How to Write a Query Letter that Sells

Posted by Kristen Hamilton on April 25, 2020 at 12:55 AM


 A query letter is a make-or-break deal: It's your one shot to impress an agent and convince them that your manuscript is worth a second glance. As agents and publishers can receive upwards of hundreds of query letters and book pitches each month, it's important that your first contact with an agent is one that will make you stand out from the rest.

In the world of book publishing, the traditional route—sending query letters to find an agent, then using the agent to approach publishing houses—is typically considered the “holy grail” of editing. Authors feel this is a more respectable way to be published. If a publishing house accepts your manuscript, they will typically provide an advance and then royalties as your book starts to make money. Awesome.


But that first step—securing agent representation—starts with an expertly crafted query letter.


Keep in mind: 

  • Your query should be 1 page—300 to 400 words max.
  • Follow the agent's guidelines. Research the agent and make sure your book is something they would be interested in representing.


Paragraph 1: The Hook

Address the agent by name and give a reason for why you contacted him/her. In a recent WriteHive presenation, agent Laurie McLean mentioned that only 5 percent of query letters she receives are personalized, so by sharing this personal detail, you'll already be far ahead of other querying authors.

In the same paragraph, share an opening line about your book: its title, word count, and genre. If your manuscript has been edited, be sure to share that too! (Simply because the market is so saturated and agents and publishing houses are often inundated with manuscripts, it's a real benefit if the manuscript is completely edited before querying.) If you're able to share a one-line hook about your book's concept, here is the place to do it.


Paragraphs 2-3: The Premise

Share a concise paragraph of what your book's main concept is about: who is the main character and what problem is he/she facing? This paragraph should be like your book's blurb, but more concise.


Paragraph 4: The Author

Now, on to you. What makes you the most credible person to write this book? What experience do you have with publishing? Do you have any awards, or have you entered any writing contests? Do you know people in the industry? Do you have a blurb/quote from a notable person to share?

If you have an author website or social media platform, here is the place to share it—and you better make sure you have an impressive following! Agents will do an author social media pages sweep to make sure the author’s brand is consistent across all platforms. 

Paragraph 5: The Closing

That's it! Thank the agent for their time, and offer to send along your manuscript. (If you haven't already done so, now is a good time to hire an editor to make sure your book's first chapter, first 3 chapters, or first 50 pages—depending on the agent's preference—is solid.) Let the agent know that you are looking forward to hearing from them, and leave your contact information.


Next: Start querying! 

You can find a database of book agents at Good luck!

Want to learn more about how to build your author brand

and become a self-publishing pro?

Follow Kristen on Facebook!



Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have topped Amazon's best sellers lists.

Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies, eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.

Categories: author business

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

You must be a member to comment on this page. Sign In or Register