The Components of a Successful Query Letter

Author:
Publish date:

Writing the Novel Proposal on Writer's Online Workshops

The fact about query letters is this: You only have about one to three minutes (sometimes even less) to convince an agent or editor that what you've written is worth publishing. You really must cut to the chase and make a great first impression. If you don't, your query will be tossed to the void, swallowed by the black hole of publishing (notoriously known as the rejection pile).

Before you even begin to write your query letter, however, you must have a clear idea about its purpose. In a nutshell, your query letter serves two functions: to enticingly tell the agent or editor what you have to offer (your novel manuscript), and to ask if he or she is interested in reading it.

With most unsolicited submissions, many agents and editors prefer you send the query letter either by itself or with a synopsis and/or a few sample pages from your novel (not more than 20). This is called a blind query or a pre-proposal query, because you're sending it without having been asked to send it. No matter what you call it, it's your brief and often only chance to hook the agent or editor on wanting to read your novel. If she likes your query, she'll call and ask for either specific parts of your novel proposal (a synopsis and three sample chapters, for example) or the entire manuscript. Then she'll make her decision.

We must emphasize that while some agents and editors prefer that you accompany your initial query letter with other parts of your novel proposal, such folks are few and far between. Typically, agents and editors want, need and accept only a query letter. Remember that more is less when it comes to sending unsolicited material. So keep your query short and to the point by limiting it to one page, two pages maximum (but often two pages is deemed way too long; it's your call, but shorter is almost always safer). And don't send anything else unless it's required or requested by the agent or editor (submission requirements are in the agent's or publisher's listing in the market books).

Whether you submit the query by itself or accompanying other material, your query letter is so vital. You must make it compelling, interesting, even funny-anything to make it outstanding to the agent or editor you're soliciting...

Writer's Digest May/June 2021 Cover Reveal

Writer's Digest May/June 2021 Cover Reveal

Presenting the May/June 2021 issue of Writer's Digest featuring a collection of articles about how curiosity fuels writers, including the 23rd Annual 101 Best Websites for Writers and a new interview with Chris Bohjalian.

Through Another’s Eyes: An Auschwitz Survivor Inspires His Biographer

Through Another’s Eyes: An Auschwitz Survivor Inspires His Biographer

Popular lecturer and biographer Joshua M. Greene discusses the hardship of writing the biographies of Holocaust survivors, and the biography that convinced him to continue writing.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The May/June 2021 Issue, a Chance at Publication, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce that the May/June 2021 “Curiosity” issue is now live in the WD shop, there’s still time to have your From Our Reader’s response selected for publication in the July/August 2021 “Bravery” issue, and more!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 18

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write an ekphrastic poem.

Personal Essay Awards

Announcing the First Annual Personal Essay Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the first annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards!

From Script

Movie Theatres Return While Indie Cinema and TV Turns to Horror and Beyond (From Script)

In this week’s round-up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, read movie reviews from cinephile Tom Stemple. Plus, exclusive interviews with Amazon’s Them creator and showrunner Little Marvin, horror film Jakob’s Wife director Travis Stevens, a history lesson with Dr. Rosanne Welch about trailblazer screenwriter Anita Loos, and much more!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 17

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a waiting poem.

GettyImages-119430542

Your Story #112

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Self-Published Ebook Awards

Announcing the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 8th Annual Self-Published E-book Awards! Discover the titles that placed in the categories of contemporary fiction, fantasy, memoir, mystery, and more.