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9 Tips on Writing Query Letters to Publishers and Literary Agents

In this post, find 9 tips on writing query letters to publishers and literary agents from publishing professionals that will improve your chances of publishing success.

If you're going to get your book traditionally published, you're going to need an effective query letter, whether you're submitting to literary agents or directly to publishers. Queries are tools for getting an agent or editor interested in requesting sample pages and/or setting them up to read your submission. 

(How to write successful queries for any genre of writing.)

Really great query letters are used to sell readers throughout the publishing process. So we've collected tips from publishing professionals on how to make your query letter the best it can be.

Let's look at how to craft queries that will impress editors, agents, and other publishing professionals all the way to eventual readers of your book.

9 Tips on Writing Query Letters to Publishers and Literary Agents

"Agents like to see signs that you're a savvy writer who is deliberate about the submission process—that bodes well for your working style, should we partner with you in the future." —Mary Kole from "How to Write the Perfect Query Letter"

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"If you are serious about getting published, then don't even think about giving up until you've queried at least one hundred agents." —Kristi Belcamino from "Don't Give Up Until You've Queried 80 Agents or More"

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"Give us something with voice. Agent Dan Lazar once said it like this. 'Instead of saying "Jane Smith is tall, blonde, pretty and lives in New York," try "Manhattanite Jane Smith turns heads wherever she goes and hasn't paid for a drink since high school."' Both sentences are essentially saying the same thing, but the second version 1) paints a picture, and 2) establishes voice in the query." —Jane Friedman from "5 Query Letter Tips"

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"The first thing to think about when you sit down to write a query letter is that, in a lot of ways, it's similar to writing a cover letter for a job application. You're addressing your letter to a person who's never met you before, and who sorts through hundreds of such letters a day. Your query letter is your chance to demonstrate that you're smart, professional, and interesting" —Mollie Glick from "7 Things Agents Want to See in Query, and 9 Things They Don't"

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"One of the things I see a lot in queries is character soup (too many names) and too many events (rather than important plot points)." —Janet Reid from "Successful Queries: Agent Janet Reid and 'Numb'"

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"Don't waste the opening paragraph of your query letter introducing yourself. Save that for later. Much like a book, you want to hook that agent with your first sentence. The best way to do that is to introduce the hook of your manuscript right away." —Brian A. Klems from "The 10 Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Query Letter"

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"If a query is mottled with grammar issues, obvious plot holes, and/or doesn't reveal what the book is about (i.e., is almost entirely about a writer's personal life, doesn't introduce the protagonist, etc.), an agent is unlikely to read the manuscript pages." —Meg LaTorre-Snyder from "10 Ways to Make Your Submission Stand Out in the Slush Pile"

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(Grammar Rules for Writers.)

"Queries are more effective when they're personalized. Part of that personalization is addressing a specific name (first and last). Another part of that personalization is following the specific rules that an agent or agency spell out in their guidelines." —Robert Lee Brewer from "Can Writers Query Multiple Agents at Once?"

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"If you're struggling with your query, I recommend you find new critique partners who have not read your book." —Steven Salpeter from "Successful Queries: Gia Cribbs & The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan"

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