Much of the advice out there about how to write a query letter is oriented toward novels. But what should you do if you have a nonfiction project? I’m here to help! Here’s an example of a good nonfiction query letter.
Author Michael Schreiber and literary agent Mitchell Waters were kind enough to agree to share Michael’s query letter, which landed him representation with Mitchell.
Here’s why I think this query letter works:
- The personalization is strong. Not everyone will have just met the agent they are querying, but it’s still good to add a personal touch.
- The description of the nonfiction book project is clear. The “promise” of what the book will offer is woven clearly into the summary.
- Credentials. Michael clearly and succinctly documents the highlights of his platform and shows why he’s not only the right person to write the book he’s querying about but why he would be a good client for the long haul.
A good nonfiction query letter
Here’s Michael’s query letter:
We met last Monday evening at the Lammys. Imagine my delighted surprise when the category you got up to present – “best gay memoir/biography” – was the one in which my book, One-Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, was a finalist! Alas, One-Man Show lost out to Cleve Jones’s When We Rise, but I’m nevertheless thrilled and proud to have been included in such extraordinary company, and to have been so honored for my very first book.
The reason I’m writing is that I am currently working on an authorized biography of the legendary Hollywood portrait artist Don Bachardy (https://www.donbachardy.com/index.php). This new book will explore Don Bachardy’s storied life, illustrious friends and lovers (including his 30-year relationship with Christopher Isherwood), and astounding adventures through no-holds-barred interviews with the artist, never-before-seen photos, and an extensive selection of Don’s incredible public and private art.
About me: I’m a teacher and writer based in Chicago. One-Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin is my first book. In addition to its standing as a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, One-Man Show has also been named a 2017 Stonewall Honor Book by the American Library Association (the award will be presented at the end of this month) and finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. The book is currently being adapted into a feature-length documentary film which will furthur explore Bernard Perlin’s extraordinary, fearlessly lived life as a World War II correspondent, “magic realist” painter, sexual renegade, and gay artist.
I have also written for such publications as A&U: America’s AIDS Magazine, The Archive: The Journal of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, The Gay & Lesbian Review, and Modern Magazine. For Bruno Gmünder, the publisher of One-Man Show, I am writing the introduction to a new book about the artist Bruce Sargeant. In addition, my husband Jason Loper and I are the creators of the popular blog This American House, which chronicles our adventures restoring our Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Iowa.
I’d be more than happy to send you a PDF or hard copy of One-Man Show and a selection of my interviews with Don Bachardy, if you might be interested. I thank you for giving this project your consideration, and look forward to communicating with you further. It was truly a pleasure to meet you at the Lammys!
Thanks again to Michael and Mitchell for sharing Michael’s nonfiction query letter!
Nonfiction query letter resources
Here are some more query letter resources that might help:
- How to write a query letter
- How to personalize a query letter
- Why an author’s platform matters
- How to write a nonfiction book proposal
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 (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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