When literary agents are reading through query letters, certain elements will jump off the page and say “Hey! I’m something special! Pay closer attention, pal!” The query letter experts here at Writer’s Relief know how to take advantage of attention-grabbing tactics by implementing these essential query letter writing strategies.
Key Query Letter Elements That Literary Agents Love To See
An efficient opening line. Writers who present straightforward, helpful opening lines offering essential information are writers who show they are up to date on industry etiquette. For literary agents, “clever” query letter openings tend to rank far below first lines that are unadorned and to the point. Learn more about how to write a great opening line for a query letter.
Crisp, clear sentences. Literary agents are busy; if they don’t have to waste time untangling long-winded sentences, you’ll make a bigger impact, faster. Don’t dull the impact of your query with lots of overly embellished sentence structure.
Tight paragraphs. When literary agents are speed-reading hundreds of queries a day, they want to read succinct paragraphs that tell them what they need to know—and nothing more—so don’t meander!
Professional polish. Proofreading. Industry-standard formatting. A professional yet friendly tone. These elements might not seem splashy, but without them, your query letter will look second rate.
A great author bio. You don’t need a fancy-pants bio full of publishing credits to impress a literary agent with your book. That said, having great publishing credits can only help your cause—acting as evidence of your talent, professionalism, and ability to command an audience. Here’s what to do if you don’t have any publishing credits to list in your author bio.
Endorsements, quotes, reviews. Even if you’re still pre-published, you may be able to get an endorsement from a fellow author, writing teacher, freelance editor, or other publishing professional.
An engaging book summary. Your book summary needs to do one thing: create a reaction in your reader. Learn how to do that here.
An author website. Having your author website’s URL in your query letter shows you are already building the infrastructure you need to support a fan base. Plus, literary agents really do visit author websites when they get queries that intrigue them. A query without an author website is a missed opportunity. Get your author website here!
Authenticity. Above all, literary agents prize authenticity. Skip the inflated “my book is the best thing ever” assurances. Nix the “this is my first book, have pity on me” groveling. Instead, find your own honest voice of quiet confidence. And word your “thank for your consideration” so it sounds like you mean it. Here’s how to tell if your query is too emotional to get results.
Want More Tips For Getting A Literary Agent’s Attention?
Did you know that the team here at Writer’s Relief has written a great e-book that puts our many years of experience right in your hands? Learn more about our Field Guide To Literary Agents.
And if you want our experts to write your query letter and use precision targeting to identify the best literary agents for your book, check out our A La Carte services.
Question: Which of the elements on our list do you think is most important in a query letter?