The last blog post I put up on The Azrian Portal looked at how to write a book synopsis for an agent. A wonderfully terrifying task if there ever was one.
There are plenty of great samples out there, and hopefully the post helps shed some light on what you should and shouldn’t be doing. But in order to get an agent to even read your synopsis, they must first get past the dreaded query letter.
A good query letter is essentially step one on your journey to getting your novel published. If you want an agent to even entertain the idea of selling your book to a publisher, you need to sell it to them first. Before they’ll even glance at your synopsis or example chapters, they need to get past that initial query.
So how do you write a query letter?
As with a synopsis, the best place to look is to success stories and those with experience. Query letter examples are your perfect learning tool. Sample query letters for literary agents can help you work out what you should be putting into your covering email.
If it worked for others, it can work for you.
To that end I have put together this blog: a resource of query letter examples.
R.F Kuang’s Query Letter for The Poppy War
R.F Kuang’s story is an inspiring one. At the age of 19, she bagged herself an agent and a few years later, the first in her epic grimdark fantasy trilogy was released. The next is well on the way, with her debut novel being a book I highly recommend. What’s even more impressive is that it only took Kuang a month to find herself an agent.
Now, a lot of that is down to the quality of the material she put before agents, with The Poppy War being one of the best new fantasy books of 2018, but the strength of her query letter was clearly of some benefit as well. In a blog post providing a sample query letter - the one that landed Kuang her agent - the author discusses exactly why her query letter worked, and offers advice for writers trying to find their own representative. The post offers really valuable insight. A great query letter example for one, with some much-appreciated knowledge from a successful author to boot!
The World of Reddit
This particular Reddit thread asked successful authors to post the query that secured them their agent or publisher, and the responses don’t disappoint. There are numerous examples of well-written and successful queries within the post, featuring all types of genres. It’s a great place to go to see a wealth of examples all in one handy locale.
Ed McDonald's Blackwing Query Letter
I have yet to read Blackwing by Ed McDonald, but after discovering his sample query letter online, it’s on my list. He sold it to his agent, and he sold it to me, too. That is exactly what your query letter needs to do, it needs to sell, sell, sell. Your book might be your baby, your work of art, but to an agent it’s a commercial entity with money written all over it.
Blackwing, the first the Raven’s Mark series, was a critical success. Popular among fantasy fans, the sequel has already been released with more on the way. Without that initial cover letter, none of that would have been possible. Read over the query letter example Ed McDonald has shared, and discover exactly how he got the ball rolling on his successful writing career.
The Daedalus Incident Query Letter
Writer’s Digest is an excellent resource for up-and-coming authors. So much so that I actually used examples from the website in my look at how to write a book synopsis as well.
But, back to queries. The publication runs a series called ‘successful queries’ in which they provide genuine query letter examples with notes from agents as to why it worked and what they liked about it. This is a great place to discover what agents are thinking when reading query letters. There are over 60 sample query letters to literary agents you can read on Writer’s Digest. One that caught my eye was an example from The Daedalus Incident. The notes provide some really interesting insight into what made the agent look further into the novel, eventually leading to acquiring the author a publisher and getting the book printed.
Jen Polish’s Lunav Query Letter
Successfully published author of the novel Lunav, Jen Polish started where everyone does, by writing that all-important query letter. But, unlike many other writers, she went one step further. Polish has taken to her own website, to not only provide the example query letter that helped achieved her publishing goals, but also tips and advice on how you can get your novel noticed, too.
The article she has put together is comprehensive and well worth a read. What’s better than reading examples of sample query letters to literary agents that went on to be commercially published? Getting detailed rundowns from the author in question as to how they did it and how you can replicate their success.