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How to Craft a Query Letter That Hooks Publishing Agents

You might think that once you’ve finished writing your manuscript, the bulk of the work is done. Unfortunately, it isn’t. To get your book published, you now have to entice publishing agents and publishing houses into reading your book—and that’s easier said than done.

Before you dive into querying agents and publishers, take time to understand this multifaceted process. Know that the search for an agent and publisher takes time and effort and that you’re going to face rejection. But don’t get discouraged. Even the greatest authors were rejected numerous times by publishing agents at the beginning of their careers.

What does querying publishing agents entail? The most important element is the query letter. The query letter is your first opportunity to pique the publishing agent’s interest, so it’s crucial that your query letter is well written, professional, and enticing. If that sounds like too much pressure, you can hire professional query letter writers to write you a top-notch letter based on your manuscript and goals. But if you’d like to try writing one yourself, we’ve compiled some tips on crafting a brilliant query letter, book synopsis, and first page that will impress publishing agents and have them calling for your full manuscript in no time.

How to write a convincing query letter

1. Write an intriguing hook. A hook that simply states a fact isn’t going to interest anyone, especially not a seasoned publishing agent. Add some conflict or intrigue to your hook that compels the agent to read on. If the hook is dull, the agent won’t be interested.

2. Write several query letters. You finally wrote a solid query letter—great! Now write another one. If you really want to impress publishing agents, you have to practice and become experienced at writing query letters. This allows you to test out different hooks and to approach the story from different angles. Play around to craft the most effective and intriguing query letter.

3. Query a lot of publishing agents. You’ll inevitably face a lot of rejection—all authors do. That’s why you need to query to a wide range of publishing agents. Most will reject you, but if you keep querying, eventually you’ll find some who would be thrilled to represent your manuscript.

We’ve included an example of a query letter below for your reference.

How to write a convincing synopsis

1. Intrigue the publishing agent. Just as a bland query letter won’t hook an agent, a dry, matter-of-fact synopsis won’t invite the publisher to read the full manuscript. Appeal to your publishing agent by adding excitement and employing strong writing. You do have to reveal the ending, however, to convince the publishing agent your book is well structured.

2. Cut out the detail. Many authors try to pack as much information as possible into their synopses, but that’s not how you impress a publishing agent. You need to include all the major events of your book, so you don’t have time to go into detail. Think of it as flash fiction—you’re writing a story, not a condensed version of your manuscript.

3. Think of it as an expanded blurb. It’s hard to reduce your 80,000-word manuscript to a 500-word synopsis, so don’t even try. You’ll be more likely to impress your publishing agent if the synopsis reads like an expanded blurb instead.

How to write a convincing first page

1. Hook the agent with your opening line. Your opening line should be unique and intriguing. Don’t start with something your publishing agent has read a thousand times before in other manuscripts.

2. Start the story in the right place. What’s the first scene of your novel? Try to ensure it’s not a boring event that no publishing agent would be interested in. Of course, if it is, you can remedy the situation with intriguing dialogue, poetic prose, or brilliant wit and humor.

3. Get the publishing agent to read all the material. Publishing agents don’t have to read all the manuscript pages they request, so you have to earn their attention. Make sure they don’t lose interest halfway through—keep them fascinated with exciting events, a solid story, strong characters, and high-quality writing.

The querying process may be intimidating, but many authors before you have succeeded, and you can too. What you need is practice, dedication, and perseverance—and, of course, a phenomenal query letter. If you can’t write a satisfactory query letter despite our advice (and there’s no shame in that), get a professionally written query letter instead.



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