Does your query have:
1. Dear Janet (or equivalent salutation)
NOT: Dear Agent, To Whom it may concern
2. The title of your work
3. The kind of work: fiction, non-fiction, memoir.
4. The word count
(under 50,000 is too few, over 200,000 is too many)
5. Two paragraphs showing me what the book is about and enticing me to read more.
6. The first 3-5 pages of the novel or memoir pasted below the query letter
(do NOT send an attachment in a query letter. I will not open it)
7. Your contact information: email, phone number
These are the basics.
If you don't have these, I can't evaluate your query and thus it will be rejected.
Thanks for posting this. I need all the advice I can get. :)
Found your site from Absolutely*Kate's.
Only two paragraphs for describing the book? Is that an average or a hard and fast rule? If it is an average, can you give us a range?
Say, 2 to 4 paragraphs?
Sound advice. Thanks for the tips.
Have you ever signed anyone who began by sending in an unsolicited email query?
Yes of course I have. As have most agents, I'm sure.
Fully 70% of my list came via incoming queries with no intro, no referral.
That's impressive and seems almost superhuman considering the number of queries you must get.
Dear, dear Janet--Here it is, the crux, the heart, the holy grail of unindexed, unsearchable, unanswered, perhaps unanswerable questions:
Is a first novel by an unpublished author truly doomed if--as some say--it's more than 120,000 words? I've cut my mystery from 210,000 to 160,000, so, hey, no sacred cows. But geez Louise, before I eviscerate my soul even further, is it necessary? Is it even a good idea?
Am I wasting my time?
I submitted to a pub who accepted only one-sentence book descriptions! They said if you cant sum up your book in one sentence, they didnt want to see it. Whew!
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