How to write a query letter

Your query letter should be single-spaced with 1-inch margins. Select a font that is easy to read, like Arial or Times New Roman in size 12. Avoid fonts that have serifs.

4 elements every query letter should include

  1. The your book’s genre/category, word count, title/subtitle.
  2. The hook: the description of your story and the most critical query element; 150-300 words is sufficient for most narrative works.
  3. Bio note: something about yourself, usually 50-100 words.
  4. Your closing and thank you.  One sentence should do.

Identify what you’re selling

Your book’s title, word count, and genre can be stated upfront, although often it’s better to wait until the end of the query to offer this housekeeping information.

  • Title. Everyone knows your book title is tentative, so you don’t have to explicitly state the title is tentative.
  • Word count. If your novel’s word count goes beyond 120,000 words, you have a challenge ahead of you. Eighty thousand words is the industry standard for a debut novel.  If you have an off-putting word count, some agents recommend withholding this fact until the end of the letter, once you’ve potentially hooked them. Minimum word count for most novels is 50,000 words.
  • Genre. If you’re unsure of your genre, you can leave out any mention of it. However, if you do, be sure to draw a comparison between your book and another recent title published within the last five years. You can say that your book is written in the same manner or style as another book or author, or that it has a similar tone or theme. Two comparisons are sufficient; the more thoughtful the comparison, the better. Comparing yourself to a current New York Times bestselling author can come across as arrogant or too easy. Instead, demonstrate a nuanced understanding of where your book falls in the literary landscape. Agents and editors will pay closer attention if it appears you are well read, because that increases the chances your book is well written. 

Describing your story (the hook)

For most queries, the hook does all of the work in convincing the agent or editor to request your manuscript. Here are a couple formulas that can help you get started.

  1. Who is your main character (protagonist)?
  2. What problem do they face?
  3. What are the choices they must make? What tension drives the story forward?
  1. What does your character want?
  2. Why do they want it?
  3. What keeps them from getting it?


You may use our new Submissions Form to submit your manuscript, or you may submit your application to [email protected]. Also please make sure that you accept e-mail. We have had a few submission notices sent to us, only to find the sender does not accept e-mail from those they do not know. If we cannot send you an e-mail your work cannot be reviewed. This is very important. To have your work considered for publication, please contain the following in the body of the e-mail:

  • Title (please provide at least a working title for your work)
  • Genre (fantasy, mystery, science fiction, western, etc.)
  • Word count
  • A 40-word, promotional-style “quick teaser” blurb for web copy. Sell us with this blurb like you’ll sell potential readers with it!
  • A back cover hype of the work (100-200 words)
  • A brief excerpt from the work (no more than 300 words)
  • An outline/overview of the entire story arc
  • Any previous publication information on the work, including where and when it was published, if applicable.
  • A short author bio (100-250 words)
  • A Marketing Plan telling us how you will help to market your book

Include as an attachment the first 6,000 to 10,000 words as a Word document (.docx)  a Rich Text Forman ( .rtf ), or an Acrobat format (.pdf), making sure that your manuscript uses the following format:

  • 1-inch margins all sides
  • Times New Roman Font 12 pt.
  • Double Spacing
  • Header with title, author name and contact information including email address
  • Check to make sure that you include only a single space after all punctuation, including periods
  • One return at the end of each paragraph
  • Please spell-check your work! Manuscripts that do not follow this required format or have not been spell-checked will be rejected without further consideration.

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