Just how important are those dang query letters? What do I really want to see in them?

Those dang query letters are important. They are my introduction to you and your work (unless I already know you). If I’m struggling through reading your query letter, I’m probably not going to keep scrolling down to read your manuscript. I’ll just cut my losses and reply with a pass. I know you don’t want to hear that. But it’s true.

A good query letter will do its job and pique my interest. It will invite and entice me to read your manuscript. It will put your work in a context. It will intrigue me and perhaps even make me want to Google you.

This is what I want to see in your query letter:

  • that you take your writing seriously and professionally
  • that you’ve done your homework and know what should be included in a query letter… and what should not.
  • that you’re following my submission guidelines, which you can find many places, including on my agency website and here on the blog
  • that you’re not being weird or cute in the query (except normal weirdness or cuteness) because a query is a business letter
  • that you understand what an agent does and does not do (i.e. I don’t publish your book. You don’t hire me.)

The above are general things I want to see. I’m not getting specific, because I feel like I’ve talked about query letters a whole bunch here on the blog. Like here. Here. Here. And here (I got a lot of pushback on this one. People didn’t like my tone.)

Do you have questions about queries? I’m happy to answer questions!

And now, because I always put pictures in my posts, here’s a post of my new typewriter. I bought it this past weekend for no reason whatsoever at all except that one can’t have too many typewriters. Right?

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5 responses to “Just how important are those dang query letters? What do I really want to see in them?

  1. [Sorry if duplicate comment – WordPress and I are not on friendly terms]
    Is there anything don’t specify in your guidelines because it’s a standard? (ie. are there something things I’m just supposed to know about query letters because I’ve done my homework?)

  2. How important is the “I am querying you because your MSWL….” in a query? And if allowed simultaneous submissions, when you read that, are you less likely to keep reading?