Conflicting Advice About Query Formatting

Publish date:

Q. I'm hoping that you can provide us readers with some advice about dealing with conflicting advice and expectations from different agents. For example, while reading about query letters in the 2-12-09 GLA newsletter, one link led to advice from an agent who praised a writer for including her name, address, email address and phone number at the *top* of her query letter. The agent added that she needs to remind authors how important it is to include that information. (The writer also included the agent's contact information at the top of the letter.) However, another link in the same issue of GLA newsletter led to advice from another agent who advised that contact information should go at the *end* of the letter. She also advised that writers should *not* include the agent's contact information, as she knows where she works.
- Amy

A. First of all, let me say that formatting is important, but these little things are just that - little things. As long as your letter is neat and formatted in some generally accepted way, your letter will not be thrown in the trash.
That said, let me tell what I think. If you're mailing a snail mail letter submission, I advise you to put your contact info (name, address, e-mail, phone) at the top, centered. Skip a line and type the date, pushed right. Skip another line and list the agent's contact info, pushed left. Skip another line and give the salutation: "Dear Ms. Agent:"
NOW, e-mail queries should be handled slightly different. I advise that you start with the date, pushed right. Then skip a line and go right to the salutation: "Dear Ms. Agent:" ... then jump right into the meat of the query. Put all your contact info at the bottom left after the query is finished..
Why the difference? Well, as agent Janet Reid explained: If you pick up a smail mail query letter, your eyes can skip right to the query text itself. But when an agent is reviewing an e-query, they only see it in a small viewing window in part of an Internet browser. (Possibly even a Blackberry!) You don't want to waste 10 lines with the agent's address and your address. Start as quickly as possible. Your contact info still needs to be there - so just include it at the bottom.
Sidenote: When sending an e-query, the subject line is important. Write "Query: Suspense Novel" or "Query: 'Dead Cat Bounce'", or "Requested Material: Query & Synopsis" or whatever. If the agent knows that the e-mail is a query, they won't be discombobulated when you jump right into it.