Coffee break reads: Writing query letters

By Melissa Welliver

I’ve had a few questions in my capacity as a mentor and editor recently about dreaded query letters so thought I would mention 5 tips, based on common mistakes I see that are super simple to fix and will make your project SHINE!

These query letter tips aren’t deal breakers, and good stories will get through regardless, but don’t make querying life harder than it already is!

Wake up the agent with a high-concept idea

Top tip from my old teacher: Imagine the poor sod reading your essay (or query letter!) is exhausted. You’re at the bottom of the pile, the baby hasn’t slept in 3 nights, they’ve just finished a bottle of red, it’s 11pm. You want to wake them UP, excite them with your high-concept idea.

Make the query letter quick to read

To that end, keep the query letter to one side of A4. Make your proposal quick to read and easy to remember. As a general rule of thumb, write about half as much about you as you do about the book. Make the book blurb around 300 words, and the bio around 150.

Put the word count in the opening line

Put your word count in the first line of the query letter, when you introduce the book’s title and genre. It’s the quickest way to see you have actually finished the book, and aren’t querying after three chapters in the vague hope a full request will spur you on to finish (hey, we’ve all been there!).

Use recently-published comparison titles

Use comparison titles that were published in the last 5 years. The more recent, the better. If you tell an agent your book is The Famous Five meets Charlotte’s Web, it implies that you haven’t read any kid lit since those were published. Show you know the market selling TODAY.

Be kind to yourself in your query letter

Be kind to yourself, both with querying and in your letter. Big yourself up in the bio. Tell us about that research. Shout about that short story listing. Don’t be timid, be proud! An if you’re overwhelmed by rejections, take a break. Querying is long and hard. Look after yourself.

<strong>Melissa Welliver, author</strong><br>
Melissa Welliver, author

Melissa Welliver writes Young Adult Speculative novels and is Hub Manager and Spark Mentoring Co-ordinator for WriteMentor. She has a BA Honours degree in English Literature and History from the University of Leeds and an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester University. She has a self-published novel, The Undying Tower, published in 2021. Her debut, My Love Life and the Apocalypse, will be published by Chicken House in 2023.

Melissa has been longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the #BNAKids award, and Mslexia’s Children’s Novel Prize, and she was shortlisted for both the inaugural Hachette Children’s Novel Award in association with New Writing North, and the Wells Book for Children competition. She lives in the Northwest with her Bassetoodle, Zelda, and is represented by Lucy Irvine of Peters, Fraser & Dunlop

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