6.2 THE QUERY LETTER
Tips and a Template to Help your Letter be Personalised, Polite, and Professional
There is no single way to approach a cover letter, because it needs to reflect you and your writing, both of which are unique. But there are some key things you should include highlighted in the template below, which you can tweak or add to your heart’s desire.
A good way to begin your cover letter is to start by writing a short pitch. I find the following questions can help me formulate a pitch:
- Who is your protagonist?
- What do they want?
- What is standing in their way?
- What do they do to achieve their goal?
Using Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (featured in the template) here are my answers:
- At first Alice wants adventure, until she stumbles into one and then she wants to return home.
- The Queen of Hearts.
- Escape the Queen of Hearts.
Once I’ve answered the questions, I thread them together, adding interesting details to form a paragraph. In this case, because this particular story has lots of characters, and they make up so much of its appeal, it felt worth including them in the pitch. Depending on your story, this might be replaced with details surrounding the setting or plot, instead. This is what I ended up with:
Alice thought she wanted adventure, until she fell into Wonderland and met a Mad Hatter at a tea party; a Cheshire cat with a lingering smile; and a blue caterpillar who speaks in riddles. Will Alice find her way home before the murderous Queen of Hearts catches her?
You want something as short and snappy as possible, to give agents the essence of your story. You don’t need to give too much away about the plot here – that’s the synopsis’ job!
Once you’ve formulated a pitch, see if you can pull together a one-line hook that differs from your pitch, as seen below. If you’re struggling (as I would be), you could try for an interesting quote, instead.
Once you have your pitch and one-liner/quote, you can write the rest of the letter around it, as shown below.
|Cover Letter Template |
An ordinary day becomes extraordinary when Alice follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole and finds herself in Wonderland…
I am writing to submit my 30,000 word middle-grade fantasy novel, ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, for your consideration.
I am approaching you because [insert something personal e.g. I have long admired your list; my favourite authors include Name 1, Name 2 and Name 3. I would love to work with you because you have an impressive range of fantasy writers, and I plan to continue to explore the genre throughout my career].
Alice thought she wanted adventure, until she fell into Wonderland and met a Hatter and a March Hare at a mad tea party; a Cheshire cat with a lingering smile; and a blue caterpillar. Will Alice find her way home before the murderous Queen of Hearts catches her?
I envisage ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND as the start of a series, though it works as a standalone, too. The novel explores a range of themes including identity, growing up, and being curious.
I am currently [insert some information about yourself]. I have always been interested in [try and relate an interesting fact to your novel]. Any additional details e.g. is this an ownvoices novel? Have you done a creative writing course? Have you won any awards or previously been published? (If none apply please don’t think this will work against you!)
Attached, as requested, are the first three chapters and one page synopsis of my novel. I am querying a handful of agents.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my novel and I hope to hear from you soon.
With all best wishes,
Address the agent you are querying directly.
Paragraph 1 (optional): A one-line hook, or quote from your story.
Paragraph 2: Always include the title, length, genre, and age category (picture book, young fiction, middle-grade, teen or YA). Also try and say something specific about the agent. Do they have a keen interest in your genre? Do they also represent adult writers (this is relevant if you think you might want to go into that in the future).
Paragraph 3: A pitch which answers the following questions: Who is your protagonist? What do they want? What is standing in their way? What do they do to achieve their goal?
Paragraph 4: Here you can set up the themes of your novel and your thoughts on how it sits in the market, including a mention of series potential.
Paragraph 5 (optional): Say a bit about yourself, but keep it relevant to writing. If you don’t have a qualification or publishing record that is OK,and won’t stop you finding an agent. Don’t fear if you skip this part.
Paragraph 6: This will change depending on the agency’s individual guidelines. Always check!
Paragraph 7: A polite sign-off.
Aisha was born in Bahrain and has lived in Kuwait, England and Canada. The first novel she ever worked on was a piece of fan fiction, based on her favourite book series, which she stayed up all night to work on when she was thirteen. Aisha now writes children’s books, sometimes with a little bit of magic in them.