How to Write a Query Letter: Don’t Bore Me!

by | Oct 4, 2010 | Book Marketing Basics

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Want to stop your career before it’s even begun?  Then, begin your query letter with something boring.

Think about it, agents get hundreds of letters like yours every week (and in some cases, the agencies get that many a day). Give them a reason to care.

Bechtel Letter
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Help them, help you!  Grab them.

Imagine, you’ve got a migraine headache, you haven’t eaten, you’re on your period, your boss just yelled at you for not meeting your book sales quota and you’ve got another wave of 100 more horribly-written mediocre query letters to look at before you can finally go home (Praise the Lord!). That’s what you’re competing against.

The first thing to remember is to treat the agent like a human being, not a machine.  A personalized letter is the best way to really grab them. Take the time research a little bit about the agent. Google is your best friend. If you read an interview with the agent, and you find out that she and you have a love for black stallions in common, use it in your intro. If you find out you both hate lima beans use it in your intro. If you find out they just sold a 6-figure deal to Joe Blow editor at Simon & Schuster, use it in your intro.  I mean, find someway to tie in your disgust for lima beans in with the story you’re pitching but the more you can stand out at the beginning of your query letter, the better.

Need help writing your query letter?  Want to guarantee top agents will read your manuscript? Visit:

Guest post by Jeff Rivera, the the founder of, a firm based in New York City. He is a highly-respected book publishing professional who writes regularly for GalleyCat, Mediabistro and Huffington Post and his work has been featured or mentioned in the Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, New York Observer, Fast Company, TMZ, NPR, Billboard Magazine and many other publications. Rivera interviews high profile power players such as Janet Evanovich, Jeff Kinney, Seth Godin,  Philippa Gregory and James Patterson.

He is one of the most sought-after book publishing industry young professionals in the business, often invited as a panelist on writers conferences and a published novelist (Grand Central Publishing).

Rivera has assisted over 100 aspiring writers in taking that first step of crafting the right query letter and has a 100% track record of getting top agents to request their manuscript. Agencies such as William Morris Endeavor, ICM, UTA, and Writers House are just a few of the literary agencies who have requested his clients’ work. Many of Rivera’s clients have gone on to sign with top literary agencies and even secure book deals.

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