Literary Agents Part 3. How to Approach Them

After choosing the right agents for your novel to query and where to find them, this article attempts to give you insight once you feel ready to actually start sending your queries.

Query form

While a standard envelope stuffed with a query and sample pages, even with the full manuscript, was the way in the past, email queries dominate the scene now. Usually, you find the contact information in the agent’s profile and the clear and simple submission guidelines either in the profile as well, or in a separate page of the agency website. Some agencies mention they still accept the post queries and give you instructions on where and how to send. Usually, inserting also material and finances for their reply is expected from you if you want to hear their answer.

But the postal queries and emails are not the only way these days. You may also encounter a Query Manager. It is a wonderful and quick tool the agents use for effective query management. It is a fillable online form you are expected to fill in as best as you can and send instead of an email query letter. Each agent personalizes their form according to their needs and so you can expect a bit different questions and size of the form. You can use the majority of your email or letter query, just adjust it a bit so the right information is copied to the right field.

This manager also allows you to watch the status of your query. The agents reply rather quickly as the manager makes the organization of the queries easier.

What to have ready

Querying the agents is basically the same process over and over. But there are slight differences you should be ready for. Some agents ask for a one-page long synopsis. Some allow even ten pages. The same goes for the first manuscript pages. Some agents welcome a blurb, some wish to see just a few manuscript pages and that is it.

Here is a list of documents you can prepare before you jump headfirst into the query trenches full of different agents:

  • Several versions of a synopsis (one page long, several pages long)
  • A blurb
  • A few versions of first pages (five, ten, thirty, fifty first pages)
  • Three or five similar novels to compare your work with
  • consider having all above in both, word and pdf version
  • A skeleton of a query letter (one page long) with fixed parts and space for personalization


As mentioned in the list above, you can prepare a letter draft where you put the basic information: who you are, your novel’s genre, length, strong points of your writing… and here it gets a bit more complicated. You can write down the basic strong points of your work and what you aim to achieve with that (breathtaking romance, psychological horror based on arachnophobia, eco western…) and then you should leave an empty space where you will add more, personalized, strong points according to the agent. One may mention thirst for army environment, other may prefer female/male voices, some other loves marginal groups…

Other variables you can use for personalization of the query letter are all other agent’s preferences they mention. A large space for personalization is also your reason why you are contacting this particular agent.

Always compose your letter with care and do not try to rush the process. You can easily send a query addressed to one agent to someone completely different. Or attach wrong versions from the documents above. Stay calm.

  • How the general form should look like?
  • Start with a greeting with the agent’s name. No dear agent.
  • Introduce your book.
  • Briefly introduce yourself.
  • Fill in the personalization part.
  • Attach the additional material like the synopsis or the manuscript pages.

Some agents prefer an attachment in the body of the email. Some make it clear they allow word or pdf attachments. Always respect this. These precautions protect the agencies from viruses and other dangers that might come with attachments. Thus, if you fail to follow their instructions, they will not even open your query. Click send. Wish yourself good luck.

Literary Agents Part 1. How to Choose Them

Literary Agents Part 2. Where to Find Them

2 thoughts on “Literary Agents Part 3. How to Approach Them

  1. Pingback: Literary Agents Part 2. Where to Find Them – Your Book Whisperer

  2. Pingback: Literary Agents Part 1. How to Choose Them – Your Book Whisperer

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