Query Letter Resources

Whether approaching an agent or a publisher, you will need to draft a query letter. The query letter is a one-page cover letter that introduces you and your book. Query letters usually follow this format:

  • First Paragraph: Hook (includes the name of the book, the genre, word count, and the tagline for the book)
  • Second Paragraph: A one-paragraph synopsis (think of the book cover copy)
  • Third Paragraph: Publishing Credits (avoid any irrelevant bio information)
  • Formal closing

Some agents like to know why you selected them. Only include this if you have a very personal or compelling reason. Also, the main focus of your query letter is the book itself, not you the writer. This does not mean the publisher or agent is not interested in you the writer, or in your platform- building activities (which are extremely important). But the reality is that publishers buy books, not writers, and they must be interested in the book first. Once they are interested in the book, then you have to sell them on why you are the best person to write it.

Some agents request a full synopsis with your query. This can be formatted in one of two ways:

Character-driven Story

Opening hook (This can be cut and pasted from your query) Summary of story (intro of main character, backstory)
1st character description
2nd character description

3rd character description
Conclusion—resolution and consequences/relevance

Plot-driven Story

Opening hook
Summary of story (description of main character and secondary characters) Plot: initial conflict (who or what sets the story in motion)
Plot: 1st twist
Plot: 2nd twist
Conclusion: resolution and consequence/relevance

Nonfiction will include a proposal and outline (see separate white paper).

Web Resources


  • Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Jack & Glenda Neff, Don Prues, and the editors of Writer’s Market
  • The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt
  • Making the Perfect Pitch by Katharine Sands