PART THREE: Everything else
Wrapping up the series with an annotated sample query! Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
[Your contact info: name, street address, phone number and email address (include email address even if sending snail mail; the agent may request pages by email. If sending an email query, move your contact info to the bottom]
[The date (spell out the month)]
[The agent’s contact info: their name, their agency’s name, their agency’s street adress. If sending an e-query, do not include date of agent contact info.]
Dear Mr. Snuffleupagus, [use accurate spelling and designation in the salutation. If querying a woman and unsure of marital status, just include her full name: “Dear Sally Snuffleupagus,”]
[Jump right into your hook. In high school, you learned to start a business letter with an introduction and a short explanation of the letter’s purpose. Forget that. Literary agents get dozens or hundreds of queries daily; they don’t need to read “My name is X and I was wondering if you’d be interested in representing my book.”]
[Summarize your book’s stats: title, word count (taken from your word processor and rounded to the nearest 500), genre, if it’s a first novel, and if it is part of a series. It’ll look something like:] Crime Time is an 80,000-word crime drama, and my first novel. It is the first in a trilogy, but can stand alone.
[If you’re querying this specific agent for a particular reason, like you talked to them at a writers’ conference, are a regular reader of their blog, or a fan of another author they represent, say so. Also mention whatever qualifies you to write the book, like an English degree, or any publishing credits or writing awards. Don’t bring up self-published work unless you sold a heck of a lot of copies. Briefly mention any life experience related to the subject of your book, like if your book is a crime drama and you’re a police officer, or if it’s about special needs children and your son has Down Syndrome. Otherwise your personal life is irrelevant.][List any materials you’re including with the query – NO MORE AND NO LESS than what is outlined in the agent’s submission guidelines (these can usually be found on the agent’s website, in Writer’s Market, or on AgentQuery.com). If it’s a snail mail query, include an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope – so the agent can respond without copying your address and paying postage).]
Thank you for your time and consideration. [or craft your own thanks]
[Your signature (if snail mail)]
Remember: the query must stand on the strength of your story alone. No fancy paper, weird fonts, illustrations, or writing the query from a character’s perspective.
BONUS TIP: a goofy email address like writergirl15 or lollipopsandbazookas can kill your professional image. You can get a secondary email address based on your real name (like john.smith or jsmith) free through a webmail provider like Yahoo or Gmail.