FYI: Query Dos and Don'ts

You'd like to think that once you've been published, you'll never have to write another query letter, but Colleen and I both know better. You change agents, you do proposals, you have to pitch every project in one way or another. So there's something for everyone in this no nonsense list of Query Dos and Don'ts from literary agent Wendy Sherman:

Write a fabulous query letter

Tell us why you chose our agency

Tell us why this book has an audience, and why you're the one to write it

Include information about your credentials to write this book, publications and prizes, awards, and conferences

Know the competition and describe those titles

Tell us which well-known writer's work yours most clearly compares to

Keep your letter under two pages

You can include a double-spaced table of contents and overview (non-fiction)

You can include a double spaced 1st chapter (fiction)

Tell us if you are submitting to more than one agency

Always include a SASE

Please be sure to provide us with your email, phone number, and address.

Read the books on how to find an agent - there are several. There is much valuable information that will help you throughout this process.

Refer me to your website for a reading sample.

Tell me about all the agents who have turned you down

Call to see if we received the material

Send me a query for something I turned down before (even if you rewrote it)

Tell me about several books I can choose from. Pick one!

Send anything that is single-spaced or in type less than 12 pt.

E-mail. We no longer accept e-mail queries.

Fax. We do not accept fax queries

Drop it off in person

According to Sherman, "The bottom line is: do your homework. Be as well prepared as possible. Read the books that will help you present yourself and your work with polish."


Great tips! I can add a "don't." Don't bore the recipient into a stupor by trying to make your query letter into a synopsis. You need enough of the story premise (the hook) to pique her interest. And then it's time to shut up and wait to reel in an invitation to send more.

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