What Are Query Letters

Glossary > Query Letters

💬 Definition of Query Letters:

A query letter is meant to convince an agent or editor to read and publish your work. You can send query letters when your manuscript is finalized or when you have just the book's premise. It works as a written sales pitch, so you'll have to make the most of it. 

Related questions about query letters:

What is the difference between query letters for fiction and nonfiction books?

Querying a nonfiction book may not follow the same formula as a fiction book. With a novel, you can get a great query letter by giving an elevator pitch of your story. Include what makes your novel unique, and you're good to go. 

When it comes to nonfiction, it depends on the type of nonfiction you're writing. It can be narrative-driven (e.g., memoir, biography) or information-driven nonfiction (e.g., self-help). Having this in mind, you have to make sure you include details:

  • about yourself (memoir);
  • about someone else (biography);
  • about something (narrative nonfiction);
  • about a prescriptive book (how-to, self-help, or business books).

What should you include in your query letter?

Even if your book is fiction or nonfiction, they both follow the same pattern when it comes to a query letter.

Here are the elements you have to include:

You can personalize a query letter, but don't overdo it. Some agents like to stick to a more general approach. You can do it if, let's say, you've met the agent before, and you can mention this. For example, "We've met at the…, and we briefly discussed about…"

How long should a query letter be?

A query letter should be one page or 200 - 450 words maximum. Because it's like a sales pitch, you want to keep it brief but meaningful. Something that convinces and doesn't make people lose interest while reading. 

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