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HOW TO WRITE A QUERY LETTER


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#1 AQCrew

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Posted 20 September 2010 - 09:55 AM

There is an industry-standard query letter format. Do you know what it is?

We do.

In fact, AgentQuery.com helped set the industry-standard through our crazy popular website, AgentQuery.com and our top-ranked Google article, "How to Write a Query Letter."

As a result, the literary agents in our AQ database expect, want, and prefer to receive queries that follow our query letter formula of three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. It helps them shift through the hundreds of queries that they receive each week to find fresh talent and new clients.


For this reason, when you post your query here for feedback, all AQ Connect members will assume you have read our "How to Write a Query Letter" and will expect you to follow our query letter format. Again, that's three paragraphs: hook, mini-synopsis, and bio.
Don’t stray TOO far from this format. You won’t catch an agent’s attention by inventing a creative new query format. And you won't receive positive feedback on AQ Connect unless you follow this industry-standard query formula.

 



#2 Jean Oram

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:40 PM

Please note: If you post your query in the wrong place, need help moving it, renaming it, or whatnot, I can help you out with that.

(Just send me a PM--personal message--by clicking on the envelope under my picture to the left of this post. If you send me a message, I will get your request in a more timely fashion.)

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#3 Robbin

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 12:34 PM

Quick question, please. Is the hook of your query the beginning hook of your MS? Or do they have to be different? Thanks!
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#4 Stephanie Diaz

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 12:56 PM

Quick question, please. Is the hook of your query the beginning hook of your MS? Or do they have to be different? Thanks!


They don't need to be different, or the same. Your hook can be anything that makes the reader go "ooh!" or "whoa" :P Anything that makes someone want to keep reading!

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#5 Whimsical_Werecat

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 07:26 PM

Very helpful information and links! Thanks guys :happy:

cover-art-kin-seeker-text-2-100x150.jpg                            cover-art-beacon-thrones-3-100x150.jpg                            final-flight-ebook-cover-100x150.jpg
KIN SEEKER                                    BEACON THRONES                        FINAL FLIGHT
Book One of Dragon Calling         Book Two of Dragon Calling           Starsea Press
Starsea Press                                  Starsea Press
 
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Goodreads                                     Goodreads
Pinterest                                         Pinterest


#6 Pete Morin

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 07:13 AM

The links above are essential reading before you post your first query.Posted Image
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Read Diary of a Small Fish
Read Uneasy Living

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#7 LeeBee

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 06:24 PM

I have a question in regards to formatting. It states that it should have a 3 paragraph method but when I was perusing the Successful Queries board, I noticed that a lot of the successful ones were not limited to 3 specific paragraphs.

Is that meant to be more like 3 separate sections of a query letter? Ie: Hook/Mini Synopsis/Writer bio? It's not literally 3 paragraphs, right? Because I noticed in the mini-synopsis section people often had 3-5 tiny paragraphs for effect/suspense.

#8 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 08 June 2012 - 06:25 PM

I have a question in regards to formatting. It states that it should have a 3 paragraph method but when I was perusing the Successful Queries board, I noticed that a lot of the successful ones were not limited to 3 specific paragraphs.

Is that meant to be more like 3 separate sections of a query letter? Ie: Hook/Mini Synopsis/Writer bio? It's not literally 3 paragraphs, right? Because I noticed in the mini-synopsis section people often had 3-5 tiny paragraphs for effect/suspense.


The three paragraph formula -- hook, mini-synopsis, closer -- is a guideline. The absolute rule is it needs to fit on one page. Seriously, don't break that one.
Lit. (aka Sophie Perinot)

#9 LeeBee

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 06:27 PM

That's what I thought--limited to one page, but able to be broken up a bit in terms of paragraph numbers--but got a little confused at the specifics of it. Thank you!

#10 LucidDreamer

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 04:24 PM

Caterina, it seems to me that every other agent wants something different. And the ones who don't -- want something else.

I don't know that there's any hard-and-fast rules, although much of what is suggested here on AQC is very on point for a lot of agents. But not all. (I know for a fact that I've read blog entries that say they want the word count, genre, etc. upfront and not a hook). So unless you can find a comment, blog entry, tweet, etc. from a specific agent or agency telling you exactly what they want -- it's always going to be a gamble.

So I figure I will just write the best query I can -- clear and to the point but as interesting as I can make it -- and see what happens. (Unless, as I said before, you can find something that spells out what that agent or agency really wants, which is rare).

Don't drive yourself crazy. Maybe even try out a couple of similar queries, which just a few things changed (Like the placement of genre, word count, etc.) and see which works best.

I know I felt for a long time that I was missing that "magic key" that would get me an agent, but now I've decided to just keep trying (all different avenues) and using any feedback I get to improve my chances and stop worrying about whether I'm doing everything perfect or not. Because of course I'm not. But I still believe that continued work and perserverence will pay off, if I can just learn to be patient. :smile:

#11 Abitom

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 04:24 PM

Hello Cat,

When I did my first ever QL, I visited several "how to" sites. Most of them didn't teach me about the hook (I only learned about it here). The one I saw had the same formula like the one you posted. I wrote mine the same way as she did. I followed several examples from these site (which they said were successful QL's). When I found this site and posted my QL, people said mine was a mess, awkward etc.

I think it depends with the agent too. For example: it's never effective to use a 1st person POV (but other agents love that) use rhetorical questions in our hooks (again, some agents love that) etc, etc.

I guess it's how you present your words too and if you do break the rules, how effective were you in breaking them?

I heard time and time again that Stephenie Meyer (Twilight series, the one with sparkling vampires) QL sucked...but, look at her now? I mean look at her books now (may not be the best out there...oh, you know what I mean) :)

abbie



 



#12 Raven Clark

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 06:37 PM

Couple of questions.

What if you have no credentials? I mean NONE at all. I've heard people mention minor accomplishments, like editing for the school newspaper or getting a poem published, but then other people (Noah Lukeman for instance) say not to list things unless they are major ones, like a published book, or a story in a well known magazine, because minor ones mark you as an amature. Also, I've heard some good agents, like Agent Kristen Nelson, say that if you have none at all (like me, I don't even have a school newspaper cred) it's best just to leave that part out of the query. But then, I've also seen agents, when they do free critiques, like Query shark, or ones who do it for a contest, mark up a query that had none, saying that the person is supposed to add thier credentials.

Worried about two things. 1) Agents assuming i just forgot, or don't know how to do a query, 2), whether or not I should in fact list minor ones if I can get them to begin with.

This is a great post. Thanks!

#13 Graeme_Smith

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 12:49 PM

Elders and wise

I have, I regret, already replied to some Query candidates posted here. I have, I regret, replied in ways that suggest Query structures clearly not in agreement with the requirements as posted here.
I should, of course, have read these requirements first. Clearly my knowledge of Queries, and their construction, is even more limited than I knew.
I cannot say I agree with the single required format as posted at the head of this chain - I can however and do recognise the right of the group and its Moderator to hold those views. As such, I do not seek to offend, and I will return to the silence that is no doubt my best course.
Though I do so with regret.

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#14 RC Lewis

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 01:42 PM

Elders and wise

I have, I regret, already replied to some Query candidates posted here. I have, I regret, replied in ways that suggest Query structures clearly not in agreement with the requirements as posted here.
I should, of course, have read these requirements first. Clearly my knowledge of Queries, and their construction, is even more limited than I knew.
I cannot say I agree with the single required format as posted at the head of this chain - I can however and do recognise the right of the group and its Moderator to hold those views. As such, I do not seek to offend, and I will return to the silence that is no doubt my best course.
Though I do so with regret.

Graeme Smith
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The Idiot
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Jack's shadow
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UNSCM


A repost from my reply in the Successful Queries forum:


Graeme, by no means do you need to cease and desist. Just recognize that when MOST writers attempt a rule-breaking query, the results are not good. At best, the results may be gimmicky and obnoxious. (I know it would be if *I* attempted such to any great degree.)

The recommendations/guidelines are just that. They're there because statistically, MOST successful queries fit that general format. There are certainly ways to fit in that format WITHOUT "sounding like everybody else." (My own Successful Query certainly didn't seem to suffer from following "the format.")

A fresh take is always appreciated, but not every story or writer is best served by going so far outside the box, particularly if we don't have a solid idea of how to handle that box in the first place.

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#15 s3gun

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 12:57 AM

I agree with RC Lewis. Let's just give them what they want(Agents) and keep our creative genius to our book,LOL... Seriously, this agent querying business does not really allow us to do query stunts that much. Its usually a risk that pays off for one in ten of writers. So please be careful about the risks you take on your one chance at landing the (Preccioussss) agent!

#16 David Don Miller

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 10:40 PM

The article is enormously useful, without question.

 

But I just read about a dozen successful queries--linked by the article--that fly in the face of said article, mainly in the areas of:


1.  hooks that are often more than one sentence

2.  titles that aren't showing up until the end of the query

3. There are many with no bio paragraph at all.

 

Are these matters only a small concern? Clearly we're not meant to follow the article slavishly, but #2 and 3 seem like major deviations.

 

As I am about to send out my maiden batch o' queries, I'd love to get some clarity on this. 


Thanks.



#17 CeeJam

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 12:26 PM

Nothing is set in stone, but if you are going to deviate from the formulae, you need to do so 100% brilliantly!

 

The idea with a hook, IMO, is to get the information across quickly.  Counting sentences is not the big thing, it's words or lines that make this.  In my (amateur) estimation, 30-40 words max, but punctuated however you like to introduce the best rhythm and flow.  Compare this to the 'elevator pitch' or movie 'logline' concept.  10 seconds... Off you go!

 

Titles at the beginning of the query are traditional from the days of snail-mail QLs.  In these modern times, agents are innundated with QLs in email form, and the need has arisen to differentiate our own queries from the others.  If you start with a title, and standard "I would like to offer for your consideration..." you are wasting valuable seconds, prompting SOME agents to possibly click the delete button, rather than read on.  Also, in general, titles are not the best part of the book, and can require explanation.  Your Hook is your best bit - use it asap!

 

Biogs are important if you have writing credits, or if your MS relates to your own life in some way.  If you are a cat breeder, and writing a MG story about behaviour in felines, mention this.  If you have backpacked through SE Asia and your Magnum Opus is about life hitchhiking in Cambodia, tell us this.  If your book is about travelling in China, and you have thirteen cats, probably best to leave that out.  Relevant info only - this is a sales letter after all.  Don't tell us you are a devoted mother or father - you would hardly write that you are a sadistic parent and your ability to procreate is of no interest to the agent.  If you don't have writing credits or relevant life experience, stay quiet and let the writing talk for you!

 

Good luck with your own queries,

 

CeeJam



#18 Litgal

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    In between I became a "hybrid" as part of a group of six authors involved in a high concept novel-in-six-parts called "A Day of Fire" which released in November of 2014. The book, "A Day of Fire," tells the story of the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii in a way you've never read it before.

Posted 27 February 2013 - 06:38 PM

Let's see how many of these I broke--

hook more than one sentence--check

title at the end of the query--I prefer them there and there are plenty of other articles that put them in the closing paragraph so that is where I put mine

no bio--check, but my understanding has always been you don't include personal information unless you have something relevant and I didn't.

 

I guess the point is that you need a short letter that piques an agent's interest and gets him to ask for more.  Starting with a template is a darn good idea but being paralyzed into thinking you can't stray by so much as a sentence can be crippling and counterproductive 

The article is enormously useful, without question.

 

But I just read about a dozen successful queries--linked by the article--that fly in the face of said article, mainly in the areas of:


1.  hooks that are often more than one sentence

2.  titles that aren't showing up until the end of the query

3. There are many with no bio paragraph at all.

 

Are these matters only a small concern? Clearly we're not meant to follow the article slavishly, but #2 and 3 seem like major deviations.

 

As I am about to send out my maiden batch o' queries, I'd love to get some clarity on this. 


Thanks.


Lit. (aka Sophie Perinot)

#19 David Don Miller

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 07:23 PM

Thanks both for the edification. You told me what I was hoping to hear.

#20 EricJ

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Posted 14 October 2013 - 06:27 AM

The idea with a hook, IMO, is to get the information across quickly.  Counting sentences is not the big thing, it's words or lines that make this.  In my (amateur) estimation, 30-40 words max, but punctuated however you like to introduce the best rhythm and flow.  Compare this to the 'elevator pitch' or movie 'logline' concept.  10 seconds... Off you go!

 

Titles at the beginning of the query are traditional from the days of snail-mail QLs.  In these modern times, agents are innundated with QLs in email form, and the need has arisen to differentiate our own queries from the others.  If you start with a title, and standard "I would like to offer for your consideration..." you are wasting valuable seconds, prompting SOME agents to possibly click the delete button, rather than read on.  Also, in general, titles are not the best part of the book, and can require explanation.  Your Hook is your best bit - use it asap!

 

That's been my big stumbling block--I realize the rules have changed for e-mail query (I still don't have a Kindle...  :huh: ), but call it the "Elevator pitch", and I still can't imagine myself turning toward an editor I've never met, in an elevator at the SCBWI Conference, and suddenly starting the conversation with "Bill was having the worst week of his life..."

 

Sure we can't do, y'know...just a LITTLE ritual business-letter formality?  Or should I just go ahead, join the throng, and "show the movie trailer" right up in front of the feature, with the big title-reveal at the end?

(Yeah, and even movie trailers aren't what they used to be, ten years ago.)






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