Sue Miller is an agent with Donaghy Literary. She has previously worked with Scholastic Canada, the D4EO agency, and she hosted the Luso Reading Vox series at Dundas West Fest in Toronto. An admitted social media junkie, Sue has a Digital Marketing Management certificate from the University of Toronto. When it comes to her genre preferences, Sue is partial to romance, young adult, new adult and adult contemporary novels (sorry, no thanks to anything historical).
Her principle advice regarding queries?
Some of the top literary agents receive upwards of 150 queries a day. While a few have dedicated Query Readers on staff, most have to squeeze these queries in with all their other responsibilities.
If you want an agent to read your query with enthusiasm, make it easy for them.
What’s In a Query and What’s Not
Miller advises your query should contain “a paragraph (blurb) to introduce the project, and a paragraph about the author.” Period. Other agents may accept two paragraphs about the story but regardless, we’re talking about short paragraphs here. Nathan Bransford advises the total query should stay between 250 and 350 words — not counting sample pages.
The subject line of an email or letter query should always contain the book’s title. And always be sure to add a one-sentence paragraph after the blurb that gives the genre and word count.
In the paragraph about the author, include any writing related credits (previous publications or contest awards). You can also add the reason why you chose that particular agent to query (met them at a conference, one of their clients is a favorite author, etc.).
Always include the number of sample pages the specific agent has requested on their website (do your research!). Always make these be the first pages of the manuscript unless you’re submitting nonfiction.
Note: Some agents who take email queries want these pages in the body of the email, not as an attachment (for security reasons).
Note: There is never anything in a query letter about how much other people like the manuscript, or how many other queries you’ve sent out, or the fact that you’re unpublished, or that your really, really good self-pubbed book didn’t do well so now you want to go with a traditional publisher for this one.
QueryTracker and Other Resources
QueryTracker.net is an online place to find out which agents are top sellers, what each agent is looking for, what publishers are open to submissions, and lots more. There’s also a place for you to track your submissions and the results. You can socialize with other writers and watch help videos about the agent search, tracking queries, working on multiple projects, etc. Check out their Query Letter Basics here.
Rachelle Gardner is another good query-writing resource.