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Tracy C. Gold

AUTHOR, EDITOR, TEACHER

Literary Agent Query Template and Favorite Query Writing Resources

on January 16, 2021

I sent hundreds of queries over the years of my search for a literary agent, and I had a darn good request rate (about 40%, on some projects!). I also read thousands of queries as a literary agent intern. While I didn’t end up actually getting my agent from cold querying (full story here!), I’m a pretty dab hand at writing query letters and helping other writers improve their letters.

So, here is my favorite format for query letters. Caveat: there is no one right way to write a query to a literary agent. You have to do what makes your book sound amazing. This is just what worked for me, and what I loved when I was going through the slush pile as an intern.

I’ve also included a whole bunch of resources, including links to successful query letters, at the end of this post.

Literary Agent Query Template

SUBJECT LINE: TITLE, GENRE/AGE CAT, COMP TITLES [OR WHATEVER THE AGENT REQUESTS IN THEIR SUB GUIDELINES]

Dear AGENT FULL NAME, [If you include the full name you don’t have to worry about Ms./Mr./Mx. whatever]

COMP TITLE meets COMP TITLE when YOUR CHARACTER does XYZ INTERESTING THING. [Basically a one liner/concept summary of your book. When I was an intern I copied and pasted these and sent them to the agent if I thought the book was good.] YOUR BOOK’S TITLE is a GENRE complete at WORD COUNT.  [If you share an identity with your main character such as race/religion/sexuality that will give you more authenticity, consider including that in the first paragraph also.]

A few sentences about what your characters want/what happens. 

A few sentences setting up a major choice your character has to make or the stakes of what will go wrong. For example: The character has to do X difficult task or YZ horrible things will happen. OR The character has to decide between X DIFFICULT CHOICE or Y DIFFICULT CHOICE. This choice can come at the 25% mark of your book, or really at any point. You don’t have to tell the whole story and you don’t want to give away the ending. Just leave the query at a place that would make an agent need to know what happens.

ABOUT YOU–if you have any publishing history or a relevant career to the characters/events in your novel, include that. If not, include a quirky detail or two and BRIEF educational history. 

Below I have included ELEMENTS AGENT HAS REQUESTED (pages, synopsis, etc.).

Thank you for your consideration, 

NAME

LINKS TO YOUR WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES 

End Query Template

I am a huge fan of including all of the details and a one line description in the first paragraph, because agents are BUSY. And many, many agents have interns doing the first line of defense on their query. Trust me, you’d rather give the intern something to copy and paste instead of them having to come up with a quick way of describing your book on their own.

Now, this is controversial. You’ll find many writers, editors, and agents saying to put all that stuff at the bottom of the query, before the bio. They want to get started with the story as if they were reading jacket copy. Like I said, there’s no one right way to write a query. If a certain agent has made it clear that they like a different format, it’s easy enough to copy and paste the elements of your query into that order. I wouldn’t stress out trying to find every interview that agent has done to discover their favorite format, though. If your book sounds good, they’ll request no matter what order your query presents the details in.

Query Writing Resources

Jane Friedman’s “Complete Guide to Query Letters”

“’20 Tips on Query Letters,’ As Told by Agent Janet Reid”

Query Shark, agent Janet Reid’s massive archive of query critiques

Amy Trueblood’s “Quite the Query” with examples of successful queries

Writer’s Digest’s “Successful Queries” series (links at the bottom)

Bonus: Synopsis Tips

My pro tip is to nail your query, then use that query as the beginning of your synopsis. Your synopsis can then fill in any gaps and add in the end of the story. This will help you write that excruciatingly short synopsis some agents ask for.

Jane Friedman’s “How to Write a Novel Synopsis”

Reedsy’s “How to Write a Synopsis”

Bonus Querying Process Resources I’ve Posted in the Past

How to Get a Literary Agent: Basics for Beginners (includes good places to search for agents)

18 Etiquette Guidelines for Querying Literary Agents

How to Evaluate Whether a Publisher is Traditional or Vanity

17 Ways to Cope with Rejection While Querying Literary Agents

Any questions? Post them in the comments!


2 Responses to “Literary Agent Query Template and Favorite Query Writing Resources”

  1. Am very grateful for the information. Am a young author in the process of pitching Literary Agents, your template query guide is quite helpful.

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