Figuring Out Query Letters

Every aspiring author, at some point, wishes someone would tell us how to do query letters right. Just tell me what to write, and I'll write it!


But it's not that simple. For one thing, there is no Right Way to write a query. There are, however, a hundred wrong ways that agents see over and over. One of the best ways to learn, then, is to read other query letters -- hundreds of them, good and bad -- until something clicks and you get a sense for what works.

What? You thought it would be easy?

To help, here's a list of places where you can do exactly that. Many of these links provide free critiques -- both peer and professional. For most the wait is long, if your letter gets chosen at all. But the real value of these sites is not getting comments on your own letter. It's in learning from, and critiquing, the mistakes of others. Read enough of these, and you may actually figure out the answer to "How do I write a good query letter?"

Even if you can't put it in words.
Know any good places I missed? Share them in the comments!


IanBontems said...

Good post, query letters are so hard to write (at least they are for me).

I found Query Shark and Nathan Bransford's posts on querying really useful. So much so, that I'd have been lost without them.

As for another site - writer Matthew Rush also blogs regularly on queries where agented writers have submitted their successful queries for analysis.

Matthew MacNish said...

Wow, thanks for the shout out Ian! I'll hook you up with some better links here Adam.

For the series of successful queries, some by published authors, some by soon to be, go here.

For the series of my own terrible queries, from back in the day, which are great examples of what not to do, go here.

For a series of query critiques and breakdowns in which I've tried to help other writers hone their queries, go here.

Otherwise thanks, and great post!

Corinne said...

I've learned *so* much from seeing critiques on other people's queries. It's hugely useful.

Another place to get your query critiqued is Absolute Write, Query Letter Hell in the Share Your Work forums. These days you need a minimum of 50 posts to be able to start a new thread there, but it's well worth it.

Adam Heine said...

So awesome. Thanks for the links, guys! Keep them coming.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

What a great resource! Thanks Adam (and Matt)! :)

L. T. Host said...

There's also Rick Daley's Public Query Slushpile.

Daniel Smith said...

From Cheryl Klein's blog (Senior Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books):

The Annotated Query Letter from Hell

vic caswell said...

jiminey christmas! what a wealth of information! great post and comments adam and friends!! :)