How to Write Successful Queries for Any Genre of Writing

Learn how to write successful queries for any genre of writing by breaking down the query letter and supplying links to example queries that worked.
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Learn how to write successful queries for any genre of writing by breaking down the query letter and supplying links to example queries that worked.

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Whether trying to hook a literary agent or editor at a book publishing company, writers need to master the art of writing effective query letters. The reason queries carry so much weight is simple: Time—and the fact that most agents and editors don't have much of it.

(Click here to learn how to find a literary agent.)

The mission of your query letter is to convince an editor or agent that they want to invest time in you and your writing project. In that sense, a query letter is the first impression you make in what will hopefully blossom into a much longer professional relationship. No pressure.

In this post, I've attempted to share tips on what needs to go into a query letter and provide links to several queries (across several writing genres) that were successful.

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Catch an Agent's Interest

Writing strong first pages requires a great hook, a strong voice, and a clear premise. The first sentence should immediately catch the reader’s attention, while the subsequent text should leave the reader wanting to dive further into the pages of the manuscript. But making the first pages of your story absolutely un-putdownable takes practice, patience, revision, and an eye for detail. Which is why we’re here: to discuss what to do (and not to do) to make your opening pages stand out.

Click to continue.

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What Goes in a Query Letter

For all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into query letters, it's actually a pretty straightforward document that consists of an opening pitch (or hook), more (but not all) info on the project, and a little about you as the author. The order of these elements can differ, but I'm going to share the most common structure.

(Click here to learn how literary agents agree and differ on submissions.)

The Pitch: The pitch (or hook) is a concise statement that sums up the essential nature of your book. This concise statement is usually achieved in one or two sentences, and it gives your audience a sense of what the book is about and why they should get excited about it.

More Info: After a compelling pitch, many successful queries offer up a paragraph or three of evidence that supports that your book project is worthwhile, has an audience, and is worth their time. If your pitch doesn't already include it, then this is a good place to include your book's category (or genre) and word count.

(Click for the definitive post on word counts for novels and children's books.)

About You: This is a concise statement sharing why you're the perfect person to write this book. It could be that you have personal or professional experience that lines up with the subject of your book. It could be that you have good sales in the genre or an incredible author platform from a blog or YouTube channel.

However, avoid stretching the truth to make yourself seem more important. If all you have is an amazing book (and no other credentials), then just say something along the lines of, "This is my debut novel," and leave it at that. If your pitch is on point, your manuscript will get to do the talking when they request more pages.

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Ready to send out your query? Get a critique!

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Are you done writing and revising your manuscript or nonfiction book proposal? Then you're ready to write a query letter. In order to ensure you make the best impression on literary agents and acquisitions editors, we recommend getting a 2nd Draft Query Letter Critique.

Whether you are an experienced writer looking to improve the elements within your query letter or a new writer looking for pointers on how to write a query letter, our 2nd Draft Query Letter Critique Service provides the advice and feedback you need to improve your query.

Click to continue.

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Example Successful Queries For Many Writing Genres

Of course, most writers know it's better to show than tell (in most cases). So I've told you about query letters; now, I'm going to show you successful query letters—so you can see how others did it. Just find your category (or genre) below and click on the links to see successful examples.

Contemporary Fiction Query Letters

Fantasy Query Letters

Historical Fiction Query Letters

Literary Fiction Query Letters

Middle Grade Novel Query Letters

Mystery Query Letters

Nonfiction Book Query Letters

Romance Query Letters

Science Fiction Query Letters

Women's Fiction Query Letters

Young Adult Novel Query Letters

Pro Tip: Check out all the successful query samples, whether they're in your genre or not, because they show there are so many different ways to hook an agent with a great query. And your query could be the next great success story.

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