5 Easy Tips to Make Your Query Stand Out

There are some really simple tips that can maximize your query’s impact. Once you’ve got the basics–word count, genre, hook, mini synopsis (with a hint of intrigue), and your delightful author bio–what can you do to rise above the crowd?

  1. Personalize your email and know something about the agent you’re querying. Include a personal salutation. Have you read one of their client’s books? How did you find them? Do you follow their blog or like something they tweeted?
  2. Research and be selective in your querying to agents. Only query agents who represent work in your genre. It’s a waste of everyone’s time for you to submit too broadly. Agents know when you’re grasping at straws.
  3. Keep your query to ONE email screen. We might not want to scroll to learn more if you haven’t hooked us from the start. One email page means we can scan and find everything we need to know. Having the whole package without scrolling is a big bonus.
  4. It’s okay if you’re a debut writer. Don’t apologize! Instead tell us the reason you wrote the book, any short stories you’ve published, give us something to remember you by instead of ‘this is my first novel.’
  5. Charisma, humor, or personality. Don’t be afraid of adding a little bit of personal flavour to the query. Authors that aren’t afraid of adding wit to their bio are the kind of people that agents want to work with and editors want to sign up. That means they have some personality that will be a benefit in the publicity process. Textbook query execution can be boring. Don’t be afraid to be yourself! But within reason, as it’s a professional relationship you’re trying to secure…

Finally, spell check, spell check, spell check! Use this as a check list and good luck!

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

15 thoughts on “5 Easy Tips to Make Your Query Stand Out

  1. Another very helpful post. I don’t think I’d heard the one-email-screen guideline before — I think I was going to just compose it as a one-page letter and paste the text into an email, but now I see that might not work as well as just writing it in the email window.


    1. I like that tip. It’s easily overlooked, but VERY important to agents with busy inboxes. You have a greater chance, in my opinion, of catching our eye if it’s all there.


  2. How many eye-blinks does the ideal query take to get through? Like, if you have blinked twice, and you’re still not at the end of the query, is that an automatic no?


  3. I like the one-page suggestion – thanks! Querying’s crazy-making though when you don’t really know for sure how yours is going to appear at the other end. I was distressed to find out that my e-mail program added a line space between paragraphs. How annoying would that be for agents? Argh.


    1. I agree with this post, it is scary not knowing now my query will appear on the egent’s end. Your right Carly, I will do my best to research how my query will appear. And take lots of deep breaths


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