About Kyra: My name is Kyra (pronounced with a long i, as in ice) Nelson. I’ve been interning with a literary agency for about a year and a half, and I’ve read a ton of query letters. I’ve learned a lot in my time at the agency, and I want to pass some of my knowledge on.
Hey, all! My name is Kyra and I’ve spent the past year and a half working inside a literary agency where I handle manuscripts and queries. I’ve recently started blogging about my experiences at https://thoughtsfromtheagentdesk.wordpress.com/
Today I’m going to be talking about my five (biggest) rules for writing query letters.
1. Write a Hook.
I think that every query letter should have a hook, and I think it should be the first thing you read (unless submission guidelines state differently. Honestly, I don’t care much about your word count or writing credentials or anything else very much until I know I’m interested in the premise of the story. And the hook is the most effective way to get me hooked on the story.
2. Agent Stalk
Know everything you can about an agent before you submit to them. And especially KNOW THEIR GUIDELINES. If they ask for five pages, give them five, not ten. If they don’t represent women’s fiction, don’t send your women’s fiction manuscript to them.
Also know if there is something particular they want, and if your story has it, mention it in a way that let’s the agent know you were paying attention to what they’re looking for. Especially if it’s specific. For instance, if your agent is looking for stories with a gamer girl protagonist, say something along the lines of “On your blog you said you’d like a manuscript with a gamer girl protagonist, so I think you’d be interested in my book.”
3. Read Other People’s Queries
You’ve heard that you should read what you write. You can learn from reading other’s work. This is as true for query letters as it is for anything else. Reading other people’s query letters will help you big time when you have to write your own.
Here’s a little shameless promotion for my blog: I critique (for free!) query letters on my blog, and have a nice little (growing) archive of query letters you can read.
You can also check out Query Shark (I am nicer than Query Shark). Or you can look at queries from various online contests as well. But you should still check out my blog.
4. Revise! Revise! Revise!
It amazes me how some people will put so much time into a manuscript and then send out the first draft of the query letter they write. I consider myself a pretty decent query writer, and I’m thrilled if I can get one presentable in fewer than twenty drafts. Yes, twenty.
Sometimes you have to let it sit for awhile. Mull it over, let it steep. Occasionally burn a copy for therapeutic purposes. Just keep coming back to it. And don’t try to rush it. In the words of Miracle Max, “You rush a miracle, you get rotten miracles.” And I think by miracles he actually meant query letters.
5. Join a
This is in part because you need a second pair of eyes on both your manuscript and your query letter. It’s also because querying can be emotionally taxing, and only your writer friends will understand. Your mom will try to understand, but she won’t really. You’ll need people in the trenches with you. And that’s where a writing group comes in handy.
Dana: I have definitely learned from this post! I want to publish someday and when I get to the query point I am coming back to this post! Thanks so much Kyra for stopping by the blog.
Kyra's links are provided up above if you are looking for some query help or have any questions!