts
This post is interactive and welcome to all readers new and old(er). So help and share in the comments section under this post. Please share advice you’ve come across either by reading or (perhaps undesirably) first-hand through a rejection slip/letter. DOs will be today’s post; DON’Ts will be published in a later post (view that HERE — warning: it’s a send up). Okay, let’s start:
An impressive platform: A strong social media presence is a sign you’re dedicated to your craft. It also says you have followers who read what you say. Maybe you have a personalised list of 10,000 email addresses. Although some are more popular than others, multiple platforms on some of these sites is desirable: blog (e.g. WordPress, Blogger), Twitter, Facebook, Google +, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
Also — Non-fiction authors should almost always have a large platform. Fiction authors can stand out by the size of their platform.
Personalise: show that the agent reading your query letter is the right fit for your manuscript. How, you ask? Do they represent other titles in the same genre as yours, did their advice on Twitter or their blog stand out to you, and/or did a book they represent change your life?
Explain what your book is about: sorry to state the obvious but I read all the time how agents finish a query letter and think So? What’s the manuscript about? This won’t be you if you include these:
- Logline (one sentence that describes your manuscript. No, this sentence can’t be forty + words long and include three or more semi colons)
- Provide a succinct synopsis (Introduce the protagonist, the conflict, the choices the protagonist faces)
- Manuscript title
- Tell the agent the MS is complete (if it isn’t, and you’re querying fiction … don’t bother sending the query)
- Word count (should be between 50,000 — 100,000 for novels but the desired amount will differ with genre and every agent)
Other details are just as crucial: the words you use not describing your book are just as important. Here’s the list:
- Dear Mr Smith (If Mr Smith’s first name is Cameron, check whether the salutation is really a “Mr” or if it should be a “Ms”!)
- Include your contact information
- Bio (short paragraph on impressive history relating to writing or publishing)
- Thank the agent for their time
The basics: do a spelling and grammar check after every revision. Shorter sentences have less chance of confusing the agent. Have at least a few writer/reader/editor friends critique your query letter honestly. Follow every, single submission guideline. Be familiar with the agent’s client list. Will your paranormal romance fit in with their list of crime and mystery?
- Query is one page (Under 450 words)
- Text is single-spaced, and there are spaces between paragraphs (no indentation)
- Use standard margins provided by programs like Microsoft Word (i.e. 2.54-3.17 cm/1-1.25 inches)
- 12-point serif font (i.e. Times new Roman, Garamond).
- Manuscript title should be italicised
- Close with something like “sincerely”
- For mail query, included SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope)
- For email query, use Query: Title of Book
- Your contact information: for MAIL put in header/footer, for EMAIL put under your name
- Use formal language (also for email queries)
- There are ~ THREE PARAGRAPHS in your query: 1) Logline/Hook, 2) short synopsis/about MS, 3) Bio
- Mention writing credentials
- Send accompanying documents as requested (send part/whole MS if requested; send an extra synopsis, etc)
- Bonus: send your query Tuesday through Thursday (Who likes Mondays and who cares by Fridays?)