The query letter I used to pitch my novel to literary agents
Here's the email I sent to agents asking them to publish my novel.
After I shared my big list of all the literary agents with a proven track record, I had several people reach out to me asking for examples of a query letter.
A query letter is the email you send to agents asking them to consider your book for publishing. It usually includes the query letter itself, a synopsis of the book, what books it compares to on the market, and what you, the author, have going for you that will help market the book (social media followings, writing experience, etc.).
Each agent has a slightly different variation of this request—they might want just a query letter, just a synopsis, or both. They might have you include this information in the body of the email, attach it to the email as a word document or PDF, or upload it to Query Tracker—a software many of them use to manage their queries. Some require only the query letter, though most request the first three chapters of your book too.
When I was getting ready to pitch my gothic novel Obscurity to agents, I wrote a cheat sheet that contained my query letter, my synopsis, and a combination of the two, plus my comps—I also bundled the first three chapters of my book into a PDF. Then I scheduled a query review with Kayla Lightner, a literary agent at Ayesha Pande Literary who also provides query consultations for writers.
I sent her my query letter and synopsis, plus the first three chapters of my book, and she read both before our call. We then spent 15 minutes discussing her feedback—she thought my query letter and synopsis were very strong and that it was only a matter of finding the right agent, she said she herself would be interested except that she didn’t like romance.
My novel is a gothic novel—so I was confused when she first said that. But I re-read my first three chapters and realized I had one of only three sex scenes in my first three chapters. I wound up cutting that scene entirely so that it was very clear that my book was a gothic novel right from the beginning.
Once the aesthetic was sufficiently honed in, I sent this query letter plus the first three chapters to 100+ agents. I received only one request for the full manuscript, and no offers, so take it with a grain of salt. That being said, the primary feedback I received was “this is good but not what we are looking for right now.” It’s my personal belief that gothic novels just aren’t very salable on the market place.
In any case, here’s what a sample query letter looks like. Take it and make it your own!