A 3-part series by the agents at Andrea Hurst Literary Management
To get your query and therefore your manuscript noticed by an agent, you need to start it off with a bang. Something that gets our attention. Present a problem or a situation in preferably one tight, functional sentence that either grabs us and forces us to care or shows us that others already care about what is sure to follow in your query. Create a gap that needs to be filled by none other than your book.
Then move on to explain how your manuscript fits in with, solves, or turns the aforementioned issue upside down. Have you ever noticed that a really catchy new song will seem both fresh and familiar at the same time? That is what you want to accomplish with the introduction to your work. Don’t be afraid to compare your manuscript to several related bestsellers. It gives us a good idea of where you’re coming from and where you intend to go with this piece.
Though we encourage you to address us by first name, this is a business letter, and you need to properly introduce us to your manuscript. If you show us exactly what it is that we would be working with, then it holds our interest and helps gives context to the rest of the query. These basics include:
• Full title of the piece, including subtitles
• Anticipated final word count
State all of these clearly and be specific about things like genre. They don’t have a section at Barnes & Noble for hybrid science fiction thriller self help, so instead, pitch us your “self-help book with a unique twist.” Knowing exactly where it fits on the shelf depicts you as being sure of yourself and your project.
This all needs to be accomplished in no more than a one paragraph of text. I cannot stress enough the importance of each line being highly functional and economical. Don’t let your query meander or eventually get to the point. We read oh so many dull and poorly-constructed queries on a daily basis. If your letter begins at a lackluster pace, it makes it much more difficult to keep our eyes from blurring, our heads from aching and our fingers away from the delete button.