Want to interest a literary agent in your book idea?
Often, agents want a query letter first. The query sells them on the book idea and introduces you. It’s your chance to make an indelible impression.
Queries have to be short. Here’s the formula for this three-paragraph letter:
Paragraph 1: You need an evocative opening that intrigues the agent enough to keep reading. It includes the book’s hook: a concise sentence meant to pique interest about why the book is needed now and how it’s different. Include the book’s working title and subtitle.
To create a connection, the paragraph should also include why you chose this agent, based on the agent’s website, books represented, or a reference from a colleague. (See this list at Publishers’ Marketplace that includes agents who specialize in cookbooks.)
Paragraph 2: Gives a mini synopsis that describes how the book is organized and any special features. Give specifics why it’s interesting and unique. Make your description read like compelling flap-jacket copy.
Paragraph 3: Explains why you are qualified to write the book, and why the agent should be interested. Mention your writing credentials, any awards, and your platform. Pick the criteria most relevant to the book.
At the end of the query, ask if you can send the book proposal.
Now, how do you increase your chances of a positive reply? Here are three:
1. You’ve written the book proposal first. I know, it’s so much easier to just send a query letter because it’s only one page long. But if the agent’s interested, she will ask for the book proposal, and you won’t have one. Besides, it’s so much easier to write the query when you’ve figured out the book first by writing a full proposal, which can be 50-70 pages long.
2. You sell yourself, not just the book idea. If you have a large blog audience, you’ve written for a big magazine or website, or you’ve taught cooking classes for years, put it all in your bio. Stick to details relevant to your book. Exude confidence. This is no time to be humble.
3. You send the query the way the agent wants it. Query letters have huge rejection rates. Don’t give the agent any reason to reject yours. Some agents want a snail mail letter, some just want the proposal, and some have a submission form on their websites. If they want an email, paste the query in the body of the email.
Whatever you do, address the agent by name, and make sure there are no typos.
When you’re ready, decide if you want to send one query at a time, or a few. Most agents don’t ask for an exclusive. Most agents say no. Let’s give them a reason to say yes.
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