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Good Versus Bad Query Letters

As an agent, I get literally hundreds of submissions a month. Some of my colleagues receive thousands. In fact, according to "So You Can't Seem to Land an Agent Now What" published on ECPA, "Conventional trade publishers, like Thomas Nelson, receive thousands of unsolicited book proposals every year."

And believe it or not, sometimes authors make the same mistakes. Here are two examples of queries: one good, one bad. The bad one mixes together some of the most egregious letter we've seen at C.Y.L.E.

​​Dear Sir/Madam,

I am a bestselling author in the Indie Market. I’ve sold many Erotica titles, my latest earning $40.13 in sales (half from my family and fan base). I have one I recently wrote which I could click publish on KDP, but I decided I would at least give you a shot to look at it first.

I must say I’m quite proud of this book titled LOVE AT FIRST BITE. I know you don’t take on Erotica titles, but I figured you’d make an exception for this one. I will soon have hundreds of thousands of readers who will be clamoring to buy this off the Barnes and Nobles book shelf. I just know that Disney or some big-shot studio is going to pick it up. You’ll be making millions on this in no time.

So please enjoy LOVE AT FIRST BITE. And please don’t take too long in getting back to me. Some agents take FOREVER. Again, could click publish any moment. I pasted the whole manuscript into the email, single-spaced.

Snardbuckle Pinkerton

Let's talk about the main issues in this one:

  • It pitches a genre that C.Y.L.E. doesn't take on (Erotica)

  • The sales from previous self-published books were not impressive (so the author can't market himself)

  • Idealism is great, but not in query letters (sorry, Disney will not take on the majority of titles, especially erotic ones)

  • The author expects the agent to work on his schedule, when agents tend to be inundated with submissions

Here's an example of a query an agent might be more wont to take a look at:

Dear Mr. Cyle Young,

V and Cortex meet on an online pairing site for villains and heroes. Cortex’s last hero just dumped him and V … got a little eager and killed off her former nemesis. They meet; they fight; they fall in love in this 60,000-word YA Sci-Fi.

I have watched your videos and know you are looking for authors with larger platforms. I have a personal online reach of 5,000+ and am connected to affinity groups of 400,000+. Furthermore, I have been featured in over 200 publications, including my YA novel Den being contracted by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (releasing June 3, 2019). I know, reading about your interests on your website, that you’re looking for Sci-fi with a romance and diversity element. You will find this submission has both.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this submission!

Sincerely, Hope Bolinger

Granted, I am a little biased, but here's what this query does well:

  • It shows the author did research on the agency

  • The author include relevant platform information

  • The word count is fitting within the YA genre

  • The author thanks the agent for taking the time to look at the submission

Have a submission you want to send an agent? Comment below a one-sentence pitch of your book (good practice for Twitter pitch parties). Some other good tips, according to a Writer's Digest (scholarly source) article titled, "What To Know Before You Submit, include:

  • Having the manuscript 100% complete before querying

  • Know proper word counts within genres

  • Make sure you have several colleagues beta read your manuscript before submitting

Here are some other good resources to check out about submitting to agents:

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