So, you’ve finished your book. Congratulations! Let it sit a bit and the revise it. Then get to work on your Query letter.

If you aren’t enmeshed in the publishing world or writing spaces, the next steps can feel like an impossible reach. I hope I can help you feel a little more confident!

If you are considering traditional publishing, you’ll need an agent first. An agent will submit to editors on your behalf, and negotiate a contract for you. They don’t get paid until you get paid. And you reach out to agents with a query letter.

I’ll include the query letter I sent to my agent at the end. There are a lot of examples of successful query letters floating around. Its helpful to read a bunch and get a feel for what’s working.

A query letter has three basic parts. There’s the Metadata paragraph, the back cover copy, and your bio. On average they’re about 200-350 words. Genre writers tend to trend toward the higher end, since some world building is necessary to understand everything else.

The metadata paragraph covers information about your book. It should include your book’s title, genre,  age bracket, and word count. This is also where you would include comparable titles, or comps, for your book. Comp titles should be from within the last five years. This shows the agent that you are actively reading in your genre and that your familiar with current trends. Its about where your book might sit on the shelf in Barnes & Noble. I also tried to include what about the other book was comparable to mine. This might be atmosphere, pacing, vibes, sub plots–might ever made me pick those comps on the first place. The metadata paragraph is also where I put personalization for the agent, if I included it.

Some agents want the metadata paragraph first. But some prefer opening with the story details first. If you can find this information easily in your agent search, definitely make adjustments. But if you can’t, don’t stress about it. An agent will not be rejecting you based on where you put the metadata. I sent queries both ways. By the end of my querying journey, I kept the metadata information at the beginning.

The next chunk is your story. Think of it as the back cover copy of a book. It’s enough to intrigue the reader and make them want to know more, but doesn’t include any spoilers. Save spoilers for the synopsis (more on that at another time). You want to make sure that you show who the main character is, what they want, and what the stakes are. World building should be what’s needed to understand the setup, but you don’t want to bog down the letter. Remember, you have limited word space, so make sure each sentence is important. You want to hook the reader in! Do you have a killer or unique concept? This is where you show how good your book is, and make the agent want to read more. I definitely suggest reading the back cover jacket of your favorite published books to get a feel how they’re pitched to readers.

The last paragraph is all you! Share any writing related things you have. Any related degrees or credentials, any publishing experience like articles or short stories. Whatever you’ve got! This is also where you may want to include any details about why you’re the perfect person to tell this story. Don’t have any degrees or publication history? That’s ok! A lot of people don’t before they’re querying. You want to tell the agent a bit about you as a person. This is their chance to get to know you. Think about what you might include in an author bio.

Don’t be afraid to tweak your Query letter if it’s not working. A lot people will over query package editing services for relatively low cost. They’re not definitely not required, and don’t guarantee any success, but it can be helpful and give you a bit more confidence as you start a querying journey. A lot of querying writers are also more than willing to swap queries. If you’re on social media platforms, some authors also give away query critiques. If you are interested, there are plenty of places to find support!

I liked sending queries out in batches. I’d send 10-15, making sure I’d include some fast responders (you can find that information on querytracker.net!) And see if I got any feedback to adjust. If I got no responses, I’d also take a look and see what I could adjust.

Querying itself is a slow process. You send queries off into the ether and wait. For my sanity, I made a querying only email address so I didn’t jump at every email I received. This also made sure a potential response didn’t get buried in junk mail.

You can see agents’ average response times on querytracker. But remember, that is an average. I’ve gotten replies months after I thought would. It’s definitely a game of waiting. And the best way to distract yourself is by working on something new.

The first book I queried is not the book that got me my agent. But I learned a lot through the process, and while querying the first book, I wrote the next. And that’s the book that got attention.

I hope all of this sheds some light on queries, querying, and the whole process. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Below is the query letter I send to my agent, though we’ve decided to age my book up to new adult.

Dear [agent],

I’m delighted to present you with IN THE MOUTH OF THE WOLF, a 109k YA fantasy novel. Set in a second-world inspired by the Italianate setting of Netflix’s Medici, it will appeal to fans of the action and atmosphere of Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson and the mystery and intrigue of Seven Faceless Saints by MK Lobb. 

Eighteen-year-old Rose has trained for ten years in the Silent Keep, a monastery devoted to the goddess of death. She’s a mediocre assassin but an excellent liar, so she’s shocked when she’s assigned to a coveted position in the palace. Her training-partner-turned-best-friend, however, is imprisoned below the Keep in a brutal ceremony. Rose is offered a deal by the Queen Consort Loredana: saving her friend for the price of unwavering loyalty and putting down the Queen Consort’s political rivals.

When Prince Ivaran is put on Rose’s hit list, she realizes this is more than squabbling nobles. Rose discovers Loredana’s plot to become the savior of the kingdom, and to that end, the Queen Consort has manufactured a terrible plague. As the lies begin to unravel, Rose must decide between upholding her oath to the Silent Keep and saving her best friend, or stopping Loredana from seizing control of the kingdom at the cost of countless lives. But Rose was taught to kill first and ask questions never, and with the weight of the kingdom on her shoulders, it will take all of her abilities not to end up at the point of someone else’s knife.

In The Mouth of the Wolf is a standalone novel with series potential.

I am an Italian American living outside of Philadelphia with my boyfriend and our 1-year-old German Shepherd. I hold an MFA from Arcadia University, where my advisor—Eric Smith of P.S. Literary—and I workshopped the short stories that became the foundation of this novel. I run a theater program for high school students. In my free time, I am a super nerd, and I can often be found at a comic con cosplaying as Black Widow. 

Thank you for your time!

Sincerely,

Miranda Leiggi (she/her)

[Contact details]

Content Warnings: Scenes of near-drowning, violence, blood, emotionally manipulative authority figures, spiders, slight body horror


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