the fourth space

those spaces in between life, thinking, the physical world, and humanity

How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

1) Opening lines

Many writers are tempted to start their query letters with a snazzy attempt at humor, a rhetorical question, or some witticism. Unfortunately, if the first line of a query letter is too flashy or splashy, it will fall flat. Read more: Cover And Query Letters: Striking The Right Tone In Your Writing.

At this early stage an agent will likely make the decision to read further based on book genre and marketable word count alone. Make it clear what you are offering, and define your work in terms of genre and length.

My book falls into the women’s fiction category and was inspired by a family member who struggled with bulimia.

Or: My book is a science fiction novel based on my experience in DNA research and is complete at 150,000 words.

2) The synopsis (aka blurb, aka overview)

Describe the plot of your story (or the concept of your nonfiction book). Keep it to one paragraph or two, and give just enough information to describe the general plot, the setting, central characters, the conflict, and the resolution. Be specific. Your plot paragraph should include the time frame of your novel as well as the location or setting.

This novel takes place in rural Georgia in the 1960s—a time of strife and racial tension.

Introduce your main characters, but leave the minor characters for your full-length synopsis. At this point you want to avoid slowing the editor or agent down with any unnecessary information. Keep it interesting and keep it moving.

Read more: How To Write A Killer Book Blurb For Your Query Letter: What Literary Agents Want To See.

3) Your credentials

Composing your professional writing bio is an easy task for previously published authors and experts, but a daunting task for the unpublished writer. Whether you’ve got a string of best-sellers behind you or this is your first writing endeavor, make sure you come across as confident (but not arrogant). If your query letter is good, your lack of experience need not count against you.

Highlight any publishing credentials, writing experience, and education. Know the best way to highlight self-published books in your bio.


I’ve published numerous short stories in Literary Magazine and have a degree in journalism from Impressive College.

Or: This book is based on my findings while on an archaeological dig in Africa for Snooty University, where I currently teach archaeology.

If your background experience has no bearing on the subject, leave it out. However, if your writing credentials are not impressive, by all means highlight anything in your background that merits writing your book.

As a mother of a child with Down syndrome, I feel uniquely qualified to write about the subject.

If you don’t have any publishing credentials, there are few things you can do to help convey that you’re serious about your craft. Read more: How To Build Up Your Writing Bio Super Fast.

Writer’s Relief helps our clients query literary agents and build up their writing credentials in the literary magazine market.

4) Thank you

In closing, be sure to thank the editor or agent for his or her time and offer to send sample chapters (if not enclosed) or the complete manuscript. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for convenience, and sit back and wait—or start working on your next submission.

Don’t want to write your own query letter? Since 1994, Writer’s Relief has been helping authors compose query and cover letters that get great results.





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This entry was posted on February 3, 2013 by .
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