Writing a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

Writing a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

Writing a query letter doesn’t seem that complicated. However, I am yet to hear back from a literary agent. So I’m almost positive that I’m doing something wrong. In this post, we will take a look at my own query letter and try to figure out where I went wrong.

Writing a Query Letter – A Lesson in Proofreading

I would like to start off with a lesson in proofreading. When I first started reading up on query letters, I did a ton of research before I finally decided to just go for it. The following is a very sad and true story. Be warned that this was my first attempt, so it is what it is.

My Query Letter

Dear :

I am currently seeking representation for my sci-fi novel, THE COUTDOWN. It’s set in modern day and features haywire AI that is ominously counting down to something, but nobody knows what.

My story starts off with James, early twenties lives and committed to doing the bare minimum in life to just get by. But when he loses his job he is forced to seek employment elsewhere. He meets Allan, the creator of a hyper intelligent AI named Val (Virtual Assistant Language.)

Val is confined to the internet and Allan’s technological paradise of a home. Allan feels that she can better serve the world if she experiences it. So, he wants to install Val in James eye where she will experience the real world and use advanced augmented reality to assist James in his life.

Despite James rightful hesitance, he has the procedure and Val proves very useful as she helps him romance a one armed violinist named Mia by building her a functioning robotic arm.

Val seems to be working out perfectly for James until she hijacks the car he and Mia are in and begins a mysterious countdown for 4d8h54m33s. What follows is a strange journey through Val’s psyche to discover the truth.

The story is set in modern times and explores cutting edge technology and concepts. THE COUNTDOWN is 75,564 words as a standalone novel with the potential for sequels.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work, I hope you enjoy my attached synopsis and first five pages.

What Went Wrong

In case you can’t see it, I spelled the title of my book incorrectly on the first line. I sent this out to three literary agents before I caught it. Then I spent the next 30 minutes self hating. I’m not kidding you, I read that thing two hundred times before I started sending it out. And that was exactly the problem. I had stopped proof reading it and had basically put it to memory. So I was no longer reading it, I was really just going through the motions. So, two lessons learned:

  1. Word will not recognize spelling errors if the word is written in caps.
  2. Have someone else proof read your query letter.
Where I’m At Now

Dear Literary Agent:

I am currently seeking representation for my science fiction novel, THE COUNTDOWN. The novel is set in modern day and features haywire artificial intelligence that one day starts an ominous countdown. The story explores cutting edge concepts and technology. THE COUNTDOWN is 75,564 words as a standalone novel with the potential for sequels.

My story starts off with James, early twenties, committed to doing the bare minimum in life to just get by. When he loses his job he is forced to seek employment elsewhere. He meets Allan, the creator of a hyper intelligent AI named Val (Virtual Assistant Language.) Val is confined to Allan’s technological paradise of a home. Allan wants to install Val in James’ eye where she will experience the real world and use advanced augmented reality to assist James in his life. Val seems to be working out perfectly for James until she hijacks the car he and Mia are in and begins a mysterious countdown for 4d8h54m33s. What follows is a strange journey through Val’s psyche to discover the truth behind the countdown.

I’ve written, directed and edited several short films that have won numerous awards at film festivals. One of which was a silver screen award at the Las Vegas Film Festival. I made the jump to full length screenplays and eventually novels. I am also currently in the process of producing a graphic novel.

Below is [insert requested items here]. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work, I look forward to speaking with you. 

I Have no Credentials

Honestly, I’m not crazy about it. I think the meh part comes from the 3rd paragraph where you’re supposed to list your accomplishments as a writer. I don’t know if short films are really a badge of honor in the literary world, but I’m freaking flying blind here. Writing a query letter is difficult, I feel like it’s more difficult if you’re a new writer trying to break into the industry.

The bit at the end is there because every agent is different and requests different things. Often times they will request pages from your novel. Sometimes it’s 5 pages and sometimes it’s 50. I found one agent that asked for the second paragraph from the fifth page. Why? Is something significant supposed to happen at exactly that point of the story? I’m still confused on that one. I had another one request a bio about myself. I like long walks on the beach and I’m currently learning about writing a query letter. Can you tell?

Resources to Get Better at Writing a Query Letter?

Thank god for the internet. I stumbled across several great resources to learn about writing a query letter. Check these to hear from some experts that probably know much more than me:

Where to go From Here

Well, it’s still a work in progress and I’ll keep refining. I’ve sent out 28 query letters in total, not counting the three where I spelled my title wrong. Those are the query letters that nobody speaks of. I’ve only gotten 10 rejection letters so far. I suppose the best advice I’ve gotten is to just shrug whenever you get one and move on. I mean J.K Rowling got them, so I suppose there is nothing to worry about.

If you have any suggestions about writing a query letter please leave me a comment or hit me up on twitter or contact me via my contact page.