Cover Letters and Query Letters (part 2)

Query letters are a lot more complex than cover letters, let’s just get that out of the way. There is a lot more information you need to put into it, and it does much more than a cover letter as well. Cover letters are your introduction to a literary magazine, short and simple, while Query letters are the gate way to a literary agent. When you’re writing a query letter, you are essentially asking and promoting your longer piece of work and looking for representation to get published.

There are always going to be sites saying this is the best way to write a query letter, and to be honest the best thing you can do is give the essentials and individual as much as you feel would work for your piece. Query letters, no matter what, require the following:

1. What are you writing for? (tell them you are seeking representation, that you did your research as to why you want them to represent you).

2a.  TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR BOOK! (write about your book in a paragraph or two, essentially telling the agent who the character is, what is the conflict they will face (focus on the overall conflict, not the subplots) and the ending. Don’t tell the ending, though–just suggest that something is going to happen. The point is to make them interested in the character and what will happen to them).

2b. After the summary, or blurb as some call it, include the book length. Some people encourage a comparison to another novel to help the agent get a feel for the tone or style of writing you have. This depends on how much you’ve read and honestly if you do it, make sure you research novels that are similar to some aspect of your novel which you want to focus on.

3. Tell them about yourself ( this is the part where you let them know if you’re a student or not, publishing credits you have under your belt–if any–and anything relevant to the book and your experience as a writer).

4. Include your contact information (and please, make sure you use an appropriate email address. is not cool. It’s just…not.)

Your letter shouldn’t be more than a page. Ideally, you want this length because agents are always reading query letters. I mean, a lot of them. So, take the time to condense your writing and get to the point. Generally, you’d do  one inch margins; however, some literary agents have specific formats which prefer. So look it up!

After that, it’s all about how you individualize.

Here are some examples of some query letters that were successful, courtesy of Writer’s Digest. These query letters took individualization to whole new level, and honestly it’s pretty cool. This won’t always work, but if you do it write the agent will be impressed.

Here’s another really good example because it includes a letter and takes notes on what not to do.

The things you most definitely should not do are pretty similar to cover letters, and obviously more extensive due to the length. Some people try a little too hard forgetting that simplicity is sometimes better. Check out Writer’s Relief’s Query Fail. I think they have it down pact.

These letters will take time. Do the best you can, and have someone look at it for you if you can. It’s always good to have someone look over your work, whether a fellow writer, classmate, or even a friend. If you tell them what the basic format is then maybe they can tell you what they see as unnecessary. And remember to do the research. You don’t want an agent to look at your letter and think you’re wasting their time. They’re in this career because they love to read and work with writers. If you don’t put in the effort, then  neither will they.


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