2010 GLA Excerpt: Writing the Query Letter

Publish date:

The 2010 Guide to Literary Agents arrives in-house within one week and, needless to say, I am excited to see it in print. I mean - just look at the book. It looks like a delicious s'more. That is - a delicious s'more filled with tons of agent info and conference info and articles. I suppose that's just the marshmallow filling.

The book will be in store in mid to late August. Keep in mind that you can pre-order it now on Amazon. In the meantime, I'm going to excerpt some articles to give writers a little taste of what articles are included to help scribes on their journey. The following excerpt below is from agent Mollie Glick (Foundry Literary + Media), and her thoughts on what makes a good query letter.

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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. This crucial first contact is your chance to demonstrate that you’re smart, professional, and interesting. The way to convey those traits is through the tone and content of your letter. The tone should be professional, specific and engaging—never general, overly familiar or abrasive. Make sure your letter is well written and grammatically correct. And make sure to include all of your contact information, including your mailing address, phone number and e-mail address.
"These suggestions may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many letters I get that leave out vital contact information, start out with 'Hi Mollie—' instead of 'Dear Ms. Glick:', or include unprofessional phrases such as, 'You’ll probably just throw this letter out like the other agents have.' Occasionally, I get a letter written in a lighter, more humorous tone, and that’s OK—as long as the letter reflects the kind of book the author is querying me about (i.e., a humorous nonfiction book or funny novel) and it still includes all the information I need to know. But if in doubt, stick with a professional tone, and include a one- or two-line quote from the book to give the agent a taste of its voice.
"Like a cover letter, your query letter should be no longer than a page. It should include your contact information, a salutation, a paragraph describing your book, and a paragraph explaining why you’re the perfect person to write that book. Lets take a closer look at each of these components."

- Excerpted from the article "Write a Killer Query Letter: How to Hook an Agent," by Mollie Glick, in the 2010 Guide to Literary Agents.