How To Query A Literary Agent

Congratulations. You have completed your work, but now it’s time to take it to the next level, and for most people that means finding an agent.

First off, before you can query an agent, you have to do your research. You can’t just go querying any agent–although you could, but it probably wouldn’t render much success. Some literary agents -not all- have specific genres of works they represent; Nonfiction, Academic, Young Adult, Fiction, etc… It is your job to figure out which agent might be interested in your particular genre, or work.

You should also, check to see whether he or she, would prefer electronic, versus paper inquiries. (It would be a waste of time to mail out a query, that may get thrown out, because you failed to check an agent’s preferences.)

Now that you have found a good match, it’s time to start your query.

  1. Do: properly address your letter to the agent, and be sure to leave your own return address, email address, and contact number, in case they decide to contact you. (This should be neatly aligned to the top right of your letter.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Example Header                                                                                                                                       Ex. query header                                                            
  2. Skip the small talk. It takes an agent less than a minute to throw out a query, so you should make your introduction as captivating as possible. This is usually accomplished with an intriguing intro about your works, known as a hook. Your hook should grab the reader’s attention, and make he or she want to know more about your book. If you are a debuting author it would also benefit you greatly to add the word count of your novel. (Make sure to capitalize the name of your work)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Example Intro paragraph                                                                                                                                                                                                           Ex. query first paragraph                                                                                                                                                                            
  3. After baiting the agent’s attention, do give a brief summary or synopsis of your work. This should be no more than 1 or 2 paragraphs.This is where you include those juicy bits of detail, that will further engage your reader.                                              
  4. Your query should not exceed more than 4-5 paragraphs, or be longer than one page. Your last, and final paragraph should tell a little bit about you. (Of course not your favorite type of pizza, or which movie, or song, inspired your novel …)  Make sure to include the things that matter, such as: previously published works, or if none, writing/essay competitions you’ve won (less than 10 years ago), and work experience you’ve had, or have, related to the literary field.                                              
  5. Then that’s it. Close off your letter, simply and professionally. Also: be sure not to use any fonts, or font sizes other than the standard size 12 pt., Times New Roman, or Arial fonts.

If you follow these steps, this should at least get an agent intrigued about your work; after which, he or she may ask for further reading or sample chapters from you.

Do not be discouraged if you do not receive a reply, or you get a rejection. Yes it’s possible that your work may be lacking, and you need to go back to the drawing board, but it is also possible, and practical that some agents are not accepting new clients or works at the moment, and are currently busy with other projects.

 See: Handling Rejection Like A Pro.  

Try another Agent, and then another. You may not get the response you want, but eventually you will get a response. Now that you know what to do, it’s time for you to get started, and get your queries out there. Hurry, there’s no time to waste, as the querying process can sometimes be long and drawn out. Good luck, and don’t give up.

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