April 12, 2012

The Query: What I Put In - And What I Leave Out

by Lauren F. Boyd

I started writing in 2009. Since then, I have written one novella, twelve picture book manuscripts, and countless magazine submissions.

That’s a lot of query letters.

Relatively early on in my writing career, I realized my queries were too long and detailed. So I did some research and gave my query some more thought.

Now, I’d like to share with you what I put into my query – and what I leave out.

I do include these elements in my query:
- A manuscript summary, written in the same “voice” as the manuscript;
- Word count. Note: Your manuscript should be finished when you began querying agents and editors (this is for fiction writers; sometimes there is latitude for non-fiction writers);
- Target audience;
- Genre, for novels;
- Publishing credits. If you haven’t been published, it’s not necessary to reveal this fact in your query. That is, you don’t need to say, "I have never been published." Simply omit any mention of a publishing history.
- Contact information – email address and phone number.

And the one thing I do not include in my query is personal information unrelated to publishing, unless it has to do directly with my manuscript. That’s because I want the agent/editor focusing on my manuscript, not on how s/he doesn’t care for the school I attended.

So how about you? What do you put into your query, and what do you leave out?

Lauren F. Boyd maintains a blog designed to help other writers at She is also on Facebook and G+, as well as @laurenfboyd on Twitter. You can reach her via email at


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