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How to write the perfect pitch letter to an agent

Related courses, 30-day writing bootcamp, starting to write your novel, by anna davis, 7th jan 2019.

So, you've finished your manuscript and are eager to share your work with literary agents. One question I'm always asked by students is: How do you write the perfect pitch letter to a literary agent? Here are my top 15 tips on how to make your submission pitch letter stand out from the pack:

1. Write to a specific agent and do your research

Start out by thinking carefully about who you're going to send your work to. Research thoroughly on literary agency websites and generally online, reading interviews with individuals and checking their social media profiles. Pick agents who are clearly interested in the kind of book you're writing and who appear to be eager to find new writers. When you write your query letter, tailor it to the individual - even though this means you'll have to rethink your pitch letter for each agent you address it to. Don’t write to 'Dear Curtis Brown' or 'Dear Sir' or 'The Submissions Department' etc. Always write to a person.

2. Address the agent by their first name

Only the oldest, most formal of agents are uncomfortable about being addressed by their first names – and really, those are not the people you should be approaching for representation in any case. There’s no need for Mr, Mrs, Ms etc.

3. Keep the pitch-letter short. It should be no more than three brief paragraphs ...

... one which pitches your novel; one which tells the agent a little about you; and one which talks about why you’ve chosen to target this particular agent. It’s up to you which order you do these in. I’d probably kick off by pitching the novel, but others would advise differently. People will tell you that the letter should be no more than a page – actually I’d say it should be much shorter than a page. Whenever we run agent-letter workshops with our London-based students, we end up telling at least 80% of the students that their letter is too long …

4. Kick off your letter by pitching your novel

This is the time to utilize your best one or two-line pitch. You should be giving the central question which drives your novel and hooks in the reader, or stating what’s at the heart of your novel. Ideally, use a slightly different version than whatever you've put in your synopsis to avoid repetition. And it’s good to tell us whose story this is too … Aim at two or three sentences (no more than that, really – this has to be brief and to the point) which introduce your story. Don’t try to cover your whole plot – your synopsis will be doing that job. You’re just looking to whet the agent’s appetite. Include the title of your novel (perhaps even as the heading for the letter). You should also give the genre of your novel if you know it. People often mention their word-count, in their pitch letter but there’s no real need for this: You should probably put that on the title page of your material.

5. Talk about why you’re addressing this particular agent

Agents like to feel you’re writing to them for a reason. Find out something to say which is specific to them: If you’ve read or heard something they’ve said about writing or the kind of novels they’d like to represent – or perhaps if you’ve met them – you could mention this. If there’s a reason you think you’d fit well on their list, say what it is.

6. Include mention of one or two comparison novels

This is when you liken your novel to other similar works. It’s a good idea to find books to compare to yours which are current and commercially successful – and ideally which are represented by this particular agent (though this might not be possible – it will depend very much on their client list). But don’t pick novels which are really major works or you’re setting the bar very high for yourself – perhaps unreachably high. If you can’t come up with good comparison novels, it could instead be a good idea to simply mention one or two of the relevant agent’s clients whose work you particularly admire. Don’t worry too much about the issue of ‘comparison novels’ though, if you can’t come up with any. It’s not the most important aspect of the letter. And don’t include lots of them. Two is enough.

7. Tell the agent a little about yourself

What you do, etc. Leave out details which are not strictly relevant or interesting. If you are a doctor writing a medical drama – say that. Mention any creative writing courses you’ve taken which are prestigious and with selective entry. It’s not worth mentioning self-published books unless they’ve sold well (by which I mean well into the thousands). Mention awards and writing competitions you’ve won if they are not too obscure. Remember, this should only be a short paragraph – don’t get bogged down in detail – be selective and only mention points which speak positively of you and clearly work in your favour.

8. Avoid bragging

... or stating that your novel will be the next huge international bestseller etc. On the other hand, don’t apologise for your novel  or for taking up the agent’s time with it – present it confidently. Read over your letter when you’ve finished writing it to make sure that everything you say is positive – don’t say anything negative at all.

9. Don’t tell us that your wife/husband/best friend/children etc love your novel

The agent doesn’t care about any of that!

10. Be focused – don’t pitch more than one novel or memoir in your letter

Talk about just one novel. If the agent calls you in for a meeting, that’s the time to talk about other projects, future work etc.

11. Do put time, thought and care into your pitch letter

Don’t be slapdash, and check your grammar and spelling. You need to be professional in order to be taken seriously by a professional.

12. There’s no need to include ‘polite padding’ in the query letter

For instance, you don’t need “I’m sending you the opening of my novel and synopsis in search of representation” – the agent will know why you’re writing to them, and you can just go straight into the pitch. Similarly, you don’t need to thank them for their time or say you’re looking forward to hearing from them etc – just write the real meat of the letter and then sign off. Make every word count.

13. Don’t ask for a meeting with the agent

... or state that you’re interested in working editorially on your novel. Just present the novel and then allow the agent to come forward with their idea of what should happen next. They will, in any case, assume you’re happy to come for a meeting or do some rewriting if requested to. Don’t make a point of saying that you’re sending also to others … They'll assume that anyway.

14. Don’t crack corny jokes

It’s just excruciating. And don’t talk about a ‘ fictional  novel’ – all novels are fiction.

15. Don’t be obsequious

The agent doesn’t need you to flatter them or suck up to them.

Oh - and did I say keep it short? ...

Courses to help you pitch with confidence

Check out our one-day Pitching Your Novel course. Expert CBC editors, Jennifer Kerslake and Abby Parsons, will lead a group of 16 students through the dos and don’ts of writing your pitch and query letter to literary agents during a full day of Zoom teaching.

Sign up now

Learn to edit and polish your novel to the highest standard and then pitch with confidence to the publishing industry. Edit & Pitch Your Novel – Advanced is an online course comprising teaching videos and notes from our founder Anna Davis alongside tuition and feedback from author Lauren Pearson. Plus, five Zoom masterclasses with publishers and literary agents.

If you're looking for a flexible online course, join our bestselling six-week Edit & Pitch Your Novel course.


Iqbal hussain: 'representation matters, and it’s a privilege to be able to write about', christine gregory: 'enter writing competitions, you really have nothing to lose'.

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How to Write a Stand-Out Cover Letter

  • How to Write a Stand-Out…

How to write a cover letter guide – BPA Blog


Literary agents and many literary competitions require a cover letter along with your sample chapters and synopsis. This is a formal introduction to you and your novel. Note: It is not a CV, a bio or a blurb for the book. It’s a letter, written from one professional to another, that should make the agent or judge want to read more. The biggest mistake entrants to the BPA First Novel Award made this year was getting the balance off, either writing too much about the novel or too much about themselves – some poor novels didn’t get a mention. There’s a rough template most agents and competition judges will look for, and it’s pretty doable! Let’s give it a go.


First, tell us about the novel. That’s what you’re trying to sell! You want the agent to finish the cover letter with such curiosity about the book that they’re hungry for the sample chapters. 

The first paragraph will usually reveal the title , the genre , the word count of the completed manuscript (If you don’t include this, they might worry you haven’t finished it!) and something that offers a taste of the novel, like a mention of the themes you’re going to explore.

Be specific when stating the genre – if it’s general fiction, think about whether the market is commercial, book club, upmarket or literary. If it’s YA, don’t just say it’s YA – is it a YA romance? YA dystopia? Who’s out there writing YA crime? The literary agent will be familiar with all the terms, so the more specific you are, the easier it will be to picture an audience for the book.

Once you’ve provided these core facts, write an elevator pitch . This is a single sentence that conveys your novel’s hook or USP. For inspiration, check out the Sunday Times Bestsellers List:

  • Richard Osman’s  The Thursday Murder Club : Four friends in a retirement village team up to solve a mystery on their doorstep.
  • Paula Hawkins’  The Girl on the Train : A commuter’s fascination with a married couple she passes every day turns deadly.

It’s a good idea to follow this up with a one-paragraph description of the novel. Unlike the synopsis, it doesn’t need to tell the entire story, but it should be just more than the premise. Tell us who the protagonist is, what happens to upset the balance of their life, and what their goal is (presumably to restore said life balance!). If you can do that in a couple of sentences, you might also mention one of the novel’s core turning points.

Cover letters should describe the novel first, then the writer, then remind us of the novel at the end. In a short final paragraph, say what inspired you to write the book and offer some comparable titles . (Check out agent Nelle Andrew’s advice on comparable titles .)

The letter should be targeted towards the literary agent or competition judge you’re writing to. Some writers choose to open with this and others incorporate it into the later paragraphs. The best way to make a connection and show you’ve done your research is to mention an author on the agent’s list who has a relevant readership. You could also explain why you think your novel aligns with what they describe in their wish list.


It’s the writing, not the writer, that’s important … but the agent or judge does want to know about you too. They especially want to know why you were the one person who could write this book . And it’s true – no one else could write the book you’ve written. So tell us why. Did your job as a psychiatrist inspire the analysis of your antagonist’s motivation? Do you live in the idyllic town where the book is set? Have you studied the era of your historical novel? Share relevant details about yourself. 

The agent or judge also wants evidence that you are a writer. You’re not just someone who thinks they have a novel in them; you take your craft seriously. If you can, share what magazines your short fiction has been published in, the competitions you’ve been listed in or the creative writing courses you’ve completed. If you don’t have that kind of experience, share anything that tells us you’re serious. Join a writer’s workshop group and tell us about that. Attend an online masterclass (like the ones BPA runs ) and mention that. Experiment with writing in different forms and tell us about it. S hare which contemporary authors have inspired you, so it’s clear that you’re well read. Just don’t put, ‘This is my first attempt at writing fiction,’ and leave it at that. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

A cover letter should be professional, like the cover letter you would send with a job application, but you also want it to have some personality. And given you’re basically applying for the role of ‘novelist’, it needs to be well written.

So, keep it formal, make sure it’s eloquent, and try to get some flow into it. When you read it aloud, it should sound natural. If it doesn’t, it might be that you haven’t varied sentence length, that you’ve used rigid language, or simply that you’re trying too hard. As formal as a cover letter should be, you want your enthusiasm for this novel you’ve spent so long writing to imbue the lines. 


  • Formatting it like a CV or splitting it into sections titled ‘Bio’ and ‘Novel Summary’.
  • Sharing irrelevant detail about your personal life. 
  • Making it too short – 200-350 words is a good guideline.
  • Or too long – unfortunately, nobody’s going to read a cover letter past the first page!
  • Writing a vague description of the story e.g. ‘When a mysterious event happens, a woman will have to look to the past to uncover the truth.’
  • Including long-winded explanations of why there’s a huge market for your book.
  • Coming across as arrogant … or lacking in confidence.
  • Sharing more about the novel’s message than its story.


Once you’ve finished a manuscript, the instinct is to get it on submission as soon as possible, but it’s worth taking the time to give an accurate and exciting representation of the work . Literary agents receive many submissions a day and have to fit reading time in with a huge workload. You need to grab them in the cover letter so that they’re already thinking of you as a potential client when they read the sample.

Out of everything you could have written on the blank pages of a document titled Novel , you’ve carefully chosen each word of this story that has to be told. You know people will love it and you hopefully have a sense of who and why . Get that across to the agent or competition reader, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll request the full manuscript.

For personalised feedback on your cover letter, you might want to consider a BPA Submission Package Report – enquire here .

how to write a cover letter to literary agent

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How to Write a Submission Cover Letter That Will Wow Literary Agents

As a writer, you spend countless hours perfecting your manuscript, pouring your heart and soul into every word. But did you know that the cover letter you include with your manuscript submission is just as …

Written by: Adam

Published on: November 20, 2023

Author writing a cover letter draft on a pad

The purpose of a submission cover letter is to introduce yourself and your work to literary agents. It gives you the opportunity to make a strong first impression and convince the agent that your manuscript is worth their time and consideration. While the content of your manuscript is undoubtedly important, a well-written cover letter can help it stand out from the slush pile and increase your chances of getting noticed.

Understanding the purpose of a cover letter for manuscript submission

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of writing a cover letter for manuscript submission, it’s crucial to understand its purpose. A cover letter serves as a professional introduction to your work and provides a glimpse into your writing style and personality. It should be concise, engaging, and tailored specifically to the agent or agency you’re submitting to.

When a literary agent receives a submission, they often have limited time to review each one. A well-crafted cover letter can pique their interest and make them eager to delve into your manuscript. Think of it as a teaser, enticing them to read further. It’s your chance to showcase your writing skills and convince the agent that you’re not only a talented writer but also a professional who understands the industry.

Essential elements of a cover letter for manuscript submission

Now that you understand the purpose of a cover letter, let’s explore the essential elements that should be included. First and foremost, your cover letter should be professional in tone and format. Use a standard business letter format with your contact information at the top, followed by the agent’s details and the date. Address the agent by name if possible, as it shows you’ve done your research and personalized the letter.

Next, introduce yourself and mention the title of your manuscript. Briefly explain why you chose to submit to that particular agent or agency. This demonstrates that you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in working with them. Highlight any relevant writing credentials or experience you have that make you uniquely qualified to write the manuscript. Keep this section concise and focus on the most impressive aspects of your background.

Finally, provide a brief summary or pitch of your manuscript. This should be a compelling and concise overview that captures the essence of your story and leaves the agent wanting to know more. Avoid giving away too much detail or spoiling the plot. Instead, focus on intriguing the agent and creating a sense of curiosity. Think of this section as a movie trailer – it should leave the agent eager to dive into your manuscript and discover the full story.

Tips for writing an attention-grabbing opening paragraph

The opening paragraph of your cover letter is your chance to make a strong first impression and grab the agent’s attention. Start with a compelling hook that will immediately engage the agent and makes them curious about your manuscript. It might be an intriguing question, a shocking statistic or a captivating anecdote. The key is to make the agent want to keep reading.

After the hook, briefly introduce yourself and your manuscript. Mention any relevant writing credentials or experience that make you stand out. Highlight why you chose to submit to that particular agent or agency. Show them that you’ve done your research and are genuinely interested in working with them. This personal touch can make a significant impact and show the agent that you’ve put thought into your submission.

Remember to keep the opening paragraph concise and to the point. Agents receive numerous submissions every day, so they appreciate brevity. Avoid rambling or providing unnecessary information. Instead, focus on crafting a strong and attention-grabbing opening that leaves the agent eager to read more.

How to showcase your writing credentials and experience

When it comes to writing a cover letter for manuscript submission, showcasing your writing credentials and experience is essential. This section allows you to demonstrate your expertise and convince the agent that you’re a talented writer who is worth their consideration. Here are a few tips to help you effectively showcase your credentials:

Highlight any relevant writing achievements: Focus on the writing credentials that are most relevant to your manuscript and the genre you’re targeting. This could include published (or self-published) works, writing awards, or any other accomplishments that demonstrate your skill and experience (such as building an audience on social media).

Provide details but be concise: While it’s important to provide some context and details about your writing credentials, remember to keep it concise. Agents have limited time, so make sure to highlight the most impressive aspects without overwhelming them with unnecessary information.

Tailor your credentials to the agent or agency: Research the agent or agency you’re submitting to and tailor your writing credentials accordingly. If they have a particular interest or speciality, highlight any relevant experience you have in that area. This shows the agent that you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in working with them.

By effectively showcasing your writing credentials and experience, you can establish yourself as a credible and talented writer. This increases the agent’s confidence in your abilities and makes them more likely to consider your manuscript.

Crafting a compelling summary of your manuscript

Perhaps the most crucial part of your cover letter for manuscript submission is the summary of your manuscript itself. This section is your chance to give the agent a taste of what your story is about and entice them to read further. Here are a few tips to help you craft a compelling summary:

Keep it concise: Your summary should be brief, typically no more than a few paragraphs. Focus on the main plot points and the core themes of your story. Avoid getting bogged down in unnecessary details or subplots.

Capture the essence of your story: Your summary should give the agent a clear idea of what your story is about and what makes it unique. Highlight the main conflict, the protagonist’s journey, and any intriguing elements that set your manuscript apart.

Create a sense of curiosity: The goal of your summary is to leave the agent wanting to know more. Don’t give away all the details or spoil the ending. Instead, create a sense of curiosity that compels the agent to dive into your manuscript and discover the full story.

Crafting a compelling summary takes time and careful consideration. It’s often helpful to draft multiple versions and seek feedback from trusted peers or writing groups. Remember, your summary is your manuscript’s first impression, so make it count.

Do’s and don’ts of writing a cover letter for manuscript submission

To wrap up our guide on writing a submission cover letter, let’s go over some essential do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

  • Address the agent by name if possible.
  • Tailor your cover letter to the agent or agency you’re submitting to.
  • Highlight your most relevant writing credentials and experience.
  • Keep your cover letter concise and to the point.
  • Proofread your cover letter for any grammatical or spelling errors.


  • Ramble or provide unnecessary information.
  • Oversell or exaggerate your writing credentials.
  • Give away too much detail or spoil the plot in your manuscript summary.
  • Forget to personalise your cover letter for each submission.
  • Forget to follow the submission guidelines provided by the agent or agency.

By following these do’s and don’ts, you can ensure that your cover letter is professional, engaging, and tailored to the agent you’re submitting to. Remember, the goal is to get a foot in the door, make a good first impression and convince the agent that your manuscript is worth their time and consideration.

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Hints for a Great Cover Letter

how to write a cover letter to literary agent

[I originally posted this piece over 12 years ago. The information still holds true, but I suspect many have not found the necessary information elsewhere, so I dare post it again. I’ve left all the comments intact since they add to the ongoing conversation. Feel free to add your thoughts.]]


Here are a few suggestions for you to consider when approaching an agent or an editor. Remember to use these as hints…do not follow them slavishly as if a literary agent will spend their time critiquing your cover letter.

By the way, we distinguish between a cover letter and a query letter. A cover letter goes on top of a longer proposal and sample chapters. The query letter is a stand-alone letter that goes to the editor/agent without a proposal or sample chapters. We prefer the cover letter and the rest of the package. Why? Because a query only shows that you can write a letter. A proposal begins the process of showing that you know how to write a book.

Address the letter to a specific person. If sending something to The Steve Laube Agency, simply address the appropriate agent. Every proposal will cross the desk of the designated agent eventually. (Please do NOT send it to all of us at the same time)

Use this cover letter in the body of your email, but NOT the proposal and sample chapters! You’d be stunned to see how many people contact us with a blank email carrying only a subject line of “here it is.”

Don’t waste your time or ours. Do your homework! If you are submitting to an agent, visit their website and follow their guidelines!!! We cannot emphasize this enough! Make certain to spell the person’s name right. (My name is spelled, Steve Laube. Not “Laub” “Labe” “Lobby” “Looby” etc. But note that Bob Hostetler has to address me as “sir” or “the honorable” or “Mr. Boss”.)

If you use The Christian Writers Market Guide or some online database listing agents or editors, make sure you have the most current information because addresses do change (go to their website). Our main office changed its mailing address in February of 2007…and we still discover material is being sent to the old address. You would be astounded by the number of calls or inquiries we receive from writers who have not done their research. Someone called the Phoenix office the other day looking to talk to one of our agents who does not live or work in Phoenix.

Whatever you do, do  not say your book is the next bestseller like Purpose Driven Life , Eat Pray Love, Left Behind , or  The Shack , or that it will sell better than  The Da Vinci Code ,  Twilight ,  Harry Potter , or  The Chronicles of Narnia . That shows an ignorance of the market that is best left alone. [update note: These examples will date you really fast. The Harry Potter books are over 25 years old, published in 1997.]

In addition, please do not claim “God gave me this book so you must represent or publish it.” We are firm believers in the inspiration that comes from a faith-filled life, but making it part of your pitch is a big mistake. Read this blog post for a larger discussion on this point.


The 4-part Cover letter:

1) A simple introductory sentence is sufficient. Basically, you are saying “Hi. Thank you for the opportunity…”

2)  Use a “sound bite” statement. A “sound bite” statement is the essence of your novel or non-fiction book idea in 40 words or less.

The fiction sound bite could include:

a. The heroic character b. The central issue of the story c. The heroic goal d. The worthy adversary e. Action f. The ending g. A grabber h. Or a twist

The non-fiction sound bite should include the main focus or topic. One suggestion is to describe the Problem, Solution, and Application.

If someone were to ask about your book you would answer, “My book is about (write in your sound bite.)”

Another word for sound bite is “hook.”

3)  Tell why your book is distinctive – identify who will read it . (Targeted age group….adult, teen, youth) – point out what’s fresh, new, and different.

One suggestion would be, for your intended genre, read several recent books in the same genre as your own to familiarize yourself with the market.

4)  G ive pertinent manuscript details : a) mention whether or not your book is completed (if it is not, then give an estimate as to when it will be finished) b) word length of the complete manuscript, even if it is an estimate (approximate – round off the number) c) pertinent biographical info d) tell the agent if it is a simultaneous submission e) let the agent know they can discard the proposal if rejected.

Click here to review a sample non-fiction cover letter from someone who approached us via an email inquiry. We signed her as a client.

Keep the letter to one page!!

Please don’t use narrow margins or tiny print to fit it all on one sheet. That is silly. We once received a cover letter with an 8-point font and 1/4-inch margins. It was virtually unreadable.

how to write a cover letter to literary agent

About Steve Laube

Steve Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency, a veteran of the bookselling industry with 40 years of experience. View all posts by Steve Laube →

how to write a cover letter to literary agent

Reader Interactions

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January 17, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Thanks for clarifying the difference between a query and a cover letter. And I never thought about including a note about discarding the proposal if it’s rejected. I’ll remember that next time.

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January 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for the helpful information. Appreciate, too, your making it print friendly. This is going into my “Writing Aids” file.

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January 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm

This is very helpful. Thank you for this overview of the cover letter. I critique manuscripts at writers conferences, and I plan to refer them to this post!

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January 19, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I am confused; this article requires a cover letter be ONE page, double-spaced, exactly while the Guidelines article requests the story be summed up in up to THREE pages, single-spaced. So what are you supposed to do since these contradict and I would like to present myself as expected by Mr.Laube?

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January 20, 2011 at 8:24 am

Let me clarify so as there is no confusion.

This article is about the cover letter. Keep that to one page.

The synopsis is not the cover letter. That piece is where you tell the whole story of the novel in a maximum of three single spaced pages.

Any presentation package to an agent or a publisher has three parts. 1) The cover letter (one page) 2) The proposal – which includes, among other things, a synopsis of the book or story 3) Sample chapters

Hope that helps!

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March 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

Thank you Steve. Any bits of wisdom imparted to the masses is wonderful.

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February 4, 2016 at 11:54 am

So, just to clarify, should the promo sentence, sales handle and back cover copy be included in the same document as the synopsis?

The word count, target audience and platform are all mentioned briefly in the cover letter. Should they also be reiterated more in-depth in the proposal?

Just trying to line up my wayward ducks. There’s no point in submitting a manuscript if it isn’t submitted properly.

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September 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

Thank you for your guidance and clarification. It helps to have every aspect broken down so well.

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May 21, 2021 at 4:29 am

thanks for the offered clarification, one further point please. Perhaps I am reading too deeply and detailed, but cover letter, sample chapters, synopsis, we are talking three separate attachments to the email, given the different structures of each piece. Thanks

January 20, 2011 at 10:33 am

Now I understand. Thank you for taking the time to reply 🙂

As an aside, for further clarification – the sample chapters should always be the first three correct? (No other chapters instead?) And if you have a prelude, I would assume that would not be counted as the first chapter, particularly if it is only a few pages?

One last question please: in the cover letter should you use specific names of characters or simply be broad until you arrive at the synopsis?

Thank you so much for making things clear and God bless you.

January 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

Sample chapters. Always the first pages. Include a prelude or a preface if applicable. The idea for the limitation is to keep what you send under 50 pages of text. Some chapters are very short, some are long. But sending too much will put you in the “I’ll read this someday, when I have the time” pile.

As for the cover letter? You aren’t retelling the whole story in the cover letter so character names are not as critical. But they can be used if appropriate. Don’t write something like “Snow White along with Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Happy, Bashful, and Grumpy went to the local grocery store to buy some apples.” That can wait for the manuscript or the synopsis if you want to use those names.

January 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Great! Thank you again and one absolutely necessary (and final) question please: my prelude is the first 4 pages and that with the first three chapters bring you to page 60. Is that a problem? Should I just cut the story off at page 50? Thank you and this is my final question 🙂

January 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I can safely say, without seeing your work or reading a word, that your chapters are too long to begin with.

Cut your chapter length by thinking in terms of scenes. Make chapter breaks more frequent. A twenty page chapter in a novel is far too long in today’s market.

To be even safer, consider hiring a good freelance editor ( click here for a list ) to give you help and advice before ever sending it to us. If a manuscript is pretty good, we will reject it. It has to be magnificent and nearly ready for market.

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March 20, 2017 at 10:23 am

Any idea of the price range for a freelance editor that you have listed on you link?

January 20, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Thank you for the input. My work is Christian fiction, so a few of the chapters are for world-building so that is why some of the chapters may be a little longer. I have plenty of chapters that are 8 or 11 or 14 pages long, but the third one in particular is 27 pages. I suppose I will have to split that up of course, and I do think in terms of scenes (as in a movie)…So be it then.

January 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm

One more question: if you are writing a trilogy and are only submitting the first book thus far, would the synopsis cover only the 1st book or would it encompass all 3? Thank you!

January 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Ryan, There is no hard and fast rule. It is usually a good idea, when submitting a trilogy, to have at least a half page worth of synopsis included in the proposal. A publisher needs to have something they can see in order to buy.

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March 16, 2013 at 4:14 am

I have a project encompassing 5 books on the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers which uses the historical record to refute the Internet claim that the FF were deists and atheists. The first book is done, 2 others are 85% done. There are over 600 separate cited sources in the first book, two-thirds of which are in the public domain. Must I get written permission from the other 200 sources before I can publish the book or will footnoting the quotes used with TITLE, AUTHOR, PUBLISHER INFO, DATE, AND PAGE NUMBER be sufficient ?

Thanks very much for your help.

January 21, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Great, and with that, I have run out of questions, much to your satisfaction 🙂 Thank you and I will be sending you something soon.

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February 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm

This is a great post. Thank you.

I do have a question, though. I have published my book (11/8/09), but I would like to be represented. What kind of pages do I submit? The book or the final draft of the ms before it went to print?

Also, this book is the first of a series of books that I have outlined at this point with one other ms done (children’s book, which is apart form the series).

How would I document this in a cover letter (the book and subsequent ideas I have outlined as I know you don’t accept children’s books)?

I appreciate your time and attention.

February 19, 2011 at 11:05 pm

A necessary question: are the sales handle, promo sentence & back cover copy lumped in with the synopsis or are they separate in a fiction proposal so that the proposal would contain a cover letter, synopsis, sample chapters and then another page with those 3 items? It just is not clear from what I have read on here. Thank you for clearing this up! God bless you in His name, Ryan

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May 17, 2011 at 6:58 am

Dear Steve,

Thank you for explaining what you expect of our submissions to your office. I spent the night finishing my proposal and cover letter to your specifications and sent out my package today.

Faithfully, Christopher Holms

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August 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Steve, I’ve finished my first Biblical historical novel about Jesus, the God-man. While my goal was to stay with twenty pages per chapter, some are a couple of pages longer. And how many lines per page do you suggest? I’ve tried to stick with the typical publisher’s guideline, but would appreciate your comments on this area. Also since you state that you’re open to all genres of fiction, does this include Biblical historical?

August 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

Simply use the computer’s double-space format. Also use one inch margins on all four sides. And use a Times Roman 12 point font. Whatever you do, do NOT try to squeeze more lines on a page. That will only irritate a reviewer.

In general, when using the above formatting you will end up with about 300 words on a page…which is very similar to the word count on a finished book.

A chapter that runs to 20 pages is probably going to feel long, depending on the action and dialogue included. That is over 6,000 words in a chapter.

As for our agency’s interest? I personally tend to stay away from most Biblical fiction. The only exception is Tosca Lee (see her novel HAVAH: The Story of Eve). But you may find that our other two agents may be more interested.

And be aware that if your novel is based on the life of Jesus you will need to compare it to the classic novels by Marjorie Holmes and the novel by Walter Wangerin…all of which are still in print.

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October 2, 2011 at 7:35 pm

As as up and coming writer, it’s so important to attend conferences, begin networking, but most of all, read about your craft. In order to put your best foot forward, a writer needs to know what is expected. I’ve learned the answer to many of the questions above through writers groups, networking at conferences and obtaining an editor to work with me on my projects.

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October 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Thank you for this practical advice! Much appreciated. I in preparing the proposal to send off, I am grateful for your graceful bluntness of what you are looking for. Saves us both time and energy when communicating.

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October 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

Thank you for outlining so clearly what exactly you expect in a cover letter! I was unclear on one point, however; the first part you identify – “a simple introductory statement is sufficient.”

I confess, I’m unsure on what you are looking for in that statement. Your example is, “Hi, thanks for the opportunity,” but I can’t imagine that you’re looking for something to blunt and plain. What are you wanting from the author in this statement; what are you seeking to know? Is this statement really necessary, or could a cover letter open with the second part, the sound bite?

Thank you for taking the time to clarify this matter.

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November 5, 2011 at 10:55 am

I have the same question regarding the Introductory Statement. Thank you for posting this information about the cover letter. It is a huge help!

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November 25, 2011 at 4:21 am

Steve, when submitting a proposal for a novel that is intended as the first of a trilogy, is this something that should be mentioned in the cover letter? I’m uncertain as the second book is not yet written and the first works as a stand-alone.

Thanks so much,

November 26, 2011 at 8:43 am

Marge, If you intend to propose a series, even if book one stands alone, that should be mentioned in the cover letter and the proposal. If you are doing a query letter without a proposal then most definitely reveal the plan for a trilogy.

But if you are not certain a second book can be written then do not mention it, instead go with the stand alone.

There are times where the success of a first book creates demand for a sequel. However, most agents and publishers like to know that there is a career or a future with a particular author beyond the first book. One-book wonders do happen, and with some success. But generally we look at the total potential of an author.

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May 9, 2014 at 5:50 am

Steve, Is your answer intended to convey to those of us in later life that we have little chance of finding agents and publishers? Now that I am in my early sixties and have retired I finally have the time to write but I am realistic enough to see that my literary career is unlikely to be long.

How do foreign authors work with American agents? Our style and spelling do not always align well with yours – I am English but I write (and speak) in British English not American.

Many thanks Steve

May 9, 2014 at 9:09 am

Steve Long,

We have no idea of the age of an author because we are reviewing the content of a proposal. The age of the author is immaterial.

Our primary audience is the U.S. reader. If you write with British English a U.S. based publisher will note that they will have to work harder at the various editing stages to change the style to fit U.S. English standards. Some contracts even name the Chicago Manual of Style as the standard to which the submitted manuscript must comply.

My advice? Change to the American style of English and it won’t be a potential barrier.

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December 5, 2011 at 7:03 am

We write for the love of it, to entertain and educate and nobody knows for certain what will fly, so don’t worry too much about anything.

Yes, being professional is good so one ought to be polite and open minded, but we need to write compelling stories – – those that will pull readers in and not let them out easily.

Set our tone, grab a theme and move the story along like an expert, keeping us engaged, questionning and interested. Action, drama, suspense, pathos and transformative characters are excellent pieces of narrative. Hook ’em and don’t let them go.

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January 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm

If I have a self-published book but hope to see it reach a greater audience, do I make copies of the pages to submit to you? I do not have them on a Word document form any longer. Thanks!

February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

You will need to have your manuscript in digital form at some point (Word is preferred by most publishers). If you self-published it had to be in digital form at some point. Even your printer should be able to provide a file. If it is a PDF it can be converted back to Word with the right software.

Just copying pages and mailing them is not a good idea.

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January 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I’m a Canadian who has a completed manuscript about a personal family tragedy that garnered both political and public support. It tells how our faith and God’s intervention brought discoveries that eluded authorities after the failure of the largest search launched in 30 years.

Although this is a personal story, the case is now being used at symposiums for both Crown and Defence attorneys in Canada.

Does this story fall into the category of anything you’ve worked with or be willing to work with. I am looking for an agent in a very competitive field.

February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Hard to comment in a blog comment like this because technically I still don’t know what the story is about. Best not to use the comment section to make the pitch.

We have, on occasion, represented a personal story if it is highly unusual and has commercial appeal. In 2013, look for UNTIL WE ALL COME HOME by Kim de Blecourt as an example (published by FaithWords).

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March 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Steve – I am seriously impressed to see that you are still tracking new comments on this post a year after it was first posted.

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April 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Thanks for the how-to on the cover letter.

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May 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Hello: I’d like to receive an example of a one page cover letter to an agent. I have query and synopsis letters and some agents want a cover letter as well. Thank you for your help! Brenda Sue (This is a fiction, suspenseful, murder, romantic novel dealing with international art theft.)

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June 19, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Hi Steve, Thanks so much for going far beyond the call of duty and explaining exactly what is a cover letter. Now, it’s up to me. I’ll do my best.

Blessings, Jackie King-Scott

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July 7, 2012 at 11:58 am

Steve, I have a quick question. I am nearing completion on a Biblical fiction novel about the nativity of Jesus. Since everyone is already familiar with the story, should I take a different approach to the cover letter and synopsis?

Thank you for any advise.

Respectfully, Deborah

January 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

Your cover letter should focus on what makes your story unique. That “selling point” is critical for a publisher when considering whether or not they can make room for it in the marketplace.

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July 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Thanks so much for all the help you’ve given us in this post.

Sincerely, Jackie

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August 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I’m curious to know if you can provide a sample cover letter as an example. I’m sure it would help others who are visual learners like myself.

In Christ, Fletch

January 18, 2014 at 5:56 pm

A sample non-fiction cover letter is now available for review on our site: https://stevelaube2.wpengine.com/sample-cover-letter/

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August 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

Hello Steve, I have a question. I published a book with another publishing company that turned out to be a POD. My book has a part two to it. The way that I wrote part two you really don’t need to read part one to understand. I would like to send it to you. Would this be a good idea to send in part two.

January 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

That is risky because while you may think the reader doesn’t need part one, in reality there may be things in the story that are confusing to a reader of book two.

I’ve never seen a publisher jump at the chance to publish book two in a series if they do not also publish book one.

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August 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Hello, I am currently self published under a freewill contract in which I can cease printing at anytime. I have had issues getting proper statements and wish to be represented for traditional publishing. Will this be an issue for you to accept a manuscript?

January 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

Not an issue if you own the publication rights. It is your book to sell to another publisher.

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January 13, 2014 at 11:08 am

Thank you for the helpful information. I have one question: when sending a proposal by email, do you want a query letter in the body of the email and the a cover letter, sample chapters and synopsis attached as a file, or is the cover letter in the body of the email? Thank you, Lara Van Hulzen

January 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

The body of the email should contain a pitch of some sort. The content of the cover letter described above would serve that purpose well.

A HUGE mistake is made by some who send an email with the body of the email blank or with a sentence like “Here is my book. Take a look.”

Or “If you want to read my book go to this web page.”

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January 18, 2014 at 10:39 am

Do you prefer single or double-spacing in a cover letter?

January 18, 2014 at 10:56 am

Single spaced. Just like a regular letter.

The only thing that is double-spaced is the sample chapters or manuscript itself.

January 18, 2014 at 11:57 am

Thank you, sir, for the fast reply.

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April 29, 2014 at 9:03 am

I have nothing to submit in the moment except my deep gratitude for your site, so full of so much a writer needs to understand and apply. It’s like a free tutorial, clean, clear, concise, a true resource for the explanation of the sticky things, like query, and proposal and what to send to whom, what never to do, what’s absolutely necessary to do, and anything else that causes a writer to do the Stupid Stumble. You save our face over and over with all this help.

I just want to express my pleasure to have discovered such a credible site run by a gifted teacher. Okay. Back to the memoir.

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July 22, 2014 at 11:23 am

I am now confused over the length of chapters. My chapters in standard spacing are between 8-13 pages in length. When I double space them as asked the first three chapters are 19 pages in length. So when you recommend chapters be less than 20 pages are you talking about double-spaced print or standard print? Thanks for your reply.

how to write a cover letter to literary agent

July 23, 2014 at 6:42 am

Always send a manuscript using Double-spaced text. The proposal and synopsis is single spaced.

Thus your chapters are very long. But it may be that they are just fine as is. Sometimes you can get away with longer chapters.

I do recommend leaning toward shorter…

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March 7, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Within the first paragraph (second sentence) one reads, “…As if a literary agent is going to spend their time….” I would have thought someone in the “profession” would be a bit more capable of matching a singular subject with a singular pronoun. This confusion of “number” has become acceptable I suppose because so many are willing to worship at the altar of political correctness, so as not to appear behind the times while ruffling feathers.

March 7, 2015 at 10:31 pm

I suppose I could have use “his or her” or “his/her” instead of “their.” But instead I used what is called the “Singular Their.”

See this post about that topic: https://stevelaube2.wpengine.com/the-singular-they/

Hope that helps clarify.

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May 18, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I have written a memoir and believe that Karen Ball is most likely the agent with your group who would be interested.

I understand that a cover letter, proposal and sample chapters should be sent to her. In reviewing your instructions for submissions, it seems that much of the information in the cover letter gets repeated in the proposal (or is it just me?!)

Should I therefore just keep the cover letter very succinct? Or do a combo cover letter/proposal and attach sample chapters? Thank you! I’m very new to this.

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June 5, 2015 at 11:48 am

So when writing a cover letter you should specify that you are writing or have written a series of books? I am on my third book and plan on making at least two more. I was told before when writing the manuscript to only focus on that one book, and to reveal the ending of that one book.

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October 27, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Hi Mr. Laube, After reading through the post and the comments, I just want to make sure I understand. Do you prefer the cover letter and proposal to be emailed or mailed?

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November 8, 2015 at 8:00 am

When researching agents and their submission requirements, I see “query, synopsis and first 3 chapters or 50 pages”. I’ve never heard of a “cover letter”. My novel is a 29,000 word middle grade story.

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February 3, 2016 at 8:43 pm

It’s really, really hard to boil down a 200 page book to 40 words. I feel like I”m trying to write a haiku of my entire life….

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February 10, 2016 at 11:35 am

When you write or type a query letter; should you follow the guidelines of literary sites or not to follow the submission guidelines? There were a few writers who didn’t follow the guide-lines and sent a query letter and got represented.

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June 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Steve, can you offer a sample 40-word sound bite for a historical? Struggling with the 40 word concept.

Always learn from you.

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August 22, 2016 at 2:29 am

if you are writing a cover letter, or book review, synopsis etc. you should take a glance at this page to find out some tips

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September 19, 2016 at 9:50 am

I was hoping you might clarify for me concerning your guidelines for submission of a query letter versus a cover letter. Do you prefer a query letter be sent via email with the book proposal and sample three chapters or a cover letter sent through the mail with an attached book proposal and sample three chapters? I am slightly confused because its appears the cover letter would only be sent if you were interested in the query letter. Would it be possible to send the covered letter instead via email with the attachments for the book proposal and sample chapters?

July 4, 2017 at 7:55 am

Daniel, I can see how that might be confusing. Try not to overthink it.

Let me clarify…as far as our agency goes, which is not a universal thing.

Never send us a query letter. That one page, if sent by itself, will not help us evaluate your writing in any way.

Always send a full proposal. A part of that proposal will be your cover letter, which is basically a “hello my name is” sort of introduction.

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November 2, 2016 at 7:32 pm

Great post. I didn’t think I could shorten my pitch to a 40 word sound bite, but I did. Thanks

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April 6, 2017 at 9:09 am

Hi Steve This is great. I just watched your interview in the Masters class in the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. That was very informative. Thank you. If I want to use a pen name do I include this information in the cover letter? Thank you for your time.

July 4, 2017 at 7:52 am

Yes. It can be as as simple as “I write under the pen name of I. Noah Tall, which you will notice on the title page of the proposal.”

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July 3, 2017 at 11:18 pm

Thanks so much for this helpful post! I just have one question–where can I find the book Hope for Anxiety Girl from the example cover letter? I am 100% the target audience and I so want to read it! I can’t find it online and I’m wondering if a) it was retitled, b) it’s not yet published, or c) it was repurposed into a different book. Thanks again! 🙂

July 4, 2017 at 7:50 am

Rebecca. That specific book idea has gone through multiple iterations but has yet to be published. However, the writer has had other successful projects released. The latest is a co-authored book (with Kathy Lipp) called OVERWHELMED.


July 4, 2017 at 8:52 am

Thanks! I purchased a copy of Overwhelmed last night. 🙂

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July 28, 2017 at 10:50 am

In the Proposal Guidelines, it says to include:

Promo Sentence Sales Handles Back Cover Copy

Do you actually want to see those headings in the proposal? Sorry if this is a dumb question.

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September 22, 2017 at 11:37 am

You’re my kind of girl! Although we’ve seasons and waxing and waning needs, I’ve grown comfortable in the book club porch hammock with a tome of my own selection. I hate someone else deciding where I need to mature or what I’m going to spend a month devouring.

“Teach us to number our days aright, o Lord, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” With a barrage of published and digital words stalking us, we need discernment on what edifies.

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October 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm

I’m a man with a unique name and a unique manuscript searching for a unique agent. I found your answers very helpful, practical and instructive. Thank you.

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July 18, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Hello! I’m not sure if you still check a post this old, but I’ll give it a try. Should the cover letter be the body of the email with the rest of the proposal as the attachment, or should it be a part of the attachment with the rest of the proposal?

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August 15, 2018 at 7:51 am

Thank you for the helpful post! It’s nice to have a concrete idea of what the agent is looking for before sending out the book proposal.

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April 11, 2019 at 12:48 pm

This is wonderfully informative. Thank you!

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June 10, 2019 at 5:47 pm

In looking at the guidelines for a proposal, it lists a number of things for non-fiction, compares fiction and adds a few additional notes. My question is, in non-fiction it asks for a half page to one page overview. If all of the additional topics are addressed for fiction it seems to cover a lot of what is described in the overview. Do you want a half page to one page overview for a fiction proposal as well?

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June 13, 2022 at 6:54 am

Steve, Thank you for this terrific perennial post! The patient answers to the many questions demonstrate your passion for supporting writers. Thank you for taking the time to instill such great knowledge. It is much appreciated by this new author.

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June 13, 2022 at 8:10 am

Thanks so much, Steve! These posts with examples for how to do the basics are always so helpful. I look back on them whenever I work on my proposals. Such a great resource!

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June 13, 2022 at 1:26 pm

Steve, I’ve published numerous articles and love my work as an editor of books and articles and author and editor of academic research. If I submit everything you described in this great article correctly and well, and my contemporary and historical women’s fiction books have been alpha and beta reviewed with strong support and appropriately edited, but I have virtually no platform (only 1046 Followers on my website), is there realistically any point in submitting a proposal to an agent before I build a larger platform? Thanks to reading Writer’s Guide and this column for many years, I think I’ve mastered and actually enjoy the submission process you described, but I keep running into the platform roadblock. If there is no platform of thousands to cite in the proposal, is it likely to generate an offer to represent or publish? Thanks!

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August 2, 2022 at 9:59 am

Okay, so I got to eat a little crow here(which isn’t bad if you put a little A-1 on it), I didn’t read the submission instructions properly and submitted my information, and a portion of my book totally wrong. I have since gone back and read as I should have done in the first place. Now I will PROPERLY submit my work as it should be. I hope this didn’t cause too much of a headache for you and your staff and please forgive my anxious foolishness. I do have a couple of questions: 1. Do I have to wait a certain amount of time before I can re-submit my work? 2. The manuscript is being edited, should I wait until the edit is complete before I resubmit it?

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How to pitch your book to an agent

The majority of authors we publish, especially fiction books, will be represented by a literary agent.  To get a literary agent to represent you as a new writer, you’ll need to pitch your book to them, usually in the form of a covering letter or email.   

Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown, talks to us about what she looks for in a pitch from a new writer.

When should a writer approach an agent?

For fiction, whether you’re writing for adults or for children, it always makes sense not only to finish your book, but to revise it. Get some readers (not just your mum and dad), and redraft and redraft until you feel you have got it to absolutely the best point you can without help from an agent and/or publisher.

No author’s first draft ever gets published – and an agent wants to really get the sense that you are hard-working, have spent a lot of time with your manuscript and you are determined to get it right. 

For non-fiction, you need a proposal that gives an overview of the project, a breakdown of the chapters you plan to write and at least one complete chapter to give a sense of your voice and direction. 

For all writers I would work on your ‘back of the book’ pitch – a couple of hundred words that really crystallises what the book is about. I far prefer these to long synopses.

What are you looking for in a writer?

I’m always looking for the same three things:

  • Authenticity – why are you so well placed to tell this particular story?
  • Uniqueness of voice – don’t tell me you are the next JK Rowling, instead be the best NEW thing.
  • Intricacy of plotting – a good story cannot stand up if an author hasn’t thought about what every page will add to the telling of that story.

What are the common pitfalls?

Typos, accidentally cc-ing every other agent you’ve sent to, submitting to the wrong agent – I often see material I wouldn’t consider on my list, even though my online profile and the agency’s website make it very clear what I do and don’t like. We understand that you will want to submit to more than one agent, but just make sure if you are copying and pasting material over, that you make the necessary changes. 

You’d be amazed how many times I see things like ‘I would love  to be represented by United Agents’ (I work for Curtis Brown).  Sloppiness suggests your work will be lazy and that you might not be a good self-editor, and ultimately that you might not be the best author for me to represent. 

This is your audition, your biggest job interview ever, so do put the work in!  If you have written something brilliant, you don’t want to fall at the final hurdle by messing up the covering letter.

What do you like to see in a covering letter?

I like to get a very clear sense that the writer is in this because they love writing, not because they see pound signs flashing up. So, if you are working on a second book, say that. We like to see that you are not a one-trick pony and are in this for the long haul. Tell me that you have entered short story competitions, been published in magazines, attended a creative writing course, festivals, etc. Just show me that you are passionate  about the business of writing. 

Cathryn's top tips for a covering letter

  • The key thing when approaching agents is research, research and more research. It helps your submission when you make each agent you approach feel like they have been specially selected because of authors they represent, projects they are committed to, or even hobbies they love.  Check the acknowledgements pages of books you love which are in a similar genre to yours. Often they will thank their literary agent - this could be a good place to start.
  • Don't make basic mistakes. Spell the agent's name and the name of the agency they work for right. I’m afraid little things loom large on the slush pile – treat this as a job application.
  • Pitch with confidence! But not arrogance. If you feel this book is the best thing you have written and that it is ready to share with agents, then communicate that with enthusiasm. 
  • Nail your one line pitch – is it  Star Wars  meets  Bridget Jones ?  
  • Have a nuanced 200 words that really crystallises what the book is about. A smart, to the point submission letter, that gives a clear overview of the material that is being submitted, is vital to capture an agent's interest.
  • A sense of where your book would sit on the shelves if it were to be published today. Is it literary or commercial? Fantasy or sci-fi? Is it a memoir or a book examining a social issue?
  • Make sure your first page is killer  so that you have the agent hooked straight away. 
  • Only put relevant details about yourself in your letter - things like prizes won, your qualifications, where you were born, are fine, but be brief. 
  • If you have a big social media presence, you can include your handles - but be prepared for the agent to look at your content. 
  • Sell yourself, and sell your work. You are your own best advocate.

You can send your manuscript to Curtis Brown through their submissions portal  here .

The best place to find a full list of literary agents in the UK is the  Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook . 

Read about a day-in-the-life of a Literary Agent in  How To Get Published .

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What Should A Covering Letter Include?

In this extract from Writers' & Artists' Guide To How To Hook an Agent — a quick-fire introduction to the process of gaining literary agent representation — James Rennoldson looks at things writers should include in their covering letter to a literary agent... as well as some of the things they shouldn't!

Guide to How to Hook an Agent

It should be clear now that the job of your covering letter is to help the agent to whom you’re submitting form a clear picture of the book you’ve written, and also gain a positive impression of what it might be like to work with you.

Here are some things a good covering letter should include:

  • Salutation, including the agent’s name, correctly spelled;
  • Framing devices – book title, word count, genre and/or intended reading audience, suitable comparisons if relevant (literary or otherwise);
  • Your pitch. What’s at the heart of your book? What is its USP? Why would someone want to read it?
  • Information about you – name, contact details, any relevant writing experience, anything else of interest that’s relevant to your book. Mention formal writing qualifications (a recognised course, something previously published or shortlisted) if you have them, but there's no need to say you  don’t  have any experience;
  • Agent-specific reasoning. Why have you sent your work to them? Are you aware of (and admire) some of the authors they represent? Have you met them at an event or follow them on Twitter and felt encouraged to send your work to them
  • Politeness. This is a minimum expectation in forming a good working relationship;
  • Confidence. Believe in your book! If you don’t, why should anyone else?
  • Professionalism. Adhere to submission guidelines, use a spellchecker, etc.
  • Brevity. Less is more. The covering letter is a  preamble  to the beginning of your manuscript. Let the manuscript do all the talking on your behalf


What follows is a quick-fire list of common mistakes writers make within their covering letter to literary agents.

  • ‘Dear Sirs’. Tailor your covering letter to individual agents; don’t ‘Send To All’; and definitely do not assume every agent you submit to is a man because most are not.
  • Referring to one’s self. Don’t leave out your contact details (email and phone number); it’s a risk to sign your letter off using a  nom de plume ; and would you write any other application in the third person?
  • Mistakes. If you’re sloppy in your covering letter, then even before they’ve started reading your opening chapters an agent will have begun to wonder about the amount of editorial time they’ll need to spend on your manuscript.
  • Arrogance/unrealistic expectations. Is your book really going to be the next multi-million-selling phenomenon? Is it really your place to say it’s better than the work of an acclaimed author? And don’t mistake having an appreciation of the marketplace as an excuse to do someone else’s job for them. There’s no need for statistics, graphs or tables around the potential marketability of your book.
  • Apologies. Don’t be self-deprecating or dismissive of your work before an agent has even read the first page. - Waffle. Don’t overload an agent with lots of details about the book; don’t include superfluous information about yourself (‘I have two children and three dogs, Their names are … ’); and don’t waste words with statements like ‘I’ve always written since I was a child’. Anyone could say that; what can you say that’s remarkable?
  • Gimmicks. Your manuscript submission should stand out for your writing only (although a solid proposal could be enough for non-narrative non-fiction writers). Don’t undermine it with other ‘features’, such as wacky fonts, bullet-pointed lists, accompanying gifts, photos of yourself, illustrations, and similar.
  • Lies. You’ll get found out if you make a claim about your book that’s untrue, and ruin any chance of trust with a prospective agent.

In isolation, one of the above errors is probably not going to mean an agent doesn't look at your sample section of writing. A clutch of these sorts of mistakes, however, is likely to make the agent wonder about whether they could work with you.

Written in Q&A format, the  Writers' & Artists' Guide To How To Hook an Agent  is an introduction to the process of submitting a manuscript to literary agents, and is directly inspired by popular questions asked by writers that have attended our long-running series of events of the same name. If you're looking for a literary agent to represent your manuscript  order your copy here , or to find out about our latest events  click here .

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How to write the perfect letter to a literary agent

Posted 27 November 2020 by Rufus Purdy

Rufus Purdy, an editor and tutor on the forthcoming Write Here… Online novel-writing course , explains how to write the perfect submission letter to a literary agent.

I’ve heard a lot of writers moaning about literary agents. People say they’re lofty gatekeepers of the publishing industry, they’re only looking for authors who are already famous or who have at least 100,000 followers on social media, they’re not interested in new talent unless that person is writing a slightly different version of what’s sold by the shelfload over the past year, they make you wait for months before sending you a crushing, two-line rejection… And while there is a small element of truth to all those statements, most agents are very nice people, who do what they do because they adore great writing. I worked for the Curtis Brown literary agency for six years, and all my colleagues there were constantly on the lookout for great stories, told in a fresh and interesting way. And all were desperate to find talented new authors and get their work in front of as many readers as possible.

Your first point of contact with a literary agent will be the covering letter you send to them along with your synopsis and sample chapters. So what will agents be looking for in that letter? Well, a good covering letter should be short and it certainly shouldn’t go on for more than one page. And by a page, I mean a single page in Microsoft Word, with an easily readable, 12-point font (ideally Times or Times New Roman) and normal margins – not with lines stretched right out till they’re touching the edges of the paper. This letter should be written to a specific agent. Your aim in this letter is to make the agent you’re targeting feel as though you’ve singled them out above all others to represent your novel, so don’t use ‘Dear Sir’, Dear Madam’, ‘To whom it may concern’ or – worst of all – ‘Dear agent’. Using the agent’s first name is absolutely fine, but make sure you spell it correctly. Nothing screams sloppiness and a lack of attention to detail like getting someone’s name wrong in the opening line of a letter.

You want to grab the agent’s attention, so your first paragraph should deal with pitching your novel. You don’t need to go into great detail – you’ll also be submitting a synopsis, remember – but you do want the agent to be excited by the idea of the book you’re sending them. You should also let them know what genre your novel sits in (if it is, indeed, in a clearly defined genre) and what sort of books your novel would sit alongside in the bookshops. While you should avoid grandiose and ridiculous comparisons, you shouldn’t be afraid to liken it to work by other authors – especially if those are authors which that agent represents, or who are doing particularly well in the current book market. A sentence such as ‘this novel will appeal to readers who enjoy the books of Gillian Flynn and Erin Kelly’ tells the agent everything they need to know about your book’s place in the market, without you coming across as arrogant.

You should then introduce yourself to the agent and, if you can, tell them about why you chose to tell the story you’re sending them. If you’ve spent the past 15 years playing in midfield for Hartlepool and your novel is about the world of English lower-league football, then that’s something the agent should know. Flag up anything, too, that shows how seriously you take your writing. Mention any work you’ve had published, any prizes you’ve won and any writing courses you’ve taken. I would avoid talking about novels you’ve self-published, though, as, no matter how good those books were, self-publishing is – I’m afraid – no distinguisher of quality. Unless, of course, that self-published novel shifted thousands of copies and made the Amazon Kindle top 10. If you don’t feel as though you have anything to say in these areas – and the majority of authors approaching agents don’t – then just tell the agent something interesting about yourself. Try to pique their interest with a couple of memorable details – perhaps you grew up in a hippy commune, you won the Blue Peter Christmas card-designing competition when you were a child, you’re a keen falconer – so your letter stands out from the hundreds they receive each week. Don’t make jokes or go into self-deprecation though. This is you, formally introducing yourself as a potential client, and you want to come across as professional.

Then you need to talk about why you’ve chosen to target that particular agent. There’s a reason you’ve selected this person to write to, so tell them what it is about them that chimed with you. Is it that they represent your favourite author? Do they say in their online biography that they’re looking for books just like you’re sending them? Are they particularly dedicated to finding authors from a particular country or region? Did you like what they said about finding new talent in an interview you’ve read? Show the agent you genuinely want to be represented by them, but don’t be too crawling and obsequious about it. Just be polite and professional.

Finally, make sure you check the spelling and grammar in your letter, and any author names and titles of books you’ve mentioned. I’ve seen far too many covering letters in which the author hasn’t done this, and it just gives a really bad first impression.

Rufus Purdy is an editor and tutor on the Write Here… Online novel-writing course , which costs £99 for eight weeks and begins on 18 January. For more information, please visit writehereuk.com .

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how to write a cover letter to literary agent

The first thing publishers see when they open your submission package is the covering letter. It doesn’t matter how good your synopsis and sample chapters are, if this vital document fails to impress an editor or agent, then your submission will be rejected. So to ensure you make an excellent first impression, follow the advice of the experts

The first thing publishers see when they open your submission package is the covering letter. It doesn’t matter how good your synopsis and sample chapters are, if this vital document fails to impress an editor or agent, then your submission will be rejected. So to ensure you make an excellent first impression, follow the advice of the experts...

Find the right publisher for your manuscript

Before you start writing your covering letter, you need to find the right publisher for your manuscript. If your book is a non-fiction guide to growing your own vegetables, you need to find a publisher who produces non-fiction gardening books. Sending it to a publisher who specialises in short story romances will result in instant rejection. It is also essential that you check their submission guidelines and follow them precisely. They may specify how long the covering letter should be or what you should include.

What to include in your covering letter

Summersdale Publisher Stewart Ferris

Show off your strengths

Julia McCutchen

The Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Publication demystifies the world of publishing and outlines the steps non-fiction writers need to take to present their work to agents and publishers professionally and with confidence.

For non-fiction covering letters, include:

• Compelling Key Sentence • what makes your book different • who it is for • your passion for writing it • your credibility as the author • a mention of your platform/key sales, marketing or promotional opportunities

For fiction covering letters, include:

• Compelling Key Sentence(s) • key themes/features of your story • genre • length • why you wrote the book • something about you/background • life experience • your influences as a writer, writing career • how you see the book in terms of the market ie who for, is it first in a series etc.

Points to remember when writing your covering letter

• Get the name of the publisher/editor right • State where you found their details and why you are approaching them • Tell the publisher about your book • Give your blurb or Compelling Key Sentence • Tell the publisher about yourself • End on a positive note

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When you are preparing to submit your finished story to an agent or publisher, it can be rather daunting. First, you need to decide whether you are going to approach an agent, a publisher, or both simultaneously. Once you have decided, you need to write the cover letter to accompany your manuscript – but how do you make the perfect pitch to an agent or publisher?

The importance of a cover letter

This is your introduction to an agent or publisher and an opportunity to concisely provide information about your book and yourself. First impressions count, so make sure it’s brilliant. (No pressure, then). Check there are no errors in the letter, such as spelling or grammatical mistakes and also ensure you have the correct name (and spelling!) of the person you’re writing to. Don’t distract an overworked editor or agent with fancy fonts or gimmicks. Just keep it simple and keep it clear. You want to leave the reader feeling confident that:

  • You are familiar with the market and that there could be a place for your book.
  • Your book itself will be worth reading.
  • You could be a good author to work with (writing credentials aren’t essential for this – just follow submission guidelines, proofread your letter and make the effort to research the publisher/agent and authors they work with).

How to write your letter

Think of your letter as having a beginning, middle and end. There’s no precise formula, as long as everything that needs to be included IS included. A letter might look like this:

Beginning – this introduces yourself and your work. What age group is your book aimed at? Genre? Word count (this shows you know the market, and your word count is appropriate for the age range)? Why have you approached this agent/publisher specifically? It’s fine to submit to several places simultaneously, but out of courtesy, mention if other agents or publishers are also reading your manuscript or whether this publisher/agent has it exclusively.

Are there published books with a style similar style to yours? Mentioning these will not only give agent/publishers a feel of your book and where it might be placed, but it also shows you’ve read widely and are familiar with the market.

If nothing really springs to mind, don’t worry. If you say it’s like Harry Potter and it clearly isn’t, your reader will just think you’re wasting their time.   

Middle – this is your big chance to showcase your book. Write a few lines with the bones of the plot, without revealing everything. If you’re writing a funny book, it can be a good idea to include an element of humour, too.

You can start with a concise pitch, which can help focus your reader’s attention. Using a logline like the ones you see on Netflix descriptions can help. One well-used formula is:

When (inciting incident happens) (character) must (do something) in order to (accomplish something).

There are other ways to communicate the information, however. You could introduce your pitch with a tagline – those witty, concise descriptions (which often come in threes), like the phrases at the bottom of a cinema poster. Or you could include memorable, impactful quotes from your story. Or you could pose questions to the reader.

Look at these examples for my middle-grade debut, The House At The Edge of Magic:

  • When pickpocket Nine steals a house ornament which transforms into a full size magical house, she must break the curse which traps the mysterious residents in exchange for her heart’s desire: freedom.
  • A witch’s curse. A hidden treasure. A wizard in fluffy slippers. Welcome to the House At The Edge Of Magic.
  • Sometimes you are a whisper away from magic without even realising it. When pickpocket Nine accidentally steals a cursed house ornament, her life is about to change. Can she break the curse and secure her own freedom before the clock strikes 15, time runs out and her chance is lost forever?

End – after you have pitched the book itself, let the reader know a little about yourself. Do you have any writing credentials or writing experience? Have you attended writing festivals or courses? Agents like to know you’re capable of producing more than one book, so it’s helpful to give a brief outline of other stories you’ve written or works in progress.

Choosing where to submit

  • Research agents – who do they represent? What books do they like? Have you heard of their authors? Follow them on Twitter to see whether this could be the agent for you. Attend webinars or talks where agents are speaking if possible.
  • Follow publishers on Twitter, read their blogs, ‘like’ their Facebook page – how well do they promote their authors? Which books do they love at the moment?
  • Do the publishers / agents have similar books to yours on their list?
  • Do they accept books for your targeted age range? Some don’t accept picture books, or rhyming texts, or fantasy, or young adult books. Always double-check before you submit.
  • You can use books or magazines (e.g. Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook ) to research agents and publishers but always visit their websites for up to date information.
  • READ SUBMISSON GUIDELINES – submitting without reading them may lead your story to be rejected.

The road to publication isn’t always easy but with a good submission and a perfect pitch, you stand a far better chance. So good luck and happy submitting!

Sample lette r

Top Secret Location

The Depths of My Imagination


A witch’s curse. A hidden treasure. A wizard in fluffy slippers.

Welcome to The House At The Edge of Magic.

I hope this finds you well. I’m delighted to send you the synopsis and first three chapters of my novel, The House At The Edge of Magic. I heard you speak at a webinar run by SOMEONE where you expressed an interest in funny books and fantasy, so I thought my story might be of interest.

The House At The Edge of Magic is a 30,000-word comic fantasy adventure for middle-grade readers.  When orphan pickpocket Nine plucks a beautiful ornament from someone’s purse, she’s sure her bad luck is about to change. But when her treasure grows into an enormous house full of magic, mystery and ridiculous residents, she learns the house is under a terrible curse. If Nine can break the curse before time runs out, she will be given something in exchange. Something which she longs for with all her heart: freedom. But time is running out, and someone is watching her every move. The race is on.

With flavours of Dianne Wynne-Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and Alice in Wonderland , against a backdrop of Oliver Twist , this story has heart, humour and more than a sprinkling of mischief.

This is my first middle-grade book, but I have been writing picture books for several years, and recently attended a Writing Fantasy and Magic course by Amy Sparkes. I am currently working on a chapter book series about a pig-obsessed princess who lives in a sock, and a picture book about Maud the Carrot who decides to rule the world.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

Amy Sparkes



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Read A Sample Literary Agent Query Letter, With Hints & Tips

Publishing industry ,

Read a sample literary agent query letter, with hints & tips.

Harry Bingham

By Harry Bingham

Sample Query Letter & Template Included

You want to know what a great query letter to literary agents should look like? We’re going to show you a perfect sample letter in a moment.

But we’re also going to figure out what your query letter needs to do – and how you’re going to write it.

This blog post will give you everything you need – and I promise that if you are talented enough to write a book, you are EASILY capable of writing a strong, confident query letter.

OK. We’ll get stuck in in one second.

But I should probably tell you that I am a real author describing a real book. The query letter below pretends that this book is a first novel and I have no track record in the industry. That’s obviously the case for most people reading this, but if you DO have a track record of note, then for heaven’s sake tell agents about it. Boasting is good!

What A Query Letter Should Accomplish

Your query letter needs to accomplish the following goals:

  • Introduce the purpose of your letter (ie: to secure representation).
  • To define in a very concise way the manuscript that you’ve written (ie: title, genre, word count).
  • To introduce your work at slightly more length – so you say what it is (setting / setup / premise / main character).
  • To give a sense of the emotional mood of your work – what is the emotional payoff for the reader?
  • To give a hint of your book’s USP or angle.
  • To help the agent understand where your book would fit in the market by including comparable titles and agent personalisation.
  • To say something – not much – about you.

The Structure of your Query Letter

Here’s the structure that most query letters should take. There are some exceptions (notably non-fiction and literary fiction), but for most purposes your query letter should comprise the following:

  • Introductory sentence – include your purpose for writing (you’re seeking representation!) book title, wordcount, genre.
  • 1-2 paragraphs about your book – what your book’s about and why a reader will love it.
  • A brief note about you – who you are and why you wrote the book.

We’ll expand on these things shortly.

A sample query letter

First up, however, here’s a query letter of a sort that would make any sane agent want to start reading the manuscript in question:

Dear Agent Name I’m writing to seek representation for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD, a police procedural of 115,000 words. The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff, Wales. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously. New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths is assigned to the investigation. Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses? I currently run my own small consultancy business, and  this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series. I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you. Yours, Harry Bingham

Simple right? And you can do it, no?

Here’s that query letter again with my comments highlighted in bold:

Dear Agent Name [ probably Jenny Smith, for example, rather than Ms Smith or just Jenny. But do check spellings, please! Someone called Jon may be annoyed to be addressed as John. ] I’m writing to seek representation  [the purpose of you getting in touch]  for my first novel, TALKING TO THE DEAD, a police procedural of 115,000 words.  [title, genre, word count – all defined fast and clearly.] The book opens with news of a murder: a young woman and her daughter have been found dead in a rough area of Cardiff. The house where they’re found is in poor condition, but in the corner of the room is a platinum bank card belonging to a local millionaire. A millionaire who died in a plane crash some nine months previously.  [This sets up the basic premise of the crime story. Already, the agent has the basic co-ordinates she needs to navigate, including location. I haven’t explicitly mentioned that this is a contemporary novel, but if it’s historical or speculative you certainly need to spell that out.]  New recruit, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths is assigned to the investigation.  [Introduce main character – clearly and succinctly.] Puzzling as this crime looks, it’s not the heart of the book’s mystery. It becomes rapidly clear that Fiona Griffiths herself is a very peculiar woman, who is withholding crucial secrets from the reader. Who exactly is her father? What was her childhood illness? And what is it with her and corpses?  [This hints nicely at the book’s mood and USP. It starts to suggest the emotional payoff – a mystery to do with the book’s central character. In effect, this is where you deliver something like the book’s elevator pitch – the reason why the agent has to know more.] I currently run my own small consultancy business, and this is my first novel. I look forward to writing further novels in the series.  [A line or two about me. Confirmation that I understand I’m writing a series – an important touch for this kind of fiction. If you are writing in any genre that expects a series (eg: plenty of children’s genres) make it clear that you understand that expectation.] I enclose the first three chapters and a synopsis. I hope you like what you see and look forward to hearing from you.  [Wrap it up. The whole letter easily fits onto one page. And yes, I know you’ll be sending an email, but you know what I mean.]

Now you know what you’re doing, we’ll get into a slightly more specific analysis.

The Components of Your Query Letter

The 1 sentence summary.

  • You need to say why you’re writing. (You’re seeking representation, right? So say so.)
  • You need to give the title of your book, either underlined or (better) in italics, please.
  • You need to give the word count of your book, rounded to the nearest 5,000 words. (And one word of advice: just be sure your word count is approximately right for the market.  Advice here .)
  • You need to give the approximate genre or territory of your book.

If you do those things, the agent can instantly understand what you want and what you’re offering. You will also, by the way, prove yourself to be a swift, professional writer.

It’s absolutely fine to model your sentence after the one I’ve given you above. It’s my copyright, but I don’t mind a bit of plagiarism.

What’s your genre?

It’s all very well for me to tell you to define your book’s genre: my books have a really clear, easily named genre. But that’s just not true of lots of books. If you’re writing a historical novel involving a cross-cultural romance amidst the wars of the 18th century Ottoman empire – what is that book? A romance? A war story? Historical fiction?

The simple truth is that it’s all of those things and agents aren’t that fussed about putting things into neat boxes, because fiction has never come in neat boxes.

So just describe the book, in 1-2 sentences. “The novel follows Ali, a caliph in the 18th century Ottoman empire and his romance with Anya, a Balkan servant girl. The novel centres on the XYZ war and has its climax during the 17xx siege of Dubrovnik.” Now, I’ve just made that up – I don’t know if there was a siege of Dubrovnik, but you can see that I’ve explained what kind of book this is without needing to reference a genre. If your book doesn’t fit any neat category, then just do the same.

The 1-2 Paragraph Introduction To The Book

First, it’s important to say what this is not.

You are not writing a back-of-book blurb. But nor are you writing a detailed outline of your story. (That’ll come in the form of your synopsis – get more synopsis help  right here .)

What you  are  doing is explaining  what  your book is and  why  a reader will feel compelled to read it.

That ‘what’ element will typically be a matter of presenting some facts. You need to give some more information about your settings, your premise, your characters and so on. You don’t need to be as salesy as a cover blurb, and you don’t need to be as dry as a synopsis. It’s almost as though you were chatting to your best friend and telling her about the book you’ve just been reading.

The ‘why’ element is equally crucial. Here, you are conveying something about  emotions . What is a reader going to feel as they read the book? What kind of atmosphere will they inhabit? What kind of emotional payoff or challenge is likely?

Comparable Titles

Including comparable titles is a clear and simple way to help authors understand where your book fits in the market. It’s important to query agents who specialise in your genre, and comparable titles help them get a sense of where your book would fit in with their list. Some people choose to include this in the introduction of their query letter, while others add it in later on; you can place it anywhere that suits you.

The standard advice is that you should try to include two or three comparable titles. You could reference them by saying ‘readers of x, y, and z would love (your book)’ or ‘x meets y in (your book)’. Make sure that you also describe why your book is unique and detail the extra elements it adds to the books you reference.

Personally, I’m a little sceptical that agents always need this kind of triangulation. Done badly, and it can seem a bit crass – a bit unsophisticated.

For this reason, and if you do choose to go the comparable title route, it’s important that the titles you use are genuinely similar to your book. Though it can be tempting to reference books you admire, it’s helpful to show an understanding of the market you’re writing in and give the agent a sense of the overall tone/style of your book. The titles should be commercially successful and contemporary (ideally from the last two years or so) to show your agent why you think your book will sell in the current market.

Oh yes, and don’t just pick the current genre bestsellers as your comps. That’s a bad idea for two reasons: first, everyone else will do it, and second, it’s actually important you pick the books and authors that really do give the agent a real clue as to what you’re all about. That could be the book currently at the top of the NYT bestseller list … but it probably isn’t.

Agent Personalisation

Agent personalisation is a very brief part of your query letter, but it’s an important one. Lots of writers eagerly send query letters to lots of different agents, and agents want to know that you put some thought into deciding to contact them specifically. As with comparable titles, this is a section which can go anywhere in your query letter.

Providing an agent with a specific reason why you chose to query them will help make your query letter stand out, and it also shows that you’ve done your research.

Maybe they represent an author in your genre who you’re a big fan of, and that’s how you found out about them. Or perhaps you discovered them on Twitter, or went to an event they took part it where something they said really resonated with you. Let them know! Including this element of personalisation will make your letter more memorable.

Again, don’t do this on auto-pilot. If you genuinely have a particular reason for writing to this particular agent, say so. If not, keep silent. Most agents have 2-3 big name authors and a horribly huge proportion of the query letters coming to those agents say, “I am writing to you because you represent Famous Author X and I think that my book …”

Yeah, right.

If in doubt, just keep quiet.

A Brief Introduction To You, The Author

Luckily, agents don’t care too much about you. Nor should they. They should care about the book, and only the book. That’s a fine, honest, meritocratic approach. May the best book win!

That said, agents are obviously curious about the person behind the manuscript. So tell them something about yourself. It’s fine to be human here, rather than resume-style formal. It’s also OK to be quite brief. For example:

“I am a 41-year-old mother, with three children, two dogs, one husband, and the finest vegetable garden in the southwest.” That’s much better than “I spent twelve years as an ACPO-registered bookkeeper with a variety of small and medium enterprises by way of clients. I was nominated for the New Mexico Young Bookkeeper Award three times, and was successful on one occasion (2003).” Believe me, agents don’t care – and nor should they. Your manuscript matters. You don’t … much.

Why you wrote the book

If there is a real connection between who you are (a shrimp fisher, let’s say) and the book you’ve written (something to do with the sea and fishing) then it’s worth another sentence or two to tease that out a bit.

But don’t feel compelled to do that. In my case, I wrote a crime novel, just because I wanted to write one. I’m not a cop or ex-cop. I have no forensics expertise. I have no legal expertise. Or anything else relevant. And that doesn’t matter, of course – what matters is the quality of the book.

So if you have something good to say, say it. If you have nothing to say, then say nothing and don’t worry about it.

Your previous writing history

If you have some real background as a writer, then do say so. For example, you might have written a textbook or similar on a topic relevant to your own professional area. Or you might have won or been shortlisted for a major short story prize. Or perhaps you work as a journalist or copywriter. Or something similar.

If anything like that is the case, then do say so.

But if it’s not – don’t worry! We’ve seen a lot of agent query letters that say things like “I haven’t had much writing experience, but my English teacher always used to say that I would be a writer one day . . .” And, you know what? It just sounds feeble. So don’t say it.

Agents know that most slushpile submissions will be by complete newbie authors. And that’s fine. JK Rowling was a newbie once . . .

Writing a series?

If you are writing a series, then you should say so, much as I did in that sample letter above. Agents will like the fact that you recognise the series potential of your work and that you are committed to taking the steps needed to develop it.

What you don’t want to do, is sound overly rigid or arrogant. (“I have completed the first four novels in my  Lords of the Silver Sword  series, and have got complete chapter outlines for the next 11 titles. I am looking for a publisher who will commit fully to the series.” — if you write something like that, agents are likely to reject you out of hand.)

How Long Should Your Query Letter Be?

Your overall letter should not run to more than one page. (Except that non-fiction and literary authors can give themselves maybe a page and a half, maybe two). And that’s it.

If you’ve written your query letter, and would like some feedback before querying agents, why not purchase an agent submission pack review from us.

We can help YOU get published. Did you know, we have a complete course on getting published? The course covers absolutely everything you need to know: how to prepare your manuscript, how to find agents, how to compile your shortlist, how to write your query letter and synopsis – and much, much more besides. That  course is quite expensive to buy . . . so don’t buy it. The course is available completely free to premium members of Jericho Writers. Not just that course. You get our Agent Match tool for finding literary agents. You get our awesome How To Write course. Plus our members get regular opportunities to pitch their work live online to a panel of literary agents. Sounds good, doesn’t it?  So hop over here and find out more about joining us .

Query Letters: The Exceptions

OK, there are a few exceptions to the above rules. Of those, the two most important ones you need to know about are:

You Are Writing Literary Fiction

If you are writing genuinely high end literary fiction, agents will want you to strut a little, even in your query letter. So if you were writing about (Oh, I dunno) a fictional nun in 14th century Florence, you might talk a bit about the themes of your work and what inspired you to pick up this story.

This kind of thing:

“ I got the idea for this story, while working as a game warden one winter on the Hebridean island of Macvity. I was all alone and with a deeply unreliable internet connection. It occurred to me that my solitary life had its religious aspect and I became very interested in female monasticism. Blah, yadda, yadda, blah. ”

(Sorry for the blahs, but personally I like books that have corpses in them.)

The idea of this kind of approach is that you are selling the book (its themes, its resonances), but also you’re selling yourself – you’re showing that you can walk the talk as a literary writer.

You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have A Remarkable Platform

Let’s say you are writing a cookbook and you have a couple of million people who subscribe to your YouTube channel. Or you are writing a book about motorcycle repair and you have a motorbike-themed blog with 250,000 monthly readers. In those cases, you have to delineate your platform in enough detail to convince an agent (and ultimately a publisher) that you are the right person to write this manuscript.

In those cases, then your query letter does need to outline your platform in sufficient detail. You may even want to kick that outline over into a separate document. However you handle it, the “one page query letter” rule can safely be binned. Your prospective agent wants to know what kind of platform you can supply – so tell her.

Oh yes: and having a website is not a platform. Having 10,000 followers on Twitter is impressive, but means nothing in the context of national or international marketing. In short: if you are going to make a big deal of your platform, your platform itself needs to be a big deal. That means having six- or seven-figure numbers to boast about. Nothing else will really cut it.

You Are Writing Non-fiction And You Have Extraordinary Authority

Much the same goes if you are (let’s say) writing a book of popular psychology and (like Daniel Kahnemann) just happen to have a Nobel Prize to wave around.

If you bring amazing authority to a topic, then you need to cover that, either in your query letter or a separate bio. Again, the one page rule just doesn’t apply.

Literary Agent Etiquette

So. Let’s say you’ve got a shortlist of agents. You’ve checked those agents’ websites for their specific submission requirements – probably opening chapters + query letter + synopsis.

You use our query letter sample and write your own perfect query letter. You avoid any weak language, misspellings or grammatical howlers, of course.

You use our advice to put together your synopsis ( advice right here ). You don’t spend too long on writing the synopsis either, because if you use our techniques, that process is simplicity itself.

You read the opening chunk of your manuscript one last time – and follow our simple rules on  manuscript formatting .

And then – well, you send your stuff off.

You light some candles, pray to your favourite saints, tie a black cat into a knot and throw a mirror over a ladder. (Or under it? Or something to do with a wishing well? I’m not sure. Superstition isn’t my strong suit.)

Anyway. You get your stuff out to at least 6 agents and preferably more like 10-12. You wait an unfeasibly long amount of time – but let’s say 6-8 weeks as a rough guide.

What happens next? Well.

Rejections do happen, and are likely to happen even if you’ve written a great book. (Because agents have their hands full. Or just like a different sort of thing. Or have an author who is too directly competitive. Or anything else. It’s not always about you or your book.)

But if you send your material out to 10-12 agents, and find yourself being rejected, then you have to ask yourself:

  • Am I being rejected because I’ve chosen the wrong agents?
  • Am I being rejected because my query letter / synopsis are poor?
  • Am I being rejected because my book isn’t up to scratch?

Truthfully? The third of these issues is by far the most common.

If you’ve written a great book, and a rubbish query letter, you can still find an agent. The other way around? Never.

If you are confident that you’ve gone to the right agents, and have been rejected by 10+ people (or heard nothing after 8 weeks, which amonts to the exact same thing), then the probable truth is that your book is not yet strong enough for commercial publication.

And, you know what?

That’s not a big deal.

All books start out bad. Then they get better. So getting rejected is really just a signal that you still have further to travel down that road. ( Find out about the type of rejection letters to look out for here. )

Remember that getting third party editorial advice is the standard way of improving your work. We offer outstanding editorial help and  you can read all about it here .

Alternatively, join the Jericho Writers family, and you can get a ton of help absolutely free within your membership. Free courses on How To Write. Free courses on Getting Published. Free access to AgentMatch. And so much more.  Find out more here .

Happy writing, and good luck!

About the author

Harry has written a variety of books over the years, notching up multiple six-figure deals and relationships with each of the world’s three largest trade publishers. His work has been critically acclaimed across the globe, has been adapted for TV, and is currently the subject of a major new screen deal. He’s also written non-fiction, short stories, and has worked as ghost/editor on a number of exciting projects. Harry also self-publishes some of his work, and loves doing so. His Fiona Griffiths series in particular has done really well in the US, where it’s been self-published since 2015. View his website , his Amazon profile , his Twitter . He's been reviewed in Kirkus, the Boston Globe , USA Today , The Seattle Times , The Washington Post , Library Journal , Publishers Weekly , CulturMag (Germany), Frankfurter Allgemeine , The Daily Mail , The Sunday Times , The Daily Telegraph , The Guardian , and many other places besides. His work has appeared on TV, via Bonafide . And go take a look at what he thinks about Blick Rothenberg . You might also want to watch our " Blick Rothenberg - The Truth " video, if you want to know how badly an accountancy firm can behave.

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Jane Friedman

The Perfect Cover Letter: Advice From a Lit Mag Editor

cover letter for magazine or journal

Today’s guest post is from Elise Holland, co-founder and editor of 2 Elizabeths , a short fiction and poetry publication.

When submitting your short-form literature to a magazine or journal, your cover letter is often the first piece of writing an editor sees. It serves as an introduction to your thoughtfully crafted art. As such, it is significant, but it shouldn’t be intimidating or even take much time to write.

As editor at 2 Elizabeths , I see a variety of cover letters every day; some are excellent, and others could stand to be improved. There are a few key pieces of information to include, while keeping them short and sweet. In fact, a cover letter should only be a couple of paragraphs long, and no more than roughly 100-150 words.

A little research goes a long way

Seek out the editor’s name, and address the letter to him/her, as opposed to using a generic greeting. Typically, you can find this information either on the magazine or journal’s website, or in the submission guidelines.

Read the submission guidelines thoroughly. Many publications will state in their guidelines the exact details that need to be included in a cover letter. With some variation, a general rule of thumb is to include the following:

  • Editor’s name (if you can locate it)
  • Genre/category
  • Brief description of your piece
  • If you have been published previously, state where
  • Whether your piece is a simultaneous submission (definition below)

Terms to Know

The term simultaneous submission means that you will be sending the same piece to several literary magazines or journals at the same time. Most publications accept simultaneous submissions, but some do not. If a publication does not accept them, this will be stated in their guidelines.

Should your work be selected for publication by one magazine, it is important to notify other publications where you have submitted that piece. This courtesy will prevent complications, and will keep you in good graces with various editors, should you wish to submit to them again in the future.

The term multiple submission means that you are submitting multiple pieces to the same literary magazine or journal.

Cover Letter That Needs Work

Dear Editor, Here is a collection of poems I wrote that I’d like you to consider. I have not yet been published elsewhere. Please let me know what you think. Bio: John Doe is an Insurance Agent by day and a writer by night, living in Ten Buck Two. He is the author of a personal blog, LivingWith20Cats.com. Best, John Doe

What Went Wrong?

John Doe didn’t research the editor’s name. A personal greeting is always better than a simple “Dear Editor.” Additionally, John failed to include the word count, title and a brief description of his work.

There is no need to state that John has not yet been published elsewhere. He should simply leave that piece of information out. (Many publications, 2 Elizabeths included, will still welcome your submissions warmly if you are unpublished.)

John included a statement asking the editor to let him know what he/she thinks about his work. Due to time constraints, it is rare that an editor sends feedback unless work is going to be accepted.

Unless otherwise specified by the magazine or journal to which you are submitting, you do not need to include biographical information in your cover letter. Typically, that information is either requested upfront but in a separate document from the cover letter, or is not requested until a piece has been selected for publishing.

Cover Letter Ready to Be Sent

Dear Elise, Please consider this 1,457-word short fiction piece, “Summer.” I recently participated in the 2 Elizabeths Open Mic Night, and am an avid reader of the fiction and poetry that you publish. “Summer” is a fictitious tale inspired by the impact of a whirlwind, yet meaningful, romance I experienced last year. In this story, I gently explore the life lessons associated with young love, with a touch of humor. This is a simultaneous submission, and I will notify you if the piece is accepted elsewhere. Thank you for your consideration. Kindest Regards, John Doe

What Went Right?

In this letter, John includes all pertinent information, while keeping his letter clear and concise. In his second sentence, John also briefly states how he is familiar with the magazine. While doing this isn’t required, if done tastefully, it can be a nice touch! Another example might be: “I read and enjoyed your spring issue, and believe that my work is a good fit for your magazine.”

I hope these sample letters help you as you send your short works to magazines and journals for consideration. While you’re at it, I hope you will check out 2 Elizabeths ! We would love to read your work.

Elise Holland

Elise Holland is co-founder and editor of 2 Elizabeths , a short fiction and poetry publication. Her work has appeared in various publications, most recently in Story a Day . Through 2 Elizabeths, Elise strives to create value and visibility for writers, through writing contests , events , and more!


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[…] view post at https://janefriedman.com/perfect-cover-letter-advice-lit-mag-editor/ […]

[…] To get into literary magazines, you need a cover letter, so Elise Holland lays out how to write the perfect cover letter for a literary magazine. […]

Diane Holcomb

Love this! The letter is short and to the point, and covers all the necessary information. Great tips! I always worry that the only publishing credit I have is the winning entry in a short story contest through the local paper. Should I mention that? And writing conferences I’ve attended?

Jane Friedman

As Elise says, it’s OK if you’re unpublished. Don’t worry about it. But feel free to mention your winning entry. If the writing conferences would likely be known to the journals’ editors, you might mention one or two.

[…] recently wrote a full article on the perfect cover letter, here. Check it out for clear, simple instructions, along with sample […]

[…] publication. Her work has appeared in various publications, most recently in Story a Day, and at JaneFriedman.com.  Through 2 Elizabeths, Elise strives to create value and visibility for writers, through writing […]


Thanks for the concise and useful information! I’ve heard that it’s also a good idea to include a sentence or two that makes it clear that you are familiar with the kind of work the magazine has published in the past. Is this generally advised, or would you consider it nonessential unless specified in the submission guidelines?


how to write a cover letter to literary agent

Member-only story

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Literary Journal Submission

Why you don’t need to stand out in your cover letter.

Michelle Richmond

Michelle Richmond

The Caffeinated Writer

As the publisher of Fiction Attic Press , which publishes flash fiction , short stories , essays , and novellas-in-flash by new and established writers, I receive a few dozen submissions each month through our submittable portal . In the 17 years since Fiction Attic began, I’ve…

Michelle Richmond

Written by Michelle Richmond

NYT bestselling author of THE MARRIAGE PACT, THE WONDER TEST, & others. Write with me: thewritersworkshops.com . Books: https://bio.link/michellerichmond

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Last updated on Mar 09, 2022

5 Agent-Approved Query Letter Examples

A great query letter — one that gets an agent to request your manuscript — is one that both checks all the boxes and is unique to you, your book, and the agent in question. To give you an idea of what this might look like, we’re sharing some query letter examples, which we polished up with the expert help of a handful of editors on the Reedsy marketplace.

Query letter examples: a sample query letter

Science-Fiction query letter

Query letter examples: excerpt from a science fiction query letter

This sci-fi query letter checks a lot of the boxes you want in a query letter: it includes current and contemporary comp titles , to help the agent place the novel within the market, while also indicating a familiarity with the agent’s catalogue by including mention of one of their previous projects. It also makes good use of the author’s bookish bona fides .

I am writing to seek representation for my 120,000-word science fiction novel, ELYSIUM DYING. It concerns a not-so-distant future that has been ravaged not only by mass infertility but also by an alien invasion that threatens to wipe out all existing life. The novel’s first contact arc is similar to your client Russell Fleming’s approach in THE BLUE ABYSS, which has been of particular inspiration to me, with moments reminiscent of Jeff VanderMeer’s horror-infused ANNIHILATION. 

Sixteen-year-old Hazel Windrow is one of the youngest people alive since the Peruvian flu struck fifteen years ago, killing 50% of Earth’s population and leaving the rest infertile. Extinction appears inevitable, and humanity now faces the fresh blow of it happening much sooner than anticipated — with the arrival of an alien colony seemingly determined to tear whatever’s left of the planet’s crumbling cities apart.

As her entire neighborhood scrambles to put as much space between themselves and the creatures as possible, only Hazel (herself a devotee of classic science fiction) sees the connection between the disease and the invasion, and suspects that the aliens are not as malevolent as they seem. Since the city’s electrical grid was wiped out by the aliens’ arrival, she has no way of communicating her theory to the higher-ups. So she sets off from her native Boston, headed for Washington, D.C. — but when she arrives, she’s confronted not by the remains of the government, but the aliens themselves, who have taken over the Pentagon and the White House. 

While Hazel’s theory proves correct and she tries to spread the vital truth about the flu, she’s accused of being a traitor to her species and a mouthpiece for the aliens. Now she must convince the skeptics to cooperate before the aliens’ patience runs out, or else these new arrivals will attempt a far more drastic plan to force humanity’s hand. 

I have an MFA from Temple University, where I studied under Nebula Award-winner Samuel R. Delany. I have also won several short fiction contests hosted by the SFWA, and recently compiled those works into an anthology entitled THE FALL OF DAWN, which I self-published under the pseudonym Jocelyn Rice.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Samantha Jackson

Following Lindsay Ribar’s advice, the query gives a strong sense of the novel’s story and stakes, which is especially important in genre fiction: agents receive a lot of queries, and don’t have time to follow up every vaguely intriguing synopsis! You’re much better off being explicit when describing the plot.

how to write a cover letter to literary agent

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Nonfiction query letter

Query letter examples: excerpt from a non fiction query letter

This nonfiction query is an example of the use of a “hook” to open a query: according to editor Jon Michael Darga during feedback, “it's intriguing, carries significance, and we want to know more. I've no idea what priming is, but now I want to know!” 

Dear Ms Brown,

As a university undergraduate, I sat down in a crowded lecture theatre one afternoon, and received my first ever introduction to a concept that would transform my career, my relationships, and my entire way of living: priming. 

This psychological phenomenon is as powerful as it is simple. In short, exposure to a certain stimulus can influence the way a person reacts to a subsequent stimulus. At a simple level, this can be extremely innocuous: if I’ve just spoken about my pet Labrador, and then present you with the letters O, D, and G, you’re more likely to spell “dog” with them than “god”. But this principle can have incredibly profound implications on your mindset, your decision-making, and your overall happiness.

In PRIMED FOR ERROR, my 70,000-word scientific self-help book, I lead my readers through the story of how I used priming as a tool to access memories and alter my “impostor” mindset, rocket-boosting my academic career. I’ll also show them how priming myself for healthy, positive communication saved my struggling marriage, as well as teaching them how they can apply the principles of priming in their own lives. Weaving together 200 years of psychological research with my own experiences (and those of famous proponents of the method, including Nobel prize-winners and Hollywood A-Listers), I cover broad ground with enough specificity and hard scientific evidence to reassure readers they’re in safe hands.

I actually listened to your excellent panel at the 2020 UK Nonfic Pick conference, where you discussed the porousness of the self-help and popular science genres and how you’re looking for more books that straddle that line, and I believe PRIMED FOR ERROR strikes that balance in an innovative way, through the incorporation of elements of memoir and personal anecdote within a wider scientific framework. 

Beyond my personal experience using the principles of priming, I have a PhD in behavioral psychology from Marlowe University, where I have experience lecturing undergraduate and postgraduate students in areas related to this topic. My hope is to bring my academic and teaching backgrounds together to present robust science in an accessible way, similar to Daniel Kahneman’s THINKING, FAST AND SLOW. I’m also a great admirer of your client Marcus Hardy’s latest release BALANCING THE DECK, as his approach to popular science is informed by both highly personal and rigorous historical lenses, a holistic methodology I adopt in my own teaching and writing.

PRIMED FOR ERROR has been a years-long passion project, and I am excited to finally be bringing it out into the world. I’ve attached the complete manuscript for your consideration, and I thank you for your time. 

All the best,

Hannah Gardener

The query also clarifies to the agent what materials the author has available (here, the complete manuscript), which is especially important when querying with a nonfiction title, where you could be submitting either a book proposal or a full manuscript. This helps the agent know where you’re at in your writing journey straight away.

Memoir query letter

This letter also makes use of a brief hook, before moving swiftly into the meat and potatoes of the query - the necessary details about the book that the agent really wants to know, including word count, genre, title.

Dear Kevin,

In my thirty years as a foster mother, I had one rule: no teenagers. I was certain that I couldn’t meet the unique challenges of caring for older children. Then, one November night, along came an emergency placement—fifteen-year-old Kay.

In my 100,000-word memoir HIDDEN PARENT, I discuss the shift in my relationship with parenthood, love, and family which Kay precipitated. Upon her arrival, we argued constantly, with neither of us knowing how to navigate this strange new family dynamic. It began to seem that our situation was untenable — but we were stuck with one another. Our struggles were only exacerbated by the bemused scepticism of my own family and friends who, aware of my longstanding no-teens rule, were certain our little unit wouldn’t last.  

But as we became comfortable with one another, the growing bond between us opened my eyes to an entirely new type of foster family. I realized that what made me a parent wasn’t a child being reliant on me, but a child trusting me enough to let me into their life. It’s this realization, and the bumpy road that led me there, which I explore with equal parts humor and sensitivity in HIDDEN PARENT, my first book. 

Alongside the hundreds of thousands of families adopting or fostering within the US every year, I feel my story will resonate with a broad audience of parents, both biological and non-biological, who at times doubt whether they can handle a child’s emotional needs. As a blogger who writes regularly about my experiences parenting, I have already built up a community of 3,000 regular readers who are attached to my story, and seeking guidance for their own journeys. Wanting to connect even further with this audience is another reason why I wrote this book, an accessible resource for those struggling with the “big questions” of parenthood. 

My book is thematically complementary to several works in your catalogue, such as David Lower’s FOUND FAMILY, touching on similar ideas of family as an ever-evolving and flexible entity, which you can nurture even without biological relation. I also know that you count Evie Gray among your roster of clients, whose newest title MIDDLE YEARS resonated deeply with my experiences, and while my book takes a more personal approach to the topic as a narrative memoir, I would be honored to find myself in such company. 

I thank you for your consideration.

Tanya Hartman

Following Kimberley Lim’s advice, the query includes an indication of the book’s tone when it points out that it’s a good-humored reflection on the topic. This helps the agent get a real feel for the work and the reading experience, beyond the general subject matter.  

Query letter examples: excerpt from a memoir query letter

Mentioning a particular target audience is also good: agents already know that readers outside the target market could enjoy a book, so this goes without saying. But by being specific, and focusing only on those they are actually writing for (here, parents), the author gives the agent insight into the commercial potential and a possible marketing angle for the book.

Thriller query letter

Query letter examples: excerpt from a thriller query letter

This query is a great example of efficiency, according to agent Andy Ross . The synopsis brings out the concept quickly, leaving space in the letter for other important information, such as background on the writer and their author platform. 

Dear Ms. Brooks, 

I am seeking representation for my 100,000 word psychological thriller, THE WOMAN IN THE BLACK SALOON, my debut novel.

THE WOMAN IN THE BLACK SALOON begins with a terrible death: a cattle rancher strangled by his own lasso. But when the forensics come back clean, the police have no leads whatsoever. Flash forward to one year later, and the strange murder not only remains unsolved, but the bad publicity surrounding it has destroyed the town’s tourist economy.

Enter Jesse Foster, proprietor and sole remaining bartender at the Lone Star Saloon. Once a thriving local business and tourist attraction, Lone Star has dried up with the rest of the town — and Jesse is sick and tired of waiting for things to get better. Taking matters into his own hands, he soon discovers what the police have been hiding from the public, and realizes that he himself may hold the key to this terrifying case: a faint memory of a mysterious woman in his bar, just hours before that rancher was brutally throttled.

This story has all the dark small-town secrets of a Gillian Flynn novel with a distinctive southwestern spin — it's about a small town in Texas that’s turned upside down by a twisted, Western-inspired murder. It should appeal widely to fans of all kinds of suspense, from classic murder mystery to contemporary thriller.

I’ve also already started promoting it to my own fans — I’ve had several crime fiction short stories published, and run a true-crime blog called “Crime Time with Detective Jay” that gets about 500 unique viewers a month. This novel was actually inspired by a case I wrote about on the blog (though I won’t say which one).

My very best,

Jeremy Baker 

The inclusion of metrics in the form of blog hits is helpful for an agent, and definitely adds value to an otherwise unknown author’s query. Knowing that an author has a pre-existing platform can be a helpful tool for agents when trying to figure out the potential reach of a project, so include any social media or blog following you might have.

Romance query letter

Query letter examples: excerpt from a romance query letter

Following feedback from Marsha Zinberg , this letter was edited to make sure its tone was suitable for a query, selling the story without veering into pulpy back cover copy. It also gives insight into the other works in the authors’ catalogue and their authorial credentials. 

Dear Joyce,

I’m seeking representation for my 80,000-word historical romance novel, FIRE AND SILK: a forbidden romance that unfolds against the backdrop of the American Revolution. This book is a sequel to my previous novel, Midnight Rose, which was shortlisted for the RWA Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award last year.

The fiery half of FIRE AND SILK, blacksmith Joseph Ramsey, has never been interested in ladyfolk — nor does he have time to pursue them, working from dusk till dawn to fulfill his commissions and covertly supply the Continental Army with weapons. Elizabeth Davis is a high-born woman who approaches Joe with a strange request: a gun with which to kill her fiancé, a charismatic and influential general in the Continental Army who commands a garrison key to the region’s defence.

If he fulfils the mysterious young woman’s request, it would mortally wound the revolutionary effort. But her beauty, sparkling wit, and tragic air prove difficult to resist, and so Joe is torn between his until-now unwavering duty to the cause, and his passion for Elizabeth. As the connection between the blacksmith and the lady heats up, Joe finds himself caught in the crossfire... 

Early readers have noted echoes of Alyssa Cole and HAMILTON while bestselling author Tamara Jones has described my current draft as “unexpectedly gripping and achingly sensual”. I have spent the past year researching the Revolutionary War while completing an MA in American History from Ashland University, so readers will not be disappointed by the historical rigor.

In addition to being a finalist for the RWA award, I have published several short stories with HarperCollins’ Escape Publishing, which received several strong editorial reviews. I am also currently working on the next standalone installment in my “Revolutionary Lovers'' series, entitled A TOUCH OF FANCY, with completion expected within the next six months. This one, set in eighteenth-century France, bears some thematic resemblance to the writings of your client Claudette Sauvageot, whose work I admire.

Thank you very much for your consideration, Ms. Montgomery. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm regards,

While it shares information about other titles in the series, this query wisely doesn’t try to query an entire series at once: this tactic is unlikely to get authors very far, and is against standard query letter protocol. Instead, writers should focus on querying for one title, while mentioning any other works that would be relevant to the agent, as the author has done here.

Don't forget to keep track of all of the agents you query! You can develop your own system for this, but a simple spreadsheet will do the job at the end of the day. 

Your query letter will be just as unique as your book, but we hope that getting a sneak peek into the query review process and looking over our examples has provided you with some insight into the best practices and pitfalls of writing a query. Be sure to check out the rest of this series for more tips on writing a fiction query letter and choosing those all-important comp titles !

Finally, we created three more query letter examples for you to save as images or share with your fellow author friends. 

A query letter example for a science fiction novel.

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The Write Practice

How to Get a Literary Agent

How to find a literary agent you love.

Want to get a literary agent for your novel or nonfiction book? Learn how from bestselling author and founder of The Write Practice, Joe Bunting.

It can be intimidating to begin the search for a literary agent, but in this class, you'll learn the simple system for finding a literary agent who is perfect for your book.

Here are the topics we’ll cover in each lesson:

  • Lesson 1: How to Find Your Ideal Literary Agent. In this lesson, you'll learn to research potential literary agents using tools like the Association of American Literary Agents website and Publisher's Marketplace. Joe Bunting will show you how to evaluate agents based on the genres they represent, the deals they've made, and comparable books they've sold. By the end, you'll be able to build a list of 30-40 well-matched agents to query.
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How to write the perfect pitch letter.

How to write the perfect pitch letter

  • April 1, 2024
  • Blog , Publishing
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Submit to a literary agent with confidence and style , using TLC’s top tips on how to write the perfect pitch letter

Over the years at TLC, we’ve worked with thousands of writers through our editorial services , and a significant percentage of those writers have one goal in mind: getting published. Whilst of course this isn’t the only measure of success for a writer, if it’s something you want to achieve then you’ll need to get strategic about how to get there.

One of the first steps on the road to getting published is often the pitch letter : to a literary agent, or perhaps directly to a small or independent press. Along with the synopsis (more about how to write a synopsis here with our guide and template), it’s one of the most important documents in a writer’s toolkit, and a vital part of your submission package.

So, how do you write a perfect pitch?

First, an enormous and important disclaimer.

Your pitch letter is not the be-all and end-all Your pitch letter is not worth your mental health. Your pitch letter does not have to take up hours and hours of your valuable time.

If you are submitting a full length piece of fiction or creative non fiction to a literary agent, the pitch letter and synopsis will usually accompany your opening chapters (first 10-15,000 words), and this packet of three documents will determine if a literary agents ‘calls in’ the rest.

A couple of years ago, we asked some literary agents if they were able to share some numbers with us. For context, here was one agent’s response about how many submissions they were sent, how many they called in, and how many new clients they signed. This is for one full calendar year:

3,002 queries 74 full MS requests 3 new clients signed

As you will see, it’s not only highly competitive out there, but agents can only sign a limited number of clients per year. So, don’t be disheartened if you don’t immediately find the perfect match. And if you do get a full manuscript request, celebrate this! Sending work out can be a very exposing thing, so it’s important to note that the pitch letter and synopsis are simply business documents, and to treat them as such. Make sure you are managing your time, energy, and wellbeing during this process, and sending out only when you feel ready to do so.

Why the Pitch is Important

The perfect pitch letter shows an agent that you are serious, committed, and that you are a safe pair of hands as a writer. It also shows them that you have a clear vision of your book, that it communicates well and easily, and that you have a solid grasp of where your writing sits in the market.

No agent worth their salt will reject a brilliant manuscript because it has a slightly shonky pitch, but agents might read a weak pitch and begin to second-guess. So, don’t give them the chance for this doubt to creep in. Work on your pitch letter, then send it out into the world proud that what you’ve sent, you stand by.  

The Template

Let’s break the perfect pitch letter down section by section. This is of course only a suggested template, so you will want to make sure you leave some room to give it your own flair.

It sounds obvious, but address the agent by name. If you are sending to multiple agents (which is absolutely fine, have a look at our How to Pitch to a Literary Agent resource here for more on that), email them one by one, never in a blind copy email-to-all. Avoid ‘Dear Sirs’. The publishing industry is 70% women and there’s no reason to use a generic (and sexist) appellation.

I am writing to you to submit the opening chapters of my [word count] [genre] manuscript, [title of book].

Get all of the key information into the top of your letter, quickly and clearly.

Reason for submitting

Agents understand that you will likely be submitting to multiple agents at a time. None of them will be expecting a customised love letter, so to help you create a template that you can easily use for different agents, having just a sentence or two that you can swap out for each covering letter makes this exercise significantly quicker. Just remember to double (and perhaps even triple) check that you have changed the name and this reason for submitting sentence for each new submission.

[Title of book] is about… and a sentence on themes

This is your three-sentence pitch. An overview of what happens (a kind of mini blurb).

EXAMPLE: The Clarity follows Margot, a young scientist working on a cure for Alzheimers who is blinded in a seemingly random acid attack. When the building where she was doing her research gets burned down, she quickly realises there is something else going on, and downloads a stash of files she suspects may contain the answer. Unluckily for Margot, someone is watching, and they will stop at nothing to destroy the files – and Margot.

The Clarity is about complicity, conspiracy, and the cost of secrets.

Keep it short, and pithy. Try not to overload the sentences with adjectives or vague nouns, and when describing themes try to identify the main one to three themes maximum. Remember, you will also be submitting a synopsis so you don’t have to go into full story detail here. If you have a complex plot, feel free to expand this paragraph a little.

Comp titles

[Title] would appeal to readers who enjoy X and Y.

This might be two or three books that would sit comfortably on a bookshelf next to yours, or perhaps it’s two authors who you feel you’d share a readership with. Maybe it’s a Netflix show or a recent film. Comps are positioning tools, and by no means mandatory. They should be contemporary, and will give the agent a good idea of your readership, to whom you would be pitching the book should it get published.

Here is a paragraph where you can talk about yourself. Include anything relevant here: are you part of a writing group, have you taken a course, do you have a special interest blog related to your novel with a healthy readership, have you been listed in writing competitions, or been published online. Keep it short! A few sentences are fine. If you’re not sure you have any relevant experience, don’t worry, the agent won’t be expecting a full CV. Just help them get to know a little about you – an agent-author relationship is a personal one, after all!

Sign off politely

Thank them for taking the time, say you hope to hear from them soon, and that’s it! Don’t forget to include your contact information. Even though everything is digital these days, in a busy office it’s still possible that documents end up getting printed or separated from each other. Make sure each of your submission documents contains the title of the MS, your full name, and a contact detail.

What Not to Do

  • Quotes: Lists of quotes from people you know about how great your book are are lovely for you, not particularly useful for an agent. Let the work speak for itself. (If you are writing a children’s book, and you have a very cute quote from a child connected to a recent school reading you did, by all means go for it! There are always exceptions)
  • White lies: If you do get an offer from another agent, it’s polite (and savvy) to inform other agents whom your manuscript is out with. If on the other hand you try to generate momentum by telling a white lie, this is bad form and won’t reflect well on you. Equally…
  • Timelines: Most agents will include timelines for response on their agency websites. Take note of these and if you don’t see anything, a polite follow-up around 12 weeks after submission is absolutely fine. Don’t, however, try to one-up by declaring your own timelines in your pitch letter.

An addendum on disclosure

At TLC we run various events, workshops, symposia, and panels for writers at all stages of their career. One question that comes up a lot, particularly at the moment when publishing is trying to diversify its creative output, is whether you should disclose particular things about your own identity in your pitch letter. This is a very complex issue that requires a longer response than this bullet point, however our general advice is this:

  • Think carefully about what you’re writing, in whose voice, and why (here is Kit de Waal’s excellent article on cultural appropriation)
  • You should never be expected to disclose anything that you don’t wish to. You can always have a confidential conversation later down the line should an agent end up representing you, but if you did feel it was useful to disclose something in your pitch letter where it’s relevant (for instance in the case of pitching a novel with mental health themes that you feel it’s important you say you have experience of), you can of course do this.  
  • No writer should ever feel pressure to disclose something simply because they feel it might be advantageous to them. Most agents out there are operating ethically and their purpose is to advocate for and protect their clients. This includes protecting them from creative exploitation. No matter what your lived experience, you are absolutely allowed to have boundaries.

Need more help?

We hope you enjoyed this TLC Blog. If you’d like some support with your pitch letter, we offer a Submission Package Report service which gives you detailed feedback on your Pitch Letter, Synopsis, and first 8,000 words. Find out more here.

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how to write a cover letter to literary agent

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Janey Burton

Getting representation from a literary agent is essential for anyone who wants to be published by one of the big five publishers, but agents are busy people and there are many other writers trying to get their attention. How can you make your submission materials – your pitch letter, sample and synopsis – stand out?

It should go without saying that the most important thing is the manuscript itself – you aren’t going to get representation unless the book is terrific, as well as being something the agent feels able to sell to a publisher.

But, before the agent even reads your manuscript, they will look at your covering or pitch letter. This is the place where you introduce your book, and it’s the best place to grab the agent’s attention.

There is a lot of expert advice on the internet about how to structure a pitch letter and what to include. There are some differences in details, but most of the positive advice in these articles boils down to ‘write a great book, find the agent who will want to sell it, and introduce it and yourself to them really well’ – because that is what the pitch letter is for. It is a quick introduction to your book that induces the agent to read the manuscript – no more, no less.

Perhaps it is because the list of what to do is so simple and short that many of these articles spend at least as much time, if not more, describing the longer list of what not to do in your pitch letter.

Anyone who has had the experience of working their way through a submission pile will tell you about all the distracting nonsense writers put into their letters, all of it something other than introducing their book really well. Many writers pad their pitch letter with various irrelevancies, and get in their own way by trying to be different or memorable for some other reason than presenting a fantastic book. And while they’re trying so hard, they – fatally – completely fail to do the one thing the letter is for.

The pitch letter should be short – definitely no more than a page and preferably shorter than that, so up to around 300 words total – and it needs to:

Pitch your book

  • Introduce yourself

It’s great if you’re able to explain how you think your book will fit in with that individual agent’s list or tastes, or if one of your comparable titles is something they also represent, or that you met at this or that event and the agent invited you to submit, but if you don’t have the material for this kind of personalisation, it’s better to skip it rather than forcing it.

Anyway, none of that will matter if you don’t get the main thing right, which is introducing your book. Even introducing yourself is secondary, and for good reason: the thing that matters is always the book.

Research other pitch letters

A great way to begin is to look at lots of other pitch letters. As well as giving you a feel for the shape and rhythm of a compelling introduction, reading others’ attempts will help you avoid many of the common mistakes.

Am I suggesting you need to go and work for a literary agent so you too can have the unenviable experience of wading through a real-life slush pile? No, that’s not necessary. There might be a part of me that wishes I could make writers experience the letters they send to agents from the other side, just to hammer home why they are so frustrating, but luckily a literary agent has basically already done this.

My suggestion is that you spend some time in the Query Shark archives and read as many posts as possible. There, you will find hundreds of query letters in a variety of genres willingly offered up to Janet Reid, an NYC literary agent and the eponymous shark, who proceeds to tear each one to shreds before explaining what the writer should do instead.

There are obvious benefits to reading what an actual literary agent says about a given pitch letter (or query letter for Americans). It’s advice straight from the horse’s mouth. And her advice is very transferable, so you don’t need to worry about the source being American if you are from the UK or elsewhere.

Janet Reid was once famously known as Miss Snark in an earlier, anonymous incarnation, so I will warn you now that she’s very direct and she doesn’t sugarcoat anything. But she’s not being mean, she’s just being clear.

Her approach is probably quite alarming for some people, especially if they are not used to genuine directness, but I would argue that that’s no bad thing if one is trying to enter an incredibly competitive industry like book publishing, because too much sensitivity and a tendency to take criticism personally will not serve you well. Directness like hers will help you detach and see more objectively what makes a good letter and, by extension, some of what makes a book one an agent can sell.

Once you’ve got a strong sense of what works and what doesn’t, you will start to see how you can apply what you’ve learned. It will be time to think about how to describe your own book.

What is your book about? Many writers, on being asked this question, panic and start rambling. Or, they summarise the plot from beginning to end, when the synopsis is the place for explaining that.

Lots of pitch letters try to introduce the book using a list of dull facts shorn of context, like the time period, the place the book is set in and the protagonist’s job title, none of which is inherently interesting. Or, the pitch letter describes a version of one of the common plots, with nothing much to differentiate it from the thousands of other books using that basic plot.

Try to be deliberate about considering this question. What makes your book interesting? What is the central conflict or issue? What is it that will make a reader want to experience this story?

But then, don’t go the other way and use only broad statements about the book’s plot and themes, because being so vague is nearly as unhelpful as concentrating on dry facts. If you’re tempted to try to encapsulate the book in sweeping statements of what it all means, consider whether those remarks are really relevant. If the reply to your pitch could be ‘Ok, but what is it actually about ?’ then try again.

Keep reminding yourself that the purpose of your letter is to get the agent to want to read your book.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

At this point, you may have a long paragraph, and possibly two or three, that includes all the things you really want to tell the agent about your book. You may think that it’s all essential, but that’s not true. Every book can be introduced in two or three sentences.

Remember, what you need to get to is those two or three sentences that compellingly provide a reason to read the book.

Distil those paragraphs down to their fundamentals. Simplify your way down to the very essence of the book. Make the pitch as tight and forceful and striking as it can be.

Try the result on some of your early readers or your writing group and see if they agree that it’s an accurate description of your book, and that it’s strong enough to make someone want to read it.

When you feel really confident that you have a brief paragraph that accurately and compellingly introduces your book, you can write the rest of your pitch letter and use it to submit your work.

And if you want to test it out on a publishing professional first, book one of my online mini consultations , during which we can go through your submission materials together and I can provide feedback and suggestions for improvements.

This post first appeared in 2022 on author and editor Alexa Tewkesbury’s blog, Lemon Tart .

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How to Write a Literary Agent Query Letter

by Literary Agent News | 5 December, 2022 | Looking for a Literary Agent

Home » Literary Agent Blog » Looking for a Literary Agent » How to Write a Literary Agent Query Letter

This article about how to write a literary agent query letter, by Mark Malatesta, is part of the Literary Agent Submissions  section of our free 15-part Guide About How to Get a Book Agent . This article was first published in the inaugural edition of the  Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac , a collaboration between Publishers Weekly and Skyhorse Publishing, one of the fastest-growing publishers with 56 New York Times bestsellers, distributed by Simon & Schuster.

Book publishing agent in suit inviting authors to read about how to write a query letter to a literary agent

How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent by Mark Malatesta

First published in the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac, a collaboration between Publishers Weekly and Skyhorse Publishing

Cover of the Publishers Weekly Book Publishing Almanac including an article by Mark Malatesta about how to write a literary agent query letter

Authors are often confused about how to write a literary agent query letter. That’s because most query letter “experts” have limited experience—or the wrong type of experience.

One source of “how to write a query letter” information is book agents, but their advice is based on reading queries rather than writing them. In addition, publishing agents usually give advice based on their personal opinions and preferences. In other words, they say to write queries a certain way because that’s what they like. With more than one thousand book agents, it’s no wonder there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.

Another source of “how to write a query letter to a literary agent” info is published authors, who sometimes share the queries that landed them agents. But these aren’t reliable models either. One reason is that they represent just one author’s experience, which is limited. Another reason is some of those letters aren’t great. (Yes, sometimes authors get agents despite mediocre queries. And yes, a bit of luck is occasionally involved in publishing.)

Instead of relying on luck when writing a query letter to a literary agent—or modeling what one book agent recommended or one author has written—write your literary agent query letter using principles that have helped hundreds of authors get literary representation and/or book deals, with traditional publishers such as Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Harcourt, and Thomas Nelson. Some authors who’ve used this method have gotten multiple offers for representation from agents and multiple offers from publishers.

Writing a Literary Agent Query Letter

  • Include items likely to help.
  • Arrange everything in the best order.
  • Omit items that don’t matter or that could hurt.
  • Make your literary agent query letter concise.

Group of book publishing agents inviting authors to learn how to write a literary agent query letter

Literary Agent Query Letter

Book agents and authors explain how to write a literary agent query letter on a basic or “micro” level. In other words, they mainly share what they believe should be the main parts of a query. I’m going to do that too, but I’m also going to share four “big picture” fundamentals. Understanding them will help you make you and your book look as appealing as possible.

1. Include Items most Likely to Help – How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

Sounds obvious, but when writing a query letter to a literary agent it isn’t always clear what’s most important to share. Only include information showing: a) what your target market is, b) what your book is about, c) what your book is similar to and how it’s unique, and d) that you’re professional, pleasant to work with, uniquely qualified to write a book like yours, and both willing and able to get exposure for your book. With that information, publishing agents can make an informed decision instead of incorrect assumptions.

2. Arrange Everything in the Best Order – How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

Most authors assume book agents are going to read their entire query letter. Instead, assume they’re only going to read the first sentence. And, if that sentence pulls them in—or doesn’t trip them up—they’ll read the next sentence. And so on. That’s why it’s critical, if you have something you must share in your query letter that might turn literary agents off, that you put it near the end of a literary agent query letter. And that’s why you should start the query letter with your best thing. What that “best thing” is varies for each book and author.

Examples of your best thing are a highly unusual book premise; you being one of the only people on the planet with access to some of the information in your book; an article you’ve written having been published in a major print or online media outlet; or that you have 50,000 social media followers. Examples of things you might want to put at the end of your query include that your word count is excessively low or high (each genre has different expectations); or that your book has already been published (something most agents don’t like).

The best tip you’ll ever get about how to write a literary agent query letter is to get some traction and momentum in your query before you address something difficult. Start your query with the most impressive item, followed by your book title, word count, and genre, along with a 1- or 2-sentence description. And, for the small number of book agents for whom you can do so, tell them why you believe—based on what you’ve seen in their bios and/or on their websites—they might like a book like the one you’re pitching.

If the above information “hooks” the publishing agent, they’ll then want to know more about your book. So, the next part of your literary agent query letter should be a paragraph or two about that. Think 6 to 12 lines of text, like the copy you’d find on the book’s back cover. Though most author representatives don’t require it, you should follow the above with another 6 to 12 lines of text comparing/contrasting your book with similar titles by other authors. Doing so will help agents get a better feel for what your work is like, it will give them the impression you’re knowledgeable about your competition, and it will give them the sense you might be doing something special.

Lastly, include another 6 to 12 lines of text telling the publishing agent about yourself. Things that show any of the following: you’re educated, professional, coachable, have had leadership positions, or that you understand success, business, advertising, marketing, or media; you’re a good writer and/or uniquely qualified to write a book like yours; and you have the time, connections, resources, skill, and desire to get exposure and sell books. You don’t need all those things, but any/all those things will make you more attractive to book agents.

3. Omit Items That Don’t Matter or Could Hurt Your Odds With Literary Agents – How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

Many authors unwittingly volunteer information they should, for the moment, keep to themselves instead of putting them in a literary agent query letter. For example, the number of queries the author has sent out unsuccessfully; or any information that isn’t relevant to the book. If it’s not going to make publishing agents believe you’re the best person to write and/or promote your book, leave it out.

4. Make Your Query Letter Concise – How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

In most cases, your literary agent query letter shouldn’t be more than one single-spaced page. Include everything you believe should be included. Then put everything in the best order. After that, do one last edit to make the query tight. As you likely know, successful people—including literary agents and publishing house executives—move fast. They must, to survive. Top agents get 10–15k queries a year, so you can lose them if you ramble or you’re redundant. Instead, present everything as outlined above. Give agents exactly what they want and need to sell your book, and they’ll trust you more because of it.

In a perfect world, authors would not need to learn how to write a literary agent query letter. Instead, book agents would just read every author’s manuscript. But that’s now how it is. We all must work within the system we’re in. For example, I could write a book about how to write a query (and one day I will), but when I was invited to write this article, I was told it should be no more than 1,250 words. So, guess what? It’s 1,250 words. Make every word count.

This article about how to write a literary agent query letter was created by former publishing agent turned author coach Mark Malatesta , creator of The Directory of Literary Agents , host of Ask a Book Agent , and founder of Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author .

Mark has helped hundreds of authors get offers from literary agents and/or traditional publishers. Writers of all  Book Genres  have used our  Literary Agent Advice coaching/consulting to get the  Top Literary Agents at the Best Literary Agencies  on our List of Book Agents .

How to write a literary agent query letter – Next Steps

Now that you know how to write a query letter for a literary agent, click here to:

  • See more about Literary Agent Submissions .
  • Visit our  Ask a Publishing Agent  page, where you’ll find a complete list of questions and answers about getting a book agent.

See more results...


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How I Got My Book Agent

Successful Authors

Photo of author NJ sharing a Mark Malatesta review at Get a Literary Agent

Thanks in part to your query letter, manuscript suggestions, and support prioritizing agents, I received multiple offers from agents. Within two weeks of sending out the first query, I knew who I was going to sign with. I value our friendship.

N E L S O N . J O H N S O N

NY Times bestselling author of  Boardwalk Empire , produced by Martin Scorsese for HBO, and Darrow's Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America's Most Famous Trial Lawyer

NJ Book Cover for BE on boardwalk with cast from the HBO TV series, posted by Get a Literary Agent

After following your advice, my book was acquired, the prestigious PW gave it a great review, and Time Magazine asked for an excerpt. Thank you for believing in my book, and for helping me share the surprising truth about women’s most popular body part!

L E S L I E . L E H R

Author of A Boob's Life: How America's Obsession Shaped Me―and You , published by Pegasus Books, distributed by Simon & Schuster and now in development for a TV series by Salma Hayek for HBO Max

LL Book Cover posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

Fine Print Lit got publishers bidding against each other [for my book]. I ended up signing a contract with Thomas Nelson (an imprint of Harper Collins) for what I’ve been told by several people is a very large advance. What cloud is higher than 9?

S C O T T . L E R E T T E

Author of The Unbreakable Boy (Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins), adapted to feature film with Lionsgate starring Zachary Levi, Amy Acker, and Patricia Heaton

SL Book Cover for TUB with photo of boy on beach with jester hat at sunset, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

AHHH! OMG, it happened! You helped me get three offers for representation from top literary agents! A short time later I signed a publishing contract. After that, my agent sold my next book. I’m in heaven!

M I R I . L E S H E M . P E L L Y

Author/illustrator of Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper (Penguin Books/Philomel), Scribble & Author (Kane Miller), and other children’s picture books

MLP book cover of S and A with paintbrush drawing cute animated figured, posted by Get a Literary Agent Guide

Interviews/Tips from Successful Authors

Fiction/General - J. Jago Fiction/Mystery - B. Harper Fiction/Mainstream - K. Cox Fiction/Christian - K. Sargent Nonfiction/Business - D. Hamme Nonfiction/Self-Help - A. Goddard Nonfiction/Environment - J. Biemer Nonfiction/Diversity - S. Peer Narrative Nonfiction - D. Cohen Memoir/Women - L. Lehr Memoir/Christian - S. LeRette Memoir/Family/Identity - S. Foti Memoir/Multicultural - N. Aronheim Memoir/Inspirational - L. Subramani Memoir/Mainstream - E. Armstrong Children's/Pic Book - M. Leshem-Pelly Children's/Chapter Book - J. Agee Children's/YA - C. Plum-Ucci Children's/YA - D. Bester Children's/YA - L. Moe

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how to write a cover letter to literary agent

20 Literary Agents Seeking Romance Fiction

In every possible sub-genre and vibe variation.

how to write a cover letter to literary agent

Do you like money? How about love? Bit of both? How does a romantic fiction publishing industry valued $1.44 billion sound? Yeah…go write that rom-com. You (probably) won’t regret it.

One of my best modes of research is when you’re not actively researching but just learning as you go, on to go, without it feeling like work. I feel like you surprisingly retain more information and make better analytical judgments. I’ve been doing these agent lists for a few weeks now. Here’s what I’ve observed: genre fiction (Romance very much included), sells prolifically. This is both after the publication stage and well before it, during querying. When you know an agent is seeking a specific genre and sub-genre (especially if they mention tropes, comps and vibes), then it’s pretty easy to filter out who not to send your work to. This might be limiting compared to literary fiction, but it’s also freeing…plus, statistically, lesser chance of rejection.

Having said my spiel about random not-research, I do intend to write something more more backed by data and shit about my agent-exploration. What do you think?

This list includes:

The agent & agency they work for

What they are looking for right now

Authors they’ve represented

Exact details on how to query them

Favorite books (where we could find them)

What else do you want to know? If we can find it, we’ll include it.

This is one of our paid subscriber lists this month. Our paid subscriptions are what give us the ability to gather all of this information and maintain our database. If you have the means, you can upgrade here.

Of course, we are always happy to help those in need; just let us know.

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Kafka letter, in which he says he can no longer write, goes to auction

Thursday, 27 Jun 2024

Related News

Original 'Harry Potter' book cover art fetches RM9mil at auction

Original 'Harry Potter' book cover art fetches RM9mil at auction

Global artist to hold fun kids art workshop at kuala lumpur hotel, ipoh set to host more performing arts events at upgraded heritage venues.

Tourists look at a statue of famous German-language writer Franz Kafka in central Prague. Photo: Reuters

A letter from Franz Kafka in which he tells a friend he can no longer write is being offered at auction 100 years after his death, with an estimate of up to US$114,000 (RM537,738).

Kafka, one of the 20th century's greatest writers, known for works such as The Trial and The Metamorphosis, wrote the letter to Austrian poet and publisher Albert Ehrenstein, in what is believed to be a response for a request to contribute to literary journal Die Gefahrten .

In the one-page letter in German and signed just "Kafka", the Prague-born novelist says he has not written anything in three years.

It is believed to have been written around April-June 1920 from a sanatorium in Merano in northern Italy, according to auction house Sotheby's. Kafka was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1917, which he does not discuss in the letter.

"When worries have penetrated to a certain layer of inner existence, writing and complaining obviously cease, indeed my resistance was not too strong," Kafta wrote, according to a translation.

Sotheby's is offering the letter in its "Books, Manuscripts and Music from Medieval to Modern" sale, running June 26 - July 11, with a price estimate of 70,000 pounds - 90,000 pounds (RM418,103 - RM537,561).

"It is a very poignant letter written towards the end of his life, where he expresses his despair at writing again and his feelings of... of writer's block," Gabriel Heaton, specialist in books and manuscripts at Sotheby's, told Reuters.

"He's physically very, very weak and he's beginning, however, this very intense correspondence with Milena (Pollakova-Jesenska), this great love of his last years, which would spark renewed creativity. So although he's here in despair, he's actually on the verge of one final bout of wonderful, wonderful writing."

Kafka went on to write The Castle and A Hunger Artist. He died on June 3, 1924, aged 40.

Ehrenstein eventually sent the letter to artist Dolly Perutz. It is being sold with the envelope Ehrenstein used. - Reuters

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Tags / Keywords: Franz Kafka , author , letter , auction , literary , Europe

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