A query letter is a one-page document that you send to a literary agent or publisher to pitch your book idea and persuade them to request your manuscript. It is your first impression and best chance to get noticed by the people who can make your publishing dreams come true.
But how do you write a query letter that stands out from the hundreds of others agents receive daily? Here are some tips and examples on how to format your query letter and make it irresistible.
How to Write a Hook for Your Query Letter
The hook, the opening paragraph of your query letter, is a concise, compelling introduction that grabs the agent’s attention. It introduces your main character, the central conflict, and the high stakes of your story how to find a literary agent. Think of it as your book’s elevator pitch or logline, delivering a captivating snapshot of your work.
Here are some examples of hooks from successful query letters:
“When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps in to take her sister’s place in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.” (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)
“Lyra Belacqua is content to run wild among the scholars of Jordan College, with her daemon familiar always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle—a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armored bears.” (The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman)
“When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him.” (Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James)
As you can see, these hooks introduce the main characters, their goals, their obstacles, and their emotions in a few sentences. They also hint at the book’s genre, tone, and voice. They make the reader curious and eager to know more.
How to Write a Synopsis for Your Query Letter
The synopsis provides a concise overview of your plot and its main points. It highlights your character’s conflict and impact while showcasing your story’s unique and original aspects. Avoid revealing every detail or twist, focusing instead on the core elements.
Here are some examples of synopses from successful query letters:
“As Katniss makes her way from the impoverished District 12 to the lavish Capitol and into the arena, she must make choices that weigh survival against humanity, life against love, and safety against revolution.” (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)
“As Lyra learns more about her past and destiny, she finds herself at the center of a cosmic war between forces named Dust and Authority. Along the way, she befriends Will Parry, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds.” (The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman)
“Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control.” (Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James)
When submitting, always adhere to the specific guidelines agents or publishers provide. Some ask for a detailed multi-page synopsis, while others want a brief overview. Tailor your synopsis accordingly.
How to Write a Bio for Your Query Letter
The bio in your query letter is essential, providing insights about you as a writer and individual. It should highlight your qualifications and passion for writing this book, incorporating relevant details such as writing credentials, awards, publications, education, background, or personal experiences.
The bio should also mention why you are querying this specific agent and what representation you seek. Here are some examples of bios from successful query letters:
“I am a former children’s television writer who has worked on shows such as Clarissa Explains It All and The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. I have also written several middle-grade novels under a pseudonym. The Hunger Games is my first young adult novel. I am querying you because I admire your work with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan, and I think you would be a great fit for my book. I am seeking representation for this book and possible future projects in the same genre.” (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)
“I am a professor of English literature at Oxford University, specializing in the works of John Milton and William Blake. I have published several academic books, articles on these topics, and a fantasy trilogy for adults. The Golden Compass is my first fantasy novel for children. I am querying you because I have read and enjoyed some of the books you represent, such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, and I think you have a keen eye for quality fantasy literature. I am seeking representation for this book and the rest of the planned trilogy.” (The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman)
“I am a former TV executive who decided to pursue my passion for writing after becoming a mother. I have written several fan fiction stories based on the Twilight series, which have gained a large online following. Fifty Shades of Grey is my first original novel. I am querying you because I have heard that you are looking for fresh and exciting voices in the erotic romance genre, and I think my book fits that description. I am seeking representation for this book and possible sequels.” (Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James)
Remember, your bio is a chance to present yourself as a credible and dedicated author. Tailor it to fit the specifics of your manuscript and the interests of the agent or publisher you’re querying.
A query letter is a powerful tool that can open the door to your publishing success. By following these tips and examples, you can craft a query letter showcasing your book idea, writing style, and personality professionally and engagingly. Remember to keep your query letter short, clear, and compelling and to proofread it carefully before sending it out.