A query letter example
Writing your first query letter can be an overwhelming prospect, so we’ve provided a query letter example for you below to give you an idea of what one should look like. Keep in mind that this letter was sent to an agent who requested a synopsis, an outline, and sample chapters of the completed manuscript. Each agent or publisher you write to may have a different set of requirements, so do your research beforehand.
Query letter contents
Like the query letter example above, your query letter should include a few basic elements: a short (one sentence) summary of your manuscript; a one-paragraph introduction of your manuscript, including the genre and the audience it appeals to; and an introduction of you as the writer. After writing an entire novel, you should find writing this one-page letter a piece of cake.
Brief plot summary: Include the reason why you’re writing to the agent or publisher, the title of your book (italicized), and something that gives the recipient an idea of the book’s basic plot. You can also include the word count here or leave it for later in your introduction. Being able to clearly communicate all of this in one sentence demonstrates your capabilities as a writer and lets the agent know what you’re looking for and what to expect right off the bat.
Book introduction: This should not be a detailed outline of your entire novel, but you should include information about your main character(s), the setting (time and place), and the basic purpose of the novel. You’ll also want to explain what groups your book will appeal to and why. For instance, in the query letter example, the author describes her target audience. Ask yourself, what’s so special about this novel that readers will want to spend their time with it?
Writer introduction: While agents and publishers focus more on the book itself and the quality of your writing, you should also include a little bit about yourself as a writer. If something in your background relates to your work (for example, if you’ve volunteered at a foster care agency and are writing a book that deals with children in foster care), including that will show you have the experience and qualifications necessary to write a book on this topic and deal with it in an authentic manner.
Take a look at the query letter example above: “Like the protagonist, I studied translation for many years and have faced unique questions posed by the immigrant experience.” Here, the writer clearly links her own background to the experiences of the main character in her novel.
Be sure to keep your letter to one page.
Order a query letter package from one of our expert writers—like the one who wrote the query letter example on this page!
What if I don’t get a reply?
What if you’ve written the perfect query letter or ordered a professional query letter package but are still waiting for a response? While you’ve been waiting, perhaps you’ve been editing your manuscript and putting on the finishing touches so you can send it out upon request. But the request still hasn’t come.
Unfortunately, even the best query letter does not guarantee that the agents you write to will take an interest in your work. Agents are inundated with query letters and manuscripts on a regular basis, and it may be that the one you’ve written to isn’t able to take on your manuscript just now.
An agent rejecting or ignoring your query letter does not necessarily mean your manuscript is worthless. However, if you’ve sent your letter and enclosures to 15 to 20 different agents and are still not receiving a positive response, you may want to take a second look at what you’re working with. Perhaps you aren’t selecting the right agents, the ones your manuscript will appeal to, or perhaps your query letter is poorly written or includes too little (or too much) information. Or—and this is the most common reason—your book simply needs a little more work. You might be able to squeak by with a poorly written query letter if your book is exceptional, but without a good book, nobody will represent you.
If eight weeks have gone by with no response, chances are you won’t be getting a response and the agent prefers to ignore you rather than send you a blunt rejection letter.
Once you’ve verified that you’re sending your material to the right agents and are still getting rejected (or ignored), it may be time to take a second look at your book. It’s not unusual for authors to need to revise their work—and revise again. Most great books have gone through several rounds of revision before reaching their potential. The author from the query letter example above revised her manuscript and was rejected several times before she approached us for help with her query letter and landed an agent. After revising, review, and if necessary, rewrite your query letter before reaching out again.
You can also order a professional query letter like the one from the query letter example above, written by our team.