Guest Writing Wednesdays: Rebecca Sky – How to Write a Query Letter
A stand-alone query letter has one purpose: to encourage an agent/editor to read or request your work.
A query letter is a one page email that contains:
- Details about what you are selling
- A Hook
- About your story
- Bio (about you, the author)
- Requested materials
Check out the example cover letters from Rebecca Sky and Erin Latimer in the images at the end of the post for examples of all of these things!
1. Use a personalised greeting.
Dear Mr/Ms. Agent’s name…
Make sure you spell their name right! Mistyping their name shows lack of research or laziness. Agents don’t have a lot of time and want to find authors who take them and their time seriously.
2. The Hook
The hook is intended to spark the reader’s curiosity. Use conflict, compelling questions, a twist on the unexpected, a personal connection, and set the scene.
Ask yourself: is the hook alluring? Does it have what it takes to capture readers? Is it designed to catch the readers you want?
3. About Your Story
This is where you set the stakes:
- Introduce your main character (MC)
- Introduce the Problem
- Introduce how the MC can solve the Problem and what stands in their way
4. What You’re Selling
This needs to include genre/category, word count, title/subtitle, like this:
“A LIFETIME ACCORDING TO KARMA ROSE is a YA Dark Fantasy, complete at 90,000 words.”
Your Bio should include:
- Work/career – does your job relate to writing? Eg. English teacher, historian.
- Writing credibility – do you have publishing credits? Are you a ember of any writing organisations like RWA?
- Special research – did you spend five years living in West Africa, where your book is based?
- Awards – have you won any writing competitions or awards?
Keep this one simple. Here’s my example:
“As per request, I have attached the first ten pages below for your review.
Thank you in advance for your time.
RULE: Pasted material
Research the agent’s website, blog or Publishers Weekly page to see how many pages/chapters they like included with query letters.
Paste the pages inside the body of the email. Attachments get flagged and set to the agent’s spam filter.
- Write in third person.
- Introduce the voice of the story (if it’s a comedy, your query should be funny).
- Don’t have too many characters (focus on the MC and the main plot).
- You can add title comparables (”STRANGE AND DEADLY PORTRAITS will appeal to fans of Claire Legrand’s THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, and Lemony Snicket’s A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS”).
- Also, capitalise titles.
Here’s an example of a bad query letter to see where you could go wrong…
Where to research literary agents:
- Publishers Marketplace
- Query Tracker
- Manuscript Wish List
- Absolute Write
- Agent blogs and websites
- Google search (find books/authors similar and see who represents them)
And finally, example cover letters from Erin Latimer and Rebecca Sky:
Huge thanks to Rebecca Sky and Erin Latimer putting together all the content that went into this post, and special thanks to Rebecca for contributing as a guest post for Writing Wednesdays!
Help with agents and query letters is something I’m asked about frequently but have little helpful experience with, so hopefully you guys find this informative and useful.
Also remember to check out The Cheaters Club on Wattpad, where the three of us (as well as some other awesome Wattpad writers) have stories! (You can also follow The Cheaters Club on Twitter for more cool content.)