Preditors and Editors
A guide to publishers and publishing services for serious writers since 1997.
Sample Novel Query Letter:
Your street address
Your city, state, and zip code
The editor's (or agent's) name and title
The publication's name
The publications address
Dear (Mr./Ms.) (editor's [or agent's] last name),
What if the President of the United States committed a murder in front of you? What if you were a member of his Secret Service protection? Would you arrest him? Would you report the crime? Or would you cover up the crime to protect the nation because of an international crisis?
These are the questions Shari Nichols must resolve in my novel, All Fall Down. At the moment of the murder she professes allegiance to President Halverson, but she questions whether she has made the right choice. A quick promotion puts her into a job that consumes her attention and seems to support the President's action of murder. But within weeks a series of events makes Shari wonder if the President is as honorable as he seems. Shari Nichols digs for the truth and unearths secrets woven deeply within the infrastructure of the government. Secrets that touch even her family, but she may be digging her own grave.
The completed manuscript is available upon request. A SASE is included for your convenience. Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Your signature here
Your name printed here
- The first thing that occurs in the query letter is the hook. Observe how the first paragraph is filled with questions that raise complex situations and aren't just answered easily. Those are hooks meant to grab the reader's interest. You don't have to answer those questions in the query letter. They're answered in the manuscript. Also, very importantly, some agents do not like questions in the queries they receive. Be sure you check their guidelines for any hints on what they prefer.
Alternate first paragraph for use when agents don't like questions:
When Secret Service agent Shari Nichols witnesses the President of the
United States committing a murder, she's presented with impossible
choices. Report the crime and arrest the president. Or cover up the
murder to protect the nation from an international crisis.
Alternate first two sentences for second paragraph:
In All Fall Down, Shari professes allegiance to President Halverson, but
she questions whether she has made the right choice.
- What many books don't tell you about query letters is that you have to sell your work as if you were marketing it to the actual reader. In a sense, you are. You're selling your book to one of its very first readers. For that reason, you have to include what is known as sizzle in the advertising business. The second paragraph tells the agent or publisher that the protagonist is a female and gives them some idea where the story will go, what genre it falls into, and whets their appetite for more.
- In the last paragraph, it's assumed if they ask for an exclusive, you'll grant it, within a reasonable period of time, of course. The Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope will also be appreciated. It will help you get a reply. As well, you state that you're interested in hearing from the editor soon. The agent or editor will get the hint that you'll offer the work to another agent or publisher if a reply isn't returned after a reasonable time limit.
- One last thing. The title I used in the sample query is made up, though I'm sure that some author somewhere has probably used it. It was simply an appropriate sounding title for the stated premise of the first paragraph. You should, of course, ask your own questions and use your own title when modeling your actual query letter on this sample.
- Very likely, you'll want to include the length of your manuscript. If so, you might want to reword the last paragraph slightly to something like "The completed manuscript of 80,000 words is available upon request".
- Best of luck to you!
Improved second paragraph and applicable explanation provided by Kerry Hanslits.
Improved third paragraph and applicable explanation provided by TLGray31NOSPAMaol.com.
Alternate first and second paragraph inserts provided by Karen Sandler.