Here are a few simple factors when writing your query letter:
ALWAYS enclose an SAE – no buts, or whys, just enclose one big enough for your ms to be returned. And on sending make sure you put on the correct postage!
Try and find out the name of the agent you want to approach, but don’t rely on Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook and the like too much, because agents change jobs frequently. Use their full name “Annie Agentson”, rather than Mrs Agentson.
DON’T try and be clever and gimmicky in your approach, neither be hostile. If an agent likes the look of your book, they will be trying to detect whether they could work with you by your letter content.
AGENTS have seen it all before. Be slick. Be professional. A little humility and subtle touch of humour in a letter can’t hurt. Although, cheeky can pay off arrogance doesn’t bode well at all, so know the difference.
NOT every agent wants a long synopsis. Many prefer a ‘back of the book’ blurb – it could pay to find out.
DON’T be afraid to drop your book if it gets enough rejections and start again on another. There is a reason agents don’t want it, even if you can’t see it.
Read the company’s guidelines before sending them anything, and stick to it. I get irritated when people send me things without looking into what I do. I get emails daily from writers who request I agent them or worse publish them! I do neither of these, so imagine the amount of unrelated emails an agent will receive.
NEVER mention the amount of rejections you have had for your ms – makes you sound like a failure.
NEVER tell the agent this is your first book and you’re new to writing. If you’ve published before however, reveal all.
NEVER say you have been working on a book for five or more years. Agents want authors who can churn out a book every year.
Do add links to your website/blog if it’s writing related.
DON’T expect, just because you have an agent, you will automatically find a publisher. This can also take many
years and many more books.
Do keep your query letter brief, and straight to the point. Be professional, and don’t write it in the tone of your novel. Save that for the synopsis.
REMEMBER the rejection slips are kept in bulk, and slipped into the returns envelope without thinking of you. You are just a commodity and rejections aren’t personal.
Keep your query to one page, and don’t forget to add the date to the top.
Include all relevant material in the query, but don’t go and repeat it all in the synopsis, keep that for telling (not showing) the facts of the story.
Your query letter should be gently persuasive. Include other publications that have your similar theme, but make sure it’s not from the agency you are writing to (especially if they are a small company). If they already represent a thriller writer why would they want to risk their established author’s irk to take on yours?
But did you know literary agents often, to save on printing costs, reuse the manuscripts that have been submitted?
They simply recycle the pages, and print what they need on the other side. So do make sure it’s your name and not the title of your book at the top of the page.
And if you sent a SAE and it hasn’t been returned your ms could be laying around with doodles on the other side! Or being idly read by an office worker – or a top agent.
Obviously there are loads of books on this subject, but there is no hidden formula really. It’s basically grabbing the interest of an agent with the right book at the right time.