Writing a query letter for a nonfiction book

Mention your platform if you have one. You can add links to pertinent sites and information online. To write a killer query, you need a one-page letter with three basic sections or paragraphs. Finishing Touches These three paragraphs make up the foundation of a query.

When sending query letters to an agent, you always want to use his or her name. Some agents even relegate the ambivalent task of reading unsolicited queries to an assistant or intern. After years of abuse at the hands of her alcoholic mother and step-father Afterwards, cut, paste, trim, revise, and reshape.

This should be 25 words or less that describe the essence of your book. If you sell your story well enough, agents will overlook small missteps.

Do literary agents really read them? Of course you think the book is thematically resonant and that readers will love it—you wrote it! If you have similar achievements, by all means, shout them from your opening paragraph!

Give era and location: You might be able to do this simply by using the first paragraph of your book, if you have accomplished this same feat in the manuscript. Be sure to say that. Save that for later. Summing up your entire book in an intriguing single paragraph is worse than a root canal.

Remember, this is the most important part of your query. The main objective of a query is simple: We encourage you to read as many as possible, and learn what captures your attention in a single sentence.

Consider including one or two books, movies or authors you feel are similar. Variations on the "when" formula: The Da Vinci Code A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ.

Michael Larsen, agent and author of How to Get an Agent, says this first description of your book actually should be just 15 words and considered the selling handle for the book—something that convinces booksellers to stock it.

So refrain from editorializing. Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.The query letter is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.

The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter

For some writers, it represents a completely different way of thinking about your book—it. Yes, a query should be a professional business letter, but honestly, writing a query in the same manner as a regular cover letter is a recipe for snoozeville. A great query should not only tell an agent what your book is about, but it should also match your book's tone.

Thus, tackle writing your query letter in three steps.

How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Step 1: Write a lead or hook. Much like the first paragraph in a magazine or newspaper article or even the first page in a book, you need to compose an introduction that grabs the reader–a literary agent or acquisitions editor at a publishing house.

A query letter for a nonfiction book isn’t all that different from a fiction query: you’re still trying to get an agent or editor interested in looking at your work, but that may mean a book proposal and sample chapters, rather than the full manuscript.

A query letter is a one-page letter sent to literary agents in an effort to get them excited about your book. You have one page and words (or less) to woo a literary agent into falling in love with your story and then requesting your manuscript.

Learn more about query letter writing in the online course How to Query Letter in 14 Days, from Writer’s Digest University. Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

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Writing a query letter for a nonfiction book
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