How to Write a Query for a Novel

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Beginning Writer's Answer Book

What does a novel query letter look like?

A novel query gives a brief overview of your novel's protagonist, plot, and setting, while also giving a little bit of information about yourself. A good novel query does not exceed one page. Do not query until you have a completed manuscript! An editor or agent will not accept your work based on a partial manuscript if you're an unpublished or unknown writer.

A novel query usually includes five elements:

  1. Why you're querying this particular editor or agent (this is where you personalize the letter as much as possible)
  2. Your novel's title, genre, and word count
  3. A concise and compelling 100-200 word description of your novel
  4. A brief bio
  5. A closing

This may not sound like enough information for an editor/agent to know whether or not she's interested in your novel, but it is. Your concise description of your novel—or its hook—should spark sufficient interest for the editor/agent to request the first 50 pages or the complete manuscript. Most beginning writers make the mistake of giving too much detail (and boring detail at that) and attempting to mention every plot device and minor character. Focus on your protagonist, that protagonist's conflict, and whatever sets your story apart from the rest. That's it.