Something I am spending time on right now is the query letter. I feel that this is an area that I need to improve upon.

Getting started: Do your research and review query submission guidelines for each person you intend to query before you hit “send”. By familiarizing yourself with the structure of a query letter and how agents or editors want to receive it will be the first step to success.

What is a query letter?

query letter is typically a one-page letter sent to literary agents, acquiring editors open to unsolicited submissions, and some small presses in an effort to get them excited about your story.  The goal of the query letter is to have a literary agent or editor request your manuscript for review.

How important is the query letter?

While the story you crafted will speak for itself, the query letter is the avenue to getting you story in front of an agent or editor. Think of the query letter as the “first impression” someone gets of you as a writer. With that, the query letter is important. It will be the defining moment (“show me more” or the deal breaker) for many agents and editors.

What needs to be in the query letter?

1. Personalize It.

First, address the agent or editor by name. If you don’t know the name of the person you want to query. Stop. Go back and do your research first. Know what their name is and spell it correctly. Ask yourself, “why am I submitting to said agent or editor?” and “Does my work align with their preferences and wish lists?” If it does not, don’t waste your time or theirs.

2.  The Pitch.

Second, grab the attention of the agent or editor. Leave an unforgettable impression with your pitch. Make them want to read you work.  (This is where you sell your idea to them)

3. The Tag(s).

Don’t forget to include the tags of your story. What is the working title? word count? genre/category? These tags give the agent or editor classified detail about your work.

4. Your Bio.

This is where you highlight any of your writing achievements, education, and platform. I’ve learned through researching the query letter that if you don’t have anything published–it’s okay to state that -or- impart that this would be your “debut” book.

5. Express Gratitude

Before you close out your query letter, it is vital to thank the agent or editor for their time and consideration.

What happens next?

After you submit a query letter, the waiting game begins. Usually, the agent or editor will have a time-frame posted about when/how you will hear from them. Often times, agents and editors will state specifically that if you don’t hear from them in “x” amount of time, assume they are passing on your work.

If you need help keeping track of your queries, check out Query Tracker at:


There are many articles and how-to’s about crafting the perfect query letter online. It will be worth your time and effort! Happy writing!




Amanda Kirkham, M.Ed., is an elementary school teacher, writer, and aspiring author. She is a triplet, a runner, and perpetual student. Her motto is “Never stop learning!” One of her favorite childhood pastimes was to read every side of the cereal box and digest the information. She lives in Georgia with her husband and four children.

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