E-queries are a relatively new way of reaching literary agents, and the publishing industry “rules” for e-queries are still a mystery to some writers of fiction and nonfiction. Using email to pitch your book to literary agents or editors at publishing houses is often the easiest way to connect.
What Is An E-Query?
An e-query is a query letter sent to a literary agent via email.
After the anthrax scare of 2001, publishers became more willing to accept e-queries, as bulky, handwritten envelopes suddenly appeared threatening. Eventually, fears subsided and the realization dawned that the publishing industry was probably not a terrorist target. But the e-query continues to offer authors an alternate submission venue, and many publishers actually prefer it to the US Postal Service.
Click here to learn How To Email A Query Letter To A Literary Agent.
How To Write A Good E-Query To A Literary Agent
If you’re thinking of using this method, first determine if your targeted publisher, editor, or agent accepts e-queries by researching via websites and market books. At the same time, find out the appropriate person (and the correct spelling of his or her name) to direct your query letter.
A good e-query should be much the same as a query sent by mail—a short, fine-tuned, well-crafted letter that contains your contact information, a basic premise of what you have written, and the all-important “thank you for your time.” But in this world of electronic correspondence, a few rules specific to e-etiquette apply.
Subject line. Use this to make it clear what your email message contains. (You don’t want it to be mistaken for spam and deleted before it’s ever read.) A simple “Query – Historical Romance Novel” will do.
Salutation. Although emails are often more casual than written correspondence, now is not the time to lose your professionalism. “Dear Sam Smith” or “Dear Margaret Robinson” are preferable to a generic “Hi!” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
Stationery and Signature Lines. Again, keep it professional. Don’t use background stationery, fancy fonts, dancing smiley faces, or purple font. If your email address is CoochieGirl or BeerLover, best to consider a new account. You’ll want to make sure to “sign” your email with your full name and contact information (phone, fax, address), but leave off the signature quote that may identify you as frivolous or amateur. If you have a website with writing samples, include that address.
Don’t send attachments (unless they are requested). Many office computer systems automatically delete attachments as potential viruses, and sending large documents clogs up systems, especially those without high-speed Internet. Offer to send samples of your writing upon request.
Keep it short. Three paragraphs ought to do it, with the first paragraph giving a brief description of the type of work, word count, and general tone and style of your work. If you’re submitting a longer manuscript (novel), include a blurb as the second paragraph. The last paragraph is where you can highlight your credentials—anything that pertains directly to your query.
The last sentence. You may wish to include a sentence offering interesting personal information to grab the editor’s attention, such as “I set my historical novel in Ireland, as my family has lived there for over 200 years.” And be sure to thank the editor for his/her time.
Multiple queries. Sending multiple queries is fine (and far easier to do electronically), but each e-query should be addressed to just one recipient. It’s mildly insulting for editors to see a string of different addresses in the “To” section.
Format. Email programs vary, so to be on the safe side, don’t indent your query, avoid special fonts (like bold and underline), and never use html. Send a copy of your e-query to yourself first to see how it comes across. Check it carefully for spelling and grammatical errors. If you rely heavily on spell-check programs, write your query in a word-processing program and then paste it into the body of the email once it’s been checked.
When your e-query is perfect (and you’ve avoided these common online submission mistakes), hit the send button—now you can congratulate yourself and start working on your next query letter. But remember—even though your query letter has traveled speedily through cyberspace, editors and agents still need plenty of time to wade through both electronic and paper submissions. If you would like Writer’s Relief to help you with your query letter writing, give us a call!