How to query literary agents

Submission package to query literary agents

When I completed Twist of Fate, I was uninformed about the business of writing. I love writing, so I wrote a book. I love writing books, so I continued and know that I want to keep doing it forever. As for how to get my work out into the world, well, I admit I wasn’t exactly sure.

I’m a research queen and I’ve put in countless hours diligently compiling and comparing data to ensure I’m well informed about both traditional and self-publishing, including reading the following books, which I’d highly recommend to every author:

After much deliberation and asking many published authors more experienced than myself, I’ve decided to pursue traditional publishing first. This means I need a rock solid submission package to query literary agents to represent me to publishing houses.

Below I break down what a literary agent might ask for in a submission package at a very high level. I have pages (and pages) of research and would be happy to make this post an informational series. Let me know if you want deep dives on any (or all) of the topics below and I’ll gladly share what I know with you!

Query letter literary agent

What might a potential agent ask for in a submission package?  

  • A one page query letter that you can think of as your pitch. It represents your first (and possibly only) chance to entice an agent into requesting a partial or full copy of your novel and then hopefully signing you
  • A concise two page synopsis that takes an agent through your novel in chronological order, including explaining the ending (yes, you really need to give the ending away)
  • A writing sample that is usually three consecutive chapters from your novel
  • A 200 word (or less) book blurb. Think about the content on a book jacket. You’re going for attention-grabbing-make-them-want-to-read-more with this piece. If the blurb is written well, it’s an effective marketing tool that should hook your reader and make them want to buy your book to keep reading. Let me know how I did with mine!
  • Biography and market breakdown (this is for non-fiction only and is admittedly not my area of expertise)

Best advice: these are general guidelines and you must check an agent’s profile before submitting and only submit content they ask for. Don’t give them “bonus” material that wasn’t requested because the only thing that will do is prove you can’t read and are difficult to work with. Not great, right? So follow the rules on this one!

Have you ever queried a literary agent, or are you planning to? What are your lessons learned? Are you self-published or did you submit your work directly to a publishing house? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

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15 thoughts on “Submission package to query literary agents

  1. I queried once when I shouldn’t have (I didn’t even have a manuscript finished) but I was 16 and excited and I didn’t know much yet about the industry. However, I’m in the middle of drafting my first full length novel and I know one day I will be Querying once more!

    1. It’s definitely a complicated industry to navigate. The business of writing is something I’m still learning, but I’m very excited to query Twist of Fate in September and give traditional publishing a shot. Good luck with your novel, and thank you so much for reading!

  2. I’m saving your post for future reference – Thanks for all the recommendations and tips! For my first novel, once it’s edited, I want to try the traditional route first, and see what happens!

    1. I’m so glad it’s helpful! I’m going to turn it into a series based on the response I got through Instagram. I’d be happy to be a beta reader for you. My 9-5 is being paid to write, so I know what I’m doing, lol!

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