Tips from a literary agent reviewing query letters

I attended a Reedsy livestream that featured a literary agent. I got to see the agent go through query letters before my eyes!

I decided to take what I learned the most and share it with y’all. Hope you enjoy!


How to start your query

If you are a debut author, he suggested going straight into talking about your book. (About 85-90% start with their book.) Anything that is a strong hook to grab the literary agent’s attention is what you should strive for.

He also mentioned puffing up the literary agent’s ego could work, but it’s not recommended. It has to be well-written to work.

How to write the middle of your query

Remember that this is not a synopsis. A query is like what you’d find on the back of a book. Don’t give away how the story ends, but let the reader get curious about how your story will end. What are your character’s struggles and character traits? It’s okay if you sneak those in by using adjectives before their names.

How to use Comparative titles

Comparative titles are useful if used well. The books you compare yours to should be new or ten-years-old max. Anything past that is out-of-date.

He also mentioned using context and specific adjectives for your comparative titles. For example, “My Novel takes the diverse characters from Such and Such and the hybrid technological world of Such and Such.” That helps agents know exactly how the titles compare to yours. It’s better than listing random titles.

How to mention that you might have written a second book already

“It has series potential.” That’s it. It shows how you understand that the book world is always changing. You never know if you’ll be able to sell a second book with the publisher. But it also gives the agent a heads up that you have more ideas.

How to end the query

You don’t have to say this word for word, but the line he recommends is: “I can send the completed manuscript upon request. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.”

This is good in a couple of ways. It shows that you understand your book needs to be 100% completed to get an agent. It also lets the agent know that you realize they’re busy, and sometimes, it takes a while for them to get back to you.

Bonus

He also really liked the line: “I hope [the pages] keep you up all night reading.”


Hope this helps! What are your thoughts? Have any other tips? Leave a comment below!

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