I know it’s difficult to stare at a blank screen trying to decide what to include and what not to include in a query. Is it necessary to convey a love of writing? What about positive feedback? There’s a limited number of words in an ideal query and a whole lot that needs to be conveyed.
Here is a list of things I don’t need to see in a query. There are exceptions to most of these rules, so, in the end, use your best judgment. But hopefully this list will help you wield the delete button wisely.
The “don’t need to know” list
Literary agents don’t need to know…
- How long it took you to write your manuscript
- How long you researched your manuscript (or how you researched your manuscript)
- How many manuscripts you’ve written besides the ones you’re querying about
- How much you love to write
- Your age (unless you’re under 18 or if your age is otherwise relevant to the manuscript)
- How much your friends, family, local schoolkids, a paid editor, strangers, and/or anyone else who is not a published author loved your manuscript
- Quotes from anyone who loved your novel, except perhaps for one or two brief quotes from a published author (agents will be taking these with a grain of salt)
- Any rejection letters or references to rejection letters or quotes from rejection letters no matter how positive the person was when they were rejecting you
- What you think the cover should look like
- Which publishing houses you think would be a good fit
- A promise that your book will make the bestseller list and/or sell a million copies
- That you’ve had health and/or mental health problems (unless it specifically relates to the manuscript)
- The moral of your novel
- The themes of your novel (this should be clear from the description of the plot)
- More than two paragraphs of plot description (keep it concise!)
- That you’re willing to send a synopsis or outline if I ask for one (the agent will assume that if they ask you’re gonna provide one).
- That your manuscript is completely different than anything that’s ever been published (that’s basically impossible)
- Apologies for wasting the agent’s time (you’re not… er, unless your query is too long)
When to tell an agent about X
If you’re still confused about what to include/what not to include, this post could also help:
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel and my guide to publishing a book.
And if you like this post: subscribe to my newsletter!
Art: In the Conservatory by Edouard Manet