This week I’ve been spending a lot of time on query letters. They’re an essential part of your pitch to an agent/publisher, because it’ll be their first impression on who you are, and what your book is about.
I’m by no means an expert on this subject, but I have been doing a lot of research, and so I thought I’d share some of the things that you should include in a query letter, if you can.
Why you chose that agent/publisher
You should be researching agents/publishers to find the best match for you and your story. It will be an immediate turn off if your query looks like it’s been copy and pasted to several different agencies. Get personal. Address it by name, and use the first couple of sentences to explain why you’ve chosen them. It can be a great icebreaker if you heard them talk/met them at an event, or if an interview you read said they were looking for a story that matches your own. Let them know why you’ve chosen to write to them. It’s so important, and minimises your risk of sending it to an agency/publishing house that aren’t even looking for your genre.
A (very) brief overview of your story
The synopsis is separate, and you shouldn’t waffle on and on about your story in your query letter. But you should make it the main focus point, and allow a few sentences to really sell it. You’re essentially focusing on your hook, your unique twist or take that makes your story compelling. Think of it as a blurb or an elevator pitch – a concise, but exciting, introduction to your story. Remember, agents see a lot of submissions, so they need to know what makes yours so special.
Writing awards, courses or qualifications
You may not have any of these, and that’s 100% okay. But if you’ve ever won a writing competition, or even been shortlisted, it can be a great way to show that you’re actively pursuing writing, and that it’s been recognised. Alternatively, you may have attended an event or a course, or have specific qualifications in writing. Though it’s by no means essential (you don’t need a degree to be a writer!), if you’ve got it, it’s another great way to let the agent know you’re writing is to a certain standard.
Relevant experience that inspired your story
This is another way to make you and your story stand out as unique. If your story was inspired by a real event in your life, or by the work that you do, then mention it. It’s a concise, relevant way to reveal more about who you are as a person, and the connection you have to your novel. You shouldn’t go on and on about you and your life too much, so if an aspect of who you are is tied into the novel, it’s a perfect way to reveal who you are, while keeping it on topic and to the point.
I’m still perfecting my query letters, and would love some more tips and advice. So if you have any, please pop them in the comments below!