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Email Query Letter Format - How to Write an Agent Query

Query Letter Format for Email – How to Write an Agent Query

Photo of Query Letter Format for EmailEmail Query Letter Format – What do you need to know about submitting query letters to literary agents by email? This article explains. It’s part of a free 15-part training guide about How to Write an Effective Query Letter by Mark Malatesta, a former publishing agent and former Marketing & Licensing Manager of a well-known book publisher.

This training answers the most common questions asked by authors about query letters: What is a query letter? What’s the right query letter length? Where can you get help to write an agent query or get a query letter critique? What do successful agent queries look like? What is the best query format to use? And where can you see the best query letter examples or a sample query letter?

This article answers questions
about email query letter format.

* * *

Email Query Letter Format

Most of the time, formatting an email query is easy. That’s because most literary agents are in agreement about the best email query format. However, some book agents have unique submission requirements. So always make sure you look at a literary agency’s website before submitting anything. The last thing you need is a rejection letter caused by not following instructions.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll share the best email query letter format with you. Follow these guidelines unless a literary agent specifically asks for something different.

* * *

Email Query Letter Format – Tip #1
What’s the Best Email Subject Line?

This is going to sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many authors don’t think about this simple fact: Literary agents don’t just get queries via email. That means you always need to include the word query in your subject line. In fact, you should start with it. This will guarantee that no book agents get confused or have to waste time figuring out what the purpose of your email is.

After the word query in your subject line, include the title of your book. Including the title of your book makes it easier for literary agents to find your email later, if needed (don’t forget that most book agents get hundreds of queries every week).

After (or before) the book title, include your book genre (if your title is extremely long, you can leave the genre out). Including the book genre can help the person reading your email to route it to the correct person at the literary agency–if the person reading is an assistant or not a good fit.

For example, your email subject line
might look like this:

  • Query – Book Title
  • Query – Book Genre – Book Title
  • Query – Book Title – Book Genre

If you want to make your book title ALL CAPS, that fine. Some agents like this, but most don’t care. Same thing goes for capitalizing your book title when mentioning it in the body of the query.

* * *

Email Query Letter Format – Tip #2
What Font Should You Use?

The standard font to use for query letters sent by email is Times New Roman or New Courier, 12-point. And you should absolutely resist any urge to use a colored font, graphic images, or any type of background stationery.

* * *

Email Query Letter Format – Tip #3
What’s the Best Salutation or Greeting?

There are more than 1,000 book agents in the US alone. Including a literary agent’s name in your query letter (and spelling it right) shows that you haven’t done a “blast” mailing to all of them. It’s a sign of courtesy and professionalism. And it’s an indicator that you’ve possibly researched agents and chose those that are most likely to be interested in your book.

Starting your query letter with “Dear Agent”
is almost guaranteed to get an instant rejection.

Use a colon after the agent’s name instead of a comma; even though you don’t have to be (and you shouldn’t be) stiff in your query, it is a business letter. Be sure to specify the agent’s gender as well by using “Mr.” or “Ms.” Before the agent’s name, use something more formal like “Dear” instead of something more casual like “Hi,” “Hey,” “Yo,” “Dude,” or “What’s Up!”

I’ve seen it all.

Here’s how your greeting should look:

  • Dear Mr. Malatesta:

* * *

Email Query Letter Format – Tip #4
How Should the Email Body Be Formatted?

Different computers and email program software can cause all kinds of problems with your email query letter format. So you’ll want to keep everything as simple as possible. Don’t indent your paragraphs–left-justify your text. Single space everything as well, but double-space between paragraphs.

* * *

Email Query Letter Format – Tip #5
How Should You “Close” Your Agent Query?

Fitting everything into one page or less in a query letter isn’t easy, so don’t waste precious space telling literary agents things they already know. For example, you don’t need to tell agents: you’re seeking representation, your book is available for representation, you’d be happy to work with them, or you’re willing to send them more material.

They know that already.

Just end simply.

Say something like,
“Thank you for your consideration.”

* * *

Email Query Letter Format – Tip #6
What Should Your Email Signature Look Like?

The signature section of your email query letter should come right after the closing. Just make sure you include your complete contact information. When I was a literary agent an author sent me a query letter by postal mail that only had his mailing address listed for contact information. I was going crazy for a whole week, waiting for him to get my return letter and call me. But I wanted to request an exclusive read the moment I read his query letter.

It all worked out in the end though, just so you know. The writer I’m talking about was suspense author Jim Brown. I took his books to auction and got multiple major publishers to bid on his books–resulting in a six-figure offer. Not bad for a previously unpublished, first-time novelist.


Here’s a sample
email signature:

Mark Malatesta
The Bestselling Author, LLC
244 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2406
New York, NY 10001
Phone/Fax: (800) 928-5028
Email Address Here
Website Address Here

* * *

Email Query Letter Format – Tip #7
How Should You Format a Synopsis or Sample Manuscript Pages?

Sometimes literary agents will invite you (on their website) to include a synopsis (see Query Letter vs Book Synopsis) and/or sample manuscript pages with your query. If so, look to see if they have specific requirements about how to format those pages. If you can’t find any guidelines, include the sample manuscript pages immediately after your signature.

Use the same font that you used in your query letter–Times New Roman or New Courier, 12-point. But this time you need to double-space. And remove any headers or footers from the text that might have gotten copied over from your original document. You don’t need page numbers for email query submissions.

Lastly, don’t fret too much about the formatting. Since you’ll be cutting and pasting your book synopsis and sample pages from another document, the formatting will almost certainly have some minor issues. Literary agents understand that this is a challenge, so don’t feel obligated to make everything look perfect. Just make sure it’s readable.

Now that you’ve read my tips about email query letter format
click here to read the next article in this 15-part series
with Query Letter Tips for Online Forms.

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"Finding Mark has been both a treat and a treasure. I now have two different agents for my work, and a book deal with Sky Horse Publishing. I’ve served as Creative Director of the TIME Incorporated Magazine Group; Director of Time World News Service, a Founding Director of TIME-Life Films; Executive Producer for both the CBS and NBC Television Networks; and Producer/ Director: Movies of the Week: CBS Cinema Center Films and Universal MCA. You just can’t do it alone today as an author." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

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"Not long after Mark helped me land a top literary agent, I got a call from my agent letting me know that I had three different publishing offers from well-known publishers: Amacom, Palgrave Macmillan, and McGraw-Hill who recently published my book in hardcover! It was a fantastic feeling and a huge smile came over my face. For a moment I felt like life was perfect and the angels were singing." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

Author of the business book Customer Focused Process Innovation (McGraw-Hill)   
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"Before I decided to work with Mark, I submitted my book to literary agents but didn’t get any interest. After I revised my query letter and book proposal, I got several agencies interested and decided to sign with Fine Print Lit, a top literary agency in New York. They got publishers bidding against each other and I ended up signing a contract with Thomas Nelson (an imprint of Harper Collins) for what I’ve been told by several people is a very large advance. What cloud is higher than 9?" [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

Author of the memoir The Unbreakable Boy (Harper Collins / Thomas Nelson)   
Author Success Story: Nonfiction/Self-Help  
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"Mark helped me get five different offers for representation from top literary agents. I signed with Stephanie Tade who got me a 6-figure book deal with Penguin Books, which published my book in hardcover! When Stephanie first contacted me, she was very excited and said, ‘I can’t get your book proposal out of my head. It’s brilliant – I mean, really, it’s fantastic. Editors should be salivating by the time they get to the chapter outline.’ Working with Mark was completely worth it." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

Author of the self-help book Woman on Fire (Penguin Random House / Penguin Books)   
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"When I got the phone call about my publishing offer with Harcourt, I was in my office with three other people. I slammed down the phone, ran into the secretary’s office, threw myself down on the floor and said, ‘I got a deal!’ They sat there and held my hand. I was speechless. I’ve never ever been that happy in my life. On my wedding day I wasn’t that happy! Getting married and having children are wonderful experiences, but I didn’t ‘work’ to get my children!" [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

Author of many YA novels including The Body of Christopher Creed (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)   
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"I got the number one agent on my wish list thanks to Mark. He’s done more than 100 deals in just two year and has a long list of accolades, including being talked about in the New York Times. Within 4 minutes of sending out my revised query letter, my literary agent called me on the phone. Less than 30 days later I had three major publishers making offers. And, a few days after that, I signed a deal with Random House. Mark’s query letter did that." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

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"Berkley Books recently published my book in hardcover after Mark helped me get multiple agents interested in my work. I was able to speak with literary agents from top agencies such as Janklow & Nesbit, Trident Media, Anderson Lit, and Folio. I signed with Don Fehr at Trident Media and a short time later I had a publishing contract! Having Mark on your side is incredibly valuable." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

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"It has been an awfully long and bloody road towards publication but I’m finally on my way. Hard work, struggle, disappointments, and perseverance are important. So is following the advice of publishing industry experts like Mark. He helped me get a top literary agent and now my novel, The Wrong Hand is being published by Penguin Books and their prestigious Michael Joseph imprint, which is ‘principally interested in publishing Top Ten Bestsellers’. It’s hard not to be excited." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

Author of the novel The Wrong Hand (Penguin / Michael Joseph)   
Author Success Story: Fiction  
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"Before I revised my query letter with Mark, I got no responses. When I sent out my new query, I got four requests for more material within 24 hours The support Mark provides is fantastic. His suggestions changed my original query significantly, but they also helped me see that I had something to offer. Now I have a top agent! Mark is smart and reliable and working with him has made all the difference." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

Author of novels including The Wings That Fly Us Home (Penguin Random House / Ballantine Books)   

About Mark Malatesta

Photo of Mark Malatesta - Former Literary Agent MARK MALATESTA is a former literary agent turned author coach. Mark now helps authors of all genres (fiction, nonfiction, and children's books) get top literary agents, publishers, and book deals through his company Literary Agent Undercover and The Bestselling Author. Mark's authors have gotten six-figure book deals, been on the NYT bestseller list, and published with houses such as Random House, Scholastic, and Thomas Nelson. Click here to learn more about Mark Malatesta and click here for Reviews of Mark Malatesta.
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