Editor's note: I am declaring November 2010 to be "Agent Guest Column Month," and therefore, every weekday, I will be posting a guest column by a literary agent. Day 9: Today's guest agent is Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary + Media.
The first thing to think about when you sit down to write a query letter is that, in a lot of ways, its 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. 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. Let's take a closer look at components of a query letters agents do and do not want to see.
Mollie Glick is an agent at
Foundry Literary + Media.
7 THINGS AGENTS WANT TO SEE IN A QUERY
- An entertaining but polite and professional tone
- Multiple forms of contact information
- Proof that you have researched and hand-picked an agent. (If you’ve got a connection, were referred by a client or met the agent
at a conference, make sure to point that out early in your letter.)
- Especially for nonfiction: An author bio that demonstrates your platform and why you’re the right author for this project
- A quick, catchy hook or “elevator pitch”
- Making a case for the book’s built-in audience
- Especially for nonfiction: Showing why your expertise and media contacts make you the best author for your project
9 THINGS AGENTS DON'T WANT TO SEE IN A QUERY
- Asking what the agent can do for you, rather than demonstrating what you can do for him/her
- Asking for a phone call or in person meeting before the agent has requested one
- Querying for multiple projects at the same time
- Listing personal information unrelated to your book
- Giving references from people outside the publishing industry (such as saying your writers group, your
congregants, or your mother’s next door neighbor’s cockerspaniel loved
- Comparing your book to a commonly-quoted bestseller
- Making broad claims that you can’t back up
- A pitch for an incomplete novels. (It’s OK
to query with an unfinished nonfiction project, as long as you’ve
written a proposal, but novels should be finished before you start
- Overly familiar, aggressive, or incorrect salutations
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