How to format an email query for literary agents - this article reveals seven tips to help you get your email query read quickly. And it will keep your prospective agent’s finger off the delete button.
This article is part of a 17-part series called Get a Literary Agent for your Fiction, Nonfiction, or Children’s Book.
Although I’m giving you guidelines about how to format a query letter for literary agents, some literary agencies have their own requirements. So, you might want to check individual agency guidelines on how to format an email query for literary agents there before you submit to them.
Now the seven tips on how to format
an email query for literary agents…
It’s critical that literary agencies understand your email is a query, so start your subject line with the word “Query.” That will keep any agents from getting confused and/or wasting time trying to figure out what you want.
After the word query, list your book title and genre or category. The title makes it easier for a literary agency to find your email later (most literary agencies get hundreds of submissions a week). The genre lets the literary agency instantly know who the email needs to be forwarded to, if it’s not a one man (or woman) operation.
The standard is New Courier or Times New Roman (12 point). Don’t use colored type, images, or background stationery.
There are over one thousand literary agents in the United States alone, and they all have different interests. Getting an agent’s name right is a sign that you’ve done your research and your submission is well-targeted. “Dear Agent” is almost guaranteed to get an instant rejection.
Make sure you use a colon after the agents name, not a comma, since query letters are business letters. And specify the agent’s gender by using “Mr.” or “Ms.” Stick with the more formal “Dear” …instead of something more casual like “Hi,” “Hey,” “Hello,” “Yo,” “Dude,” or “What’s Up!” (yes, I’ve seen it all).
Here’s how your greeting should look:
Left-justify your text. Don’t indent your paragraphs. Double-space between paragraphs but everything else should be single-spaced. Capitalize and italicize your book title (like any other book title). You can also put your book title in all CAPS and/or or use bold type.
Don’t drag out your closing. Say something simple like “Thank you for your consideration.” You don’t need to tell the literary agent that you’re ready to send the rest of your material, etc. Agents already know that. It might sound trite, but excess words can grate on an agent’s nerves.
The signature block should be located at the end of your query letter. You can use a separation line before it. Just make sure you include all of your contact information. One of my best clients originally queried me by postal mail with nothing more than his mailing address. But I fell in love with his query and wanted to call him immediately on the phone to ask him to overnight the manuscript and grant me an exclusive.
Instead I had to wait a week or two to get the book.
Here’s an example signature block:
If a literary agency asks you to send sample manuscript pages with your query letter, check to see if they have specific requirements about how to include them. If you don’t find any guidelines, simply paste them after your signature block. Don’t worry too much about the formatting of the pages. You’ll be cutting and pasting from another document, so things are bound to be a little off. Just do your best to make sure everything is readable.
Remember, some literary agencies have special requirements about how to format an email query for literary agents. Although it’s certainly bothersome to check every literary agency’s guidelines, it can be worth it. Some literary agencies have one or two peculiar things that they ask an author to do, simply to see if the author is paying attention to their policies… and willing to follow instructions.
I know, I know.
But do it anyway (it’ll be worth it).
Now, click here to read the next article in this 17-part series and see
our File Format Submission Guidelines for Literary Agents.