Tips for Writing Your Query Letter

Updated: Jun 9

Knowing how to query Literary Agents and Publishers is an immense skill that every writer should work hard to develop. I mean let’s face it, if you don’t know how to do this well then you’re not going to go very far as an author. Why's that, you ask. Well, if you never write the perfect query letter, then a publisher may never spend more than five seconds reading over any proposal that you send. And that means that the amazing novel that you've crafted may not receive the attention [from the traditional publishing channels], that it deserves.

But all is not lost.

In this post, we'll give you tips on how to find publishers that want to see your query letter, and then how to write a query letter that will get you and your book noticed.

Which Publishers Should You Send Your Query Letter to?

Publishers Accepting Submissions From Authors. If you type into google search, "publishers accepting unsolicited submissions," there will be lists and lists of publishers currently accepting submissions from authors.

Do your Research- Do not merely submit your query letter to every publisher that is accepting submissions directly from authors. Visit their websites and determine that the publisher would actually be interested in your genre and novel type. Some publishers will give very detailed information about what they are and are not looking for in terms of story tropes, character types, and sub-genres.

Publishers Operating in Print & Digital Publication: Before you submit to publishers, ensure that you really want to work with them. Here's what you should look for:

1) Are They Legitimate? Judge the quality of their website. Is the content on their site sales-driven or written in broken English. If yes, these are bad signs. Visit their social media profiles. Do they look well designed and well managed?

2) Do they promote their Authors? Is there evidence that they support and promote their authors? Again look at their website and social media profiles.

3) Do they offer Advances? You will want to know how they operate before you submit to them. Is this publisher large, or small, or masking as a traditional publisher but actually a hybrid?

how do you write a query letter well?

I’m going to share a few simple [yet often disregarded] tips:

Write Your Letter With Professionalism- Do not send the same query letter to 50 publishers. You need to research each publisher individually and determine what they are actually looking for. Include an explanation of why that publisher would be a good fit for your book.

Don’t Use Hyperbole Statements- Don’t tell the publisher that this book is for ‘everyone.’ Don’t tell the publisher that this is the next bestseller. And most of all, don’t tell the publisher that you ‘need to be published’. The publisher will make all of these judgments on their own (and probably not agree with you on most of them.)

Describe Yourself Well- Remember to include information in your author bio that is only related to your career as a writer. Think social media links, websites, books published, short stories featured, and awards won.

Obey the Guidelines- Each publisher has its own set of specific guidelines for submissions. Make sure that you do everything that they say or else they probably won’t want to look at any more of your material. For instance, there will be some publishers that only want you to provide a short query letter that includes 1-2 sentences about your book and brief author biography. While other publishers will want more 'meat' in your letter and details of your author platform, your social links, or to know why your book would be a good fit for their press.

Want more tips? We regularly schedule events and workshops that teach authors how to query publishers and literary agents. Watch out for announcements on our website and Twitter- @ThousandLived.

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