Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

Query Letters – 30 Do’s and Don’ts


On Industry Fridays, posts will relate to purely professional matters, including writing, producing, directing, books, film and television. This week is about the Query Letter.

A query letter is a formal letter you send to an agent, publisher or editor to try and get them interested in reading your book manuscript or hiring you to write the book. The letter should include:

  • The topic of the work
  • A short description of the plot
  • A short bio of the author
  • The target audience

Based on your query letter, the literary agent or editor then decides whether to contact you and request to see the manuscript. The query letter is possibly the first (and last) piece of your writing the agent or editor will ever see, so it’s important to get it right. It is literally the first step towards getting your manuscript published.

There’s tons of information about query letters on the internet, but here is a great free handbook by Noah Lukeman that explains how to write a great query letter. http://www.lukeman.com/greatquery/download.htm  Did I mention it’s FREE?

Below are 30 simple bullet points re writing the query letter (that are explained further in Noah’s handbook):

1. Open the query letter with a reference to a book the agent sold

2. Make sure you have a clear “hook” or logline of the concept of your book

3. Mention the genre of your book

4. Make comparisons to other books in the genre

5. Explain why your book is different than these other books

6. Describe the plot in no more than three sentences

7. Do not use character names

8. Do not mention subplots

9. Describe your bio in five sentences or less

10. Only include relevant information in your bio

11. Do not mention minor credits in your bio

12. Do not make your bio overly personal

13. Put any publication credits in italics or caps

14. Do not pitch more than one book

15. Do not have more than three paragraphs total

16. Do not exceed one page with your query letter

17. Do not quote your own book in the query letter

18. Do not include small talk

19. Do not be self critical

20. Do not mention givens

21. Do not include endorsements from family, friends or barely known authors

22. Do not include lots of underlining

23. Do not include lots of bolding

24. Do not include lots of italics

25. Do not use a font that’s too big or too small

26. Do not use unclear or colored font

27. Use good quality paper

28. Use a good printer

29. Remember to date the letter

30. Use letterhead instead of including contact information in the body of the letter

Below are a few examples of successful query letters (i.e. letters that got agents to read the author’s work and/or led to publishing deals). You’ll notice that some of them break one or two of the above rules, but in general, they stick to them.



Finally, if you’re curious how to find agents to send letters to, here is a link to the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents (available from Writers Digest, Google, Amazon and more). http://www.writersdigestshop.com/2013-guide-literary-agents?lid=cswdblog13

Happy creating!

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

2 thoughts on “Query Letters – 30 Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Great tip for authors. I’m glad there are a lot of don’ts in your list – otherwise good luck to anyone trying to fit it all into one page! But a good query letter still requires some really ‘compact’, to-the-point writing by the looks of it. Of course if you want to show you’re worth your salt as a writer, it pays to invest time and attention 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s