Literary Agent Query Letter – Agent Queries for Book Agents

Literary Agent Query Letter Literary agent query letter, what is it and how do you write one? In short, a query letter is your opportunity to sweep the most eligible book agents in the world off their feet… and get them fighting over the opportunity to represent you.

If you want a literary agency to fall in love with you and your book (so you can get a major publisher and book deal), you have to write an irresistible literary agent query letter (revealing why you and your book are “highly desirable”).

Scroll below to find out how you can write a great literary agent query letter. This article is part of a 17-part series called Get a Literary Agent for Your Book.

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Literary Agent Query Letter Definition

Hold on a second…

Okay, I’m back.

Had to grab a calculator.

Tap, tap, tap… tap, tap.

Literary agency query letter thousands

It looks like (during the time that I was a book agent), I read
approximately 60,000 queries (give or take a few thousand).

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A 1-2 page piece of correspondence written by an author
trying to get the attention of a publishing agent.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Sometimes boasting, begging, bribing, ranting, raving,
wandering, dazed, hazed, and/or confused.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Sometimes genius.

I’ve read queries that gave me goose bumps, caused me
to gasp, and made me scream (yes, some are really that good).

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Something I’m going to help you write…

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A literary agency query letter is the only way to get a book agent to read your completed or partial manuscript (or get a publishing agent). Even if you meet a book agent at a writers’ conference, have an opportunity to pitch your work, and he/she tells you that you should send the manuscript (or partial) to their office.

Your manuscript (or partial) better be accompanied by a literary agent query letter
(although, in this case, it would be more accurate to call it a “cover” letter).

Literary agency query letter is a cover letter

What is a literary agent query letter?

A formula.

Although every book agent query letter should be slightly different depending on the author and the book genre (or category), there are certain book agent query letter rules or guidelines that should be followed.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

In a word: poetry.

And, by that I don’t mean that your literary agency query letter should rhyme (please don’t).

What I do mean is that a well-crafted pitch letter packs a lot of important information into a small space (one page). That means the best literary agent query letters craft sentences  with multiple layers of meaning (to make the most use of the space). For example, a single sentence in your query might identify your target market, show that you understand your market, compare/contrast a similar competing title, and let agents know that you have a sense of humor.

In essence, many sentences in your literary agent query letter should communicate at least two things. That’s always my goal when I’m helping an author draft their query, although it’s certainly not easy to do. However, when you do pull it off you’ll get responses like this one from Laurie McLean with Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in La Honda, CA. This is part of a reply she sent me after I queried her about one of my former clients (who’d lost his agent and publisher).

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Literary Agent Query Letter Testimonial

Literary agency Query Letter Larsen Pomada“Dear Mark… Your query letter was, bar none, the absolute best I’ve ever received pitching an author’s work. Short and direct, yet packed with information. I’d be a fool not to beg you for a look… please mail it to my personal address so it won’t get mixed up with the hundreds of pieces of mail and packages we receive each week.”

Laurie McLean, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents, La Honda, CA

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A long shot… let’s say, one in a thousand.

Most book agents get a least a thousand pitch letters every month, and they have a 95-98% rejection rate (don’t shoot the messenger).

Literary agency Query Letter Rejection

What is a literary agent query letter?

Something to take seriously, since many of the authors you’re competing with are referrals, already famous, or previously published. Not everyone submitting queries to book agents is previously unpublished.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A chance for you to “have me at hello.”

A good opening line can almost guarantee that your entire pitch letter will be read.
A bad opening line can, well… I think you know.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A white canvas that can be painted with
more than a hundred colors.

Literary agency Query Letter Ingredients

Over the years I’ve identified more than a hundred different “ingredients” that you can include in your book agent query letter. It isn’t possible to use all the ingredients in one pitch letter (and that shouldn’t be your goal). The point is being aware of all the potential ingredients, and using those that will make you and your work more appealing.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Rewrites.

An example…

Several months ago, an aspiring author emailed to tell me that he’d sent out 200 query letters and gotten 199 rejections. I asked him to send me his literary agency query letter and I immediately saw the problem. His letter was only four sentences (and they weren’t good sentences).

He hired me as a consultant and I helped him rewrite his query (a full page filled with great content making him look like the expert that he really is). He just needed some help figuring out what he needed to say, and how he needed to say it.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A difficult thing to write if you don’t have lots of successful sample queries to look at when you’re writing yours. How-to information is valuable (tips and strategies like these I’m sharing with you now), but it’s a lot more valuable when you have examples to look at… showing you how others successfully applied those tips and strategies.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Content and style.

Literary agency Query Letter Content

Most authors focus exclusively on the content of their literary agency query letter, but style can be just as important. If you’re a humor writer, show-don’t-tell with a whimsical literary agent query letter. If you’re a romance writer, “flirt” with prospective agents in your letter.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Something you should be submitting to multiple agents (simultaneous submissions). Just don’t tell them I told you. As an author trying to get literary agency representation, it could take you years to get an agent if you approach them one by one. As a literary agent trying to sell books, it could take years to get a publisher if you approach them one by one. Agents rarely do it. Neither should you.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A procrastination trap.

Most authors say that the process of writing a literary agency query letter is just as hard (if not harder) than writing the book itself. As a result, lots of writers end up putting it off (waiting months or even years to write a pitch letter and send it off to agents).

Literary agency Query Letter Traps

Don’t fall into the trap…

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A sales letter.

And most authors don’t know a thing about sales letters.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Something that has its own learning curve. You might be confident writing in your particular book genre or category, but you’ll have to study sample pitch letters and put in some practice time to attain mastery (or even basic competency).

Be patient.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

A chance for you to show publishing agents that you’re
a professional writer who’s easy to work with.

Literary agency Query Letter Grammar

What is a literary agent query letter?

A place for good grammar.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Not a place for typos.

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What is a literary agent query letter?

Quite possibly the only thing standing between you and a
top literary agent, a major publisher, and a major book deal.

What is a literary agent query letter?

Something you should consider
getting help with…

Click here now to read the next article in this 17-part series and
see the ultimate Query Letter Sample Structure.

See the ultimate query letter sample structure

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