How to Get an Agent, Step 3: Write a Query Letter

The query letter is a gamble. A lottery ticket. On the other side of that lottery ticket is a wondrous opportunity, so you should definitely write the query letter. But be aware of the gnarly odds.  

Once, in a fit of masochism, I did the math on querying and the outcome was pretty depressing. If an agent gets approximately 50 query letters per week, and only selects 1–2 full manuscripts to read from that batch each week, then your odds of getting an agent to read your full manuscript is about 3 percent.

 

To depress you even further, just think about how many of those full manuscript reads turn into offers of representation. Busy Agent A will probably only add 3–4 clients to her list each year, so once you've made it out of the query letter slush pile, you still have only a 3 percent chance of getting signed as a client.  

But wait! Before you stop reading and give up on writing altogether, remember the graph from Part I of “How to Get an Agent.”

 

The Query Letter Slush Pile

 

 

An overwhelming number of queries that agents receive are poorly planned, sloppily written, and sent to agents who have been selected at random. So, if you can create a polished, professional query letter and send it to a carefully chosen agent, your odds of getting read – and eventually represented – increase enormously.

So, let's take a look at what it takes to write a badass query letter.  

Then, let's move on to the next step in the process: finding the right agent

 

Jaime deBlanc-Knowles is the founder of Fresh Ink Consulting, a company offering top-notch editing and writing services.