Today we welcome guest Laura Cross to Writer Unboxed. Laura, an author, editor and writing coach, is the author of a new book — The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published. We’re happy she’s with us today to discuss something every writer wants to know more about: writing a successful query letter.
Literary agencies receive tens of thousands of query letters each year. With a rejection rate of 99% (ouch!), it is essential that you carefully construct your query to receive a positive response. Here are a few tips to help you create a winning query letter:
FOR FICTION QUERIES
- Create a hook. Capture the agent’s interest by creating a two-to-three sentence hook that introduces the protagonist and the premise.
- Deliver a captivating synopsis. A pitch for a novel should give the agent a sense of the completed book. After presenting the hook, deliver a one- to two-paragraph synopsis that touches on the main elements of the story. Highlight important characters, the antagonist, emotional turning points, the conflict or dilemma, the climax and the final lesson.
- Leave the agent wanting more. End with a “teaser” that leaves the agent wanting to know what happens next in the story.
- Show, don’t tell. You want to show the agent your story through your writing, not tell the agent that “it is a great story”, or that you are “a wonderful writer.”
- Demonstrate the tone and style of the book. If you have written a thriller, create suspense with your writing. If your novel is a romance, deliver an emotional punch. If your manuscript is light-hearted, be sure to include humor in your pitch. Also, use present tense and active verbs to convey a sense of immediacy and immersion.
- Create a catchy title and introduce it early in the query letter. Succinct, memorable titles help sell books. Show the agent you know how to write and market by crafting an appealing title.
- Show why the book is timely. Note any trends or media exposure that indicates a growing popularity in your subject.
- Convince the agent that you have a target market. Citing statistics of your potential readership shows that you understand your market niche.
- Narrow the idea for greatest impact. A narrowly focused nonfiction book sells better than a broad-based one and agents are looking for narrowly defined ideas.
- Differentiate your book. Impress the agent by conducting thorough research and presenting information to show why your book is needed. Know what other books are available and outline why your book is different from others already on the market.
YOUR TURN: What’s your “secret” to writing a winning query letter?
Laura Cross is an author, screenwriter, ghostwriter, freelance book editor, and writing coach specializing in nonfiction books and script adaptation (book-to-film projects). She writes two popular blogs, www.NonfictionInk.com and www.AboutAScreenplay.com, and teaches online writing workshops www.ScenarioWritingStudio.com/workshops. Her latest book is The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published. You can download a free chapter, view the book trailer, read the full table of contents, and purchase the eBook at www.GetALiteraryAgent.com.