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Query Letter Examples - How to Write an Agent Query

Examples of Query Letter – How to Write an Agent Query

Photo of Examples of Query LetterQuery Letter Examples – Where can you find the best sample query or query letter template to help you write your pitch? Both are explained in this article, which is part of our free 15-part guidelines on How to Write a Literary Agent Query Letter by Mark Malatesta, a former publishing agent and former Marketing & Licensing Manager of a well-known book publisher.

This free training guide reveals everything you ever wanted know about query letters–and everything you don’t even know to ask. For example: How long should your query letter be? How many query letter formats are there and what do they look like? What is a SASE? Are there important considerations if you’re writing a fiction query, nonfiction query, children’s book query, etc.? And where can you go to get query letter help?

This part of the training explores query letter examples.

* * *

Query Letter Examples – The Problem

The publishing industry is no different
than most other industries.

It’s a dinosaur.

In other words, it’s well-established; as a result, it is sometimes (some might say always) slow to change. For example, it took forever for most publishers to offer eBooks. In some ways, I respect that the publishing industry is slow to adopt new ways. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fine. But the current format for writing a query letter has got to go.

And don’t worry.

Of course…

I’m going to show you some query letter examples
so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

* * *

Query Letter Examples – The Old-Fashioned Way

Here’s one of the many “successful” query letter examples I’ve seen online. The author shared it during an interview as a tool to help other authors be successful, after she got a good literary agent and book publishing deal. It’s not bad. Obviously, it helped her land an agent and book deal.


It could have been a lot better.

And yours might
need to be.

* * *

Query Letter Examples – Stefanie Gaither (Falls the Shadow)

Dear Ms. Megibow,

I’m currently seeking representation for my YA novel, FALLS THE SHADOW. Given your interest in science fiction, I thought it might be a good fit for your list.

When Cate Benson was twelve, her sister died. Two hours after the funeral, they picked up Violet’s replacement, and the family made it home in time for dinner and a game of cards.

It’s the year 2055, and Cate’s parents are among the wealthy elite who can afford to give their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth. So this new Violet has the same smile. The same laugh. That same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

Or at least, that’s what the paparazzi and the crazy anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that, though. She’s used to standing up for her sister too, and she’s determined to do it now—even if proving Violet’s innocence means taking on those protestors and anyone else attacking her family. But when her own life is threatened—not by protestors, but by the very scientists who created her sister’s clone—Cate starts questioning everything she thought she knew about the cloning movement. About herself. About her sister.

And the answers she finds reveal a more sinister purpose for her sister’s copy—and her own replacement—than she ever could have imagined.

FALLS THE SHADOW is complete at 80,000 words, and is the first in a planned series. The manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. Thanks for your time and consideration!


Stefanie Gaither

* * *

Query Letter Examples – Breaking It Down

What do most query letter examples
(like this one) have in common?

They all follow the old formula
for writing queries.

In other words they start with a bit of personalization stating why the author thinks his or her book might be a good fit for the agent. Then they have a “hook” (something interesting to get the agent, well, hooked),  followed by a mini-synopsis or summary of the book, and then little or nothing (in this case nothing) about the author.

That’s the way it’s been
happening for eons.

But I’m
changing that.


a better way.

I’m going to show you
what it is in just a moment.

But first I need to tell you why this is so important. And I need to tell you why so many authors, literary agents, and other publishing professionals are unwittingly giving bad advice–and sharing mediocre (sometimes poor) pitch strategies and query letter examples.

* * *

Query Letter Examples – Why This Is Important

If you’re passionate about getting published, you’ll do almost anything to give yourself a competitive advantage. Especially if you know that top literary agents get approximately 1,500 queries (sometimes more) each month. And they reject 95% of all queries.

The odds aren’t good.

But I’m guessing you
probably already knew that.

Here’s something
you might not know…

Top literary agents only take on approximately six new clients a year. Half of those clients (3) are already published. Or they’ve already worked with an agent in the past (maybe their agent dropped them, got out of the business, retired, or passed away). It happens.

In other words, top book agents only take on (on average)
approximately one new unpublished author every four months.


1 in 6,000 queries.

So, it’s critical that you make your query letter as good as it can be. Especially if you want to get multiple agents interested in your work. When that happens (you get multiple agents offering representation), you then get to “interview” the agents and find out which one is the best fit for you.

For example:

  • Who understands your book the most and shares your vision?
  • Who’s the most successful and established, likely to get you the best book deal?
  • Who’s going to work the hardest and stick with you the longest?

* * *

Now that you know why some query letter examples are
better than others, click here to discover my best
advice for Writing a Query Letter.

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Author Success Story: Nonfiction/Narrative Nonfiction  
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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]

Author of the narrative nonfiction book Single Handed (Penguin Random House / Berkley Books)   
Author Success Story: Eleven Fiction and Nonfiction Titles  
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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]

Author of eleven fiction and nonfiction books (Harper Collins and many others)   
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)   
Author Success Story: Fiction/Young Adult  
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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)   
Author Success Story: Memoir  
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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]

Author of the memoir Lights Out (Penguin Random House)   
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)   
Author Success Story: Fiction  
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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: Nonfiction/Business  
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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)   
Author Success Story: Memoir/Christian  
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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: Fiction/Mystery/Thriller  
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"Ballantine Books published my first two novels in hardcover and paperback after Mark Malatesta helped create an auction and bidding war for my books, resulting in a six-figure offer. Mark is one of the rare and genuine good guys, but he also has incredible information (even his ideas have ideas). One of the most important keys to success as an author is good information and support." [Click here to see all Mark Malatesta reviews]

Author of the mystery thrillers 24/7 and Black Valley (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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