Components of a Good Query Letter

Components of a Good Query Letter

by Joan Y. Edwards

A query letter is a letter sent to a publisher, editor, or agent asking for permission to send a full manuscript, first three chapters, synopsis, or proposal for a writing project. A query letter can be sent by email or snail mail. It should be single-spaced.  Check the submission guidelines of the publisher, editor, or agent before sending one. Get the correct names and snail mail address, phone number, and email address. I put all this information in the heading of my draft letter.

Publisher A:
Favorite Publishing Co., Inc
Arnold Q. Like, Editor
350 Broadway
New York, New York 10001

We do not publish children’s books.
We publish adult fiction and non-fiction.
Query us first through snail mail.

Publisher B:
Books of all Kinds Literary Agency,
Susie Q. Doddikins, Agent
5400 Literary Lane
Racine, Wisconsin 33333

We only represent children’s and adult books.
Query through online form.
We do not accept snail mail submissions.
We will respond within 3 months.

Publisher C:

Short Works Publishing Co.
4444 Jim Dandy Lane
Spiderville, California 77777

We represent children and adults short works.
We publish fiction and non-fiction
We publish picture books, chapter books, short stories
We do not publish middle grade, young adult, or adult novels

Email complete manuscript as Word document (doc).
Snail mail is accepted.

Quiz for you:
1. If your manuscript is a fictional children’s picture book about butterflies.
Which publisher/agent above is right for it? Choice A, B, C, or None of these.

  1. If your manuscript is an adult novel, where could you send it?
    Which publisher/agent above is right for it? Choice A, B, C, or None of these.
  2. If you have a short story, where could you send it?
    Which publisher/agent above is right for it? Choice A, B, C, or None of these.

Components of a Good Draft Query Letter

  1. Follows the guidelines of the publisher or agent
  • Heading: Gives all your contact information

Phone Number
Email address

  1. Heading: Gives the name, address, and phone number of agency.
    Gives the exact name of the Editor or Agent you are querying

Name of Agency
Name of Agent
City, State, Zip Code
Phone Number
Email Address
Guidelines (copy link and text of guidelines into the draft query, take them out in final query to be sent)

  1. First paragraph: Contains your 25 word pitch
  • Second paragraph: Contains a short paragraph similar to the following: I hope you’ll publish my book or I hope you’ll be my agent. I believe you’re right for this book because:
    Tell three reasons or choose the best reason why you want this publisher or agent.
    Tell about your favorite book the publisher or agent published.

You believe Name of Agency or Publisher is the right agent or publisher for your manuscript because

Reason 1. You love the fill in the blank: humor, information, mystery of a book that they wrote or helped get published.

Reason 2. Tell how your book is similar to one of their successful publications.

Reason 3. If the guidelines mention certain interests of publisher or agent, mention it, if it is related to your book.

  1. Tell 3 reasons or choose the best reason why you’re the best person to write this story.
    Give writing credits.
    Tell why you wrote this story.
    Mention your website and/or blog with number of visitors/subscribers each month or year.
  • Question: May I send you? and Thank You Paragraph.
    Thank you for considering my work. May I send you (Name of your manuscript)? I understand according to your guidelines that you will respond in three months. I look forward to hearing from you.
  • Sincerely yours,
    Your Name

SAMPLE QUERY LETTER (Purely Fictional names, addresses, and books)

Stanley Success Bradford
7331 Long Road
Euphoria, Texas 89899

Books of all Kinds Literary Agency
Susie Q. Doddikins, Agent
5400 Literary Lane
Racine, Wisconsin 33333

Re: Bradford -“The Pig That Won the Race “

Dear Ms. Doddikins:

Porky hated racing, but entered the race to help save Farmer in the Dell’s farm. He didn’t realize that all contestants had to take a bath. Can a bubble bath entice him to follow through to save the farm or will all the animals be sold?

I like the high quality books and authors you represent as an agent. I especially enjoy the humor and the organization tips in the New York Best Seller, “Feng Shueying Your Pig Sty” by Lisa Swineberg. I read in your blog that you grew up on a farm.

I grew up on a farm, too. We raised pigs. I’ve studied pigs for three years at the University of Pigdom and documented my findings about getting pigs to bathe. I have written ten books on the Best Seller List. My website,  and  blog have a thousand visitors each month.

Thank you for considering “The Pig That Won the Race.” May I send you the complete manuscript? I understand that you will send your decision in three months. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Stanley Success Bradford

Here are four other sources with samples and/or information about eye-catching, heart-touching queries.

  1. Allena Tapia. “A Sample Query:”
  2. Charlotte Dillon “Query”
  3. Agent “How to Write a Query Letter”
  4. Joan Y. Edwards. “Components of a Good Query Letter:”
  5. Query Shark 

Good luck with writing your successful query letter.

Never Give Up!
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2011 Joan Y. Edwards and her licensors.




19 thoughts on “Components of a Good Query Letter”

  1. HI Joan,

    Great post. I especially like the tip of placing all contact information and guidelines in the heading of your query until it is no longer needed. This eliminates having to find that website, market book, etc. when writing. Thanks for the great organizational tool that prevents writers from straying from guidelines unintentionally.

    Linda A.

    1. Dear Linda, I’m glad you liked my idea of keeping all that contact and guidelines information in the heading of the query. It helps save time and gives you a better chance of making sure you are meeting the guidelines when they are right in front of you.

      Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Carol, Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing it in your wiki for newbies! I hope you’re doing really well. Do something to celebrate being you today!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards,

    1. Dear Rebecca, Thanks for stopping by and sharing the link to a blog that has your query that was successful. Hurray for you! What’s the story on it beyond the query? Any publication news about this manuscript?

      Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Dear Karen,
      You’re very welcome. I’m glad you found them beneficial. It was indeed great that Rebecca shared her successful query letter.
      Do something good to celebrate being you today!

  2. The first three people to place a comment to this post were: 1. Linda Andersen 2. Kavitha Thomas and 3. Carol Baldwin.

    If you would please send me your draft query letter to me with the publisher/agent guidelines included, I’ll be glad to send you my suggestions and encouragement to Go For It.

    Joan Y. Edwards

    1. Good to hear from you, Mary Jo. I’m proud that you submitted “What’s an Ocelot Got” to a children’s magazine. I’m going to copy and paste your comment onto the PubSub3rdFri April post so that you’ll be entered into a contest for a free critique of your manuscript. Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.
      Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Useful post, thanks for sharing.

    One minor point (and surely not a deal breaker, either way, LOL) is that SOME agents and publishers have mentioned that they personally prefer contact information at the END of the query. They say the fewer distractions between them and that first ‘intro’ to your story, the better and once you have them hooked, the info to tell you how much they love it will be right there at the end 🙂

    So, if possible, always check just in case they actually mention this detail (many don’t). If in doubt, I put mine at the end…just in case.

    1. Dear Pamela, Thanks for stopping by and giving us new information. In an email, I like to put my address at the bottom, but I’d never seen where agents and editors want it there. That’s good to know. We need to keep our eyes and ears open, don’t we? I hope you’re doing well with your writing. Keep me posted about your progress and success. Do something good to celebrate being you! Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards

  4. HI Joan,

    Thank you for the gift of a free critique of a query letter. I also appreciate that you did not place an expiration date on the gift. I look forward to cashing it in.

    LInda A.

  5. I like the way you have this set up, Joan. Thanks for offering your knowledge to us beginners. The steps to create something with examples of each step is necessary for me.

    1. Dear Lucille,
      Thanks for liking my Components of a Good Query Letter. I’m glad the steps to create one were helpful to you. It helps me to do things in a step-by-step order. I taught school for 35 years. I had to break things down in steps for the children. When I was caring for my Mother, I had to break things down into steps. But what is interesting, I probably was doing it just as much for me, as I was for them. Things are easier for me to understand in steps. Do something good to celebrate you and your writing today! I hope you come back and visit my blog again soon.

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