Query letters that worked

As anyone who’s even been to a writers’ conference can attest, query letters cause no end of consternation and angst. That’s totally understandable, by the way—as the first introduction of a writer to an agent, it gets assigned a huge amount of importance. Plus, for a lot of writers, it’s a completely unnatural way of writing.

Going further, I think some of the frustration with queries comes from the lack of practical models—the generic queries you find in writers manuals tend to be so flat that they don’t offer much inspiration. And because the recommended query format is so basic—it’s really just intro, summary, and credits–writers often fall into the trap of thinking they need to fancy it up, and without concrete examples for guidance, the results tend not to work. On the other hand, cautionary examples typically are so laughably bad that they’re not really useful either, except for getting a rise out of a writers’ workshop.

So I was very excited to find this post on GalleyCat of actual query letters that landed authors representation. It’s a fantastic resource, and there’s a lot here that writers can learn, borrow or just plain steal. Better yet, the queries span a comprehensive range of categories—no matter what you’re writing, there should be a model here for you. At the same time, it’s worth looking at all of them, because reading them en masse reveals just how closely these successful authors hew to the basic query format, regardless of genre.  Finally, if you really want to get technical about them, several are even broken down and annotated.

And in terms of querying me: I’ll side with my fellow agents from GalleyCat that short, straightforward, and on-format works best, and for author/illustrators, always include either art samples or a link to a portfolio.

Happy querying!

3 Responses to Query letters that worked

  1. Thank you for the gem of a link!
    One author shared she revised her query letter over 20 times.
    Not only do manuscripts beg for revisions, but so do query letters.

  2. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Creative, snappy query style is every bit as important as good, marketable material; that plus the realization that there’s no commercial calculus on the query-reading end; all decisions are made on a whim-driven basis and subject to no rational planning process. (Well, mabe a little occasionally, but don’t factor it into your plans) So, aside from a flashy, irresistable (scratch that word-you could send some of these guys a gold ingot and still get a form autojection) query, what else can you do? Well, I’ve had great results from waving a Hand Of Glory over my keyboard at moonrise, although finding a murderer’s hand is tricky these days with everyone being so squeamish about the death penalty… At this point, most agents decide to knock off early and head for a power lunch with the parent of a 13-year-sensation who’s got a brand-new Wimpy Kid knockoff to plug. Oh, well, back to the Hand Of Glory…

  3. Lynn says:

    Queries are so hard because there is no one way or correct way of doing one. I clicked on the link in your post and the first query I read in “query letters that worked” did everything I had read you’re not suppose to do! We’re told to avoid character soup and not to give a laundry list, yet that’s exactly what I read and the query worked for someone. It just goes to show that the query you write may not resonate with some agents, but it will with others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>