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After you’ve written a 100,000-word book, writing a one-page query letter should be easy, right? Wrong. Most writers find it incredibly challenging to distill the essence of their story down to one single page. But take heart! Here are some easy edits you can make to trim the word count on your query while still grabbing the attention of a literary agent.
How To Make Your Query Letter Shorter…And Smarter
Cut out subplots. Too much emphasis on subplots in your query letter’s book blurb can bog down your story’s summary. Instead, focus only on those plot elements that are at the heart of your book. Learn to maximize your main conflict.
Leave out minor characters. Descriptions of minor characters can also bulk up your query letter’s word count. If you can’t focus your book’s summary on one or two main characters, consider taking a “list” approach to your ensemble cast by offering an evocative but brief description of each character’s main conflict.
Remove book comparisons. While some writers will swear by phrases that compare your manuscript to an existing book, our query letter experts find that making book comparisons has the potential to backfire. Learn more about making book comparisons in your query letter.
Trim your bio to only the most relevant credits. If you’re not sure which of your publishing credits are the strongest, check out this article about how to rank your publishing credits and awards.
Avoid TMI in your author bio. Sharing a little bit of personal information in your author bio is a good thing—as long as you don’t go overboard. Learn more about how to avoid oversharing in your author bio.
Direct agents to your author website for more information. When your author website and your query letter work hand in hand, you win. Your author website gives you the freedom to portray yourself and your writing exactly the way you want to. And if a literary agent is interested in your story, he or she will definitely visit your author website. Learn more about what literary agents like to see in an author website.
Drop anything that sounds editorial. Some writers like to describe how great their book is (“It’s a smart, page-turning, suspenseful read that will keep readers wanting more!”). Rather than talking about how great your book is, let the facts speak for themselves. Agents prefer to make up their own minds.
Shorten review quotes. While it may be tempting to include quotes from reviewers and other authors in their entirety, include only the best bits instead.
Should Your Query Letter Really Be Limited To Only One Page?
Nowadays, most query letters are sent by email—yet agents continue to prefer query letters that would fit on one printed page. Why? Literary agents have lots of queries to read besides yours, so their time is limited. If you can’t keep your query letter short, sweet, and to the point, they’ll move on to an author who can.
We recommend that you write your query letter in a Word document to ensure that it can fit on one page; this technique is a publishing industry “best practice” that you don’t want to ignore. Then, when you send your query via email, you can be sure that it’s the right length.
QUESTION: Have you had trouble keeping your query letter to one page? Which of these tips help you most?