Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 18, 2009

E-Query Letters

Thought I would share the article below from Molli Nickell, former Time-Life editor and Publisher.  Plus, she’s having an Internet Chat this week on this subject. 4180770

  • WHEN: Wednesday, October 21,  2009
  • TIME: 6:00 to 7:00 PM Eastern.
  • CALL: 605-475-4825 (not a toll-free number)

      WHEN prompted, enter the access code: 114660# 

The E-Query:
Making the Most of your Nano-Second Opportunity 

Many agents (50% and climbing) accept e-queries. That’s both good news and not-so-good news.

The good news is the ease of submitting. Once your who-wants-what research is complete, you cut and paste your query letter into an email (most agents will not open attachments) and zap! it’s gone. Quick and quicker.

The not-so-good news relates to that same element–speed. Agents scan the 14 to 20 query letter lines on their screen and make an instant decision, usually without reading the entire query.
Which makes your opening sentences vitally important. They gotta sizzle!  

Thousands of people who type (but don’t necessarily write anything worth reading), submit queries via email. This puts an incredible burden on agents who read hundreds of these every week.

This means no agent will take the time to figure out 1) if your story is saleable, and 2) if you are a skillful writer. You have to show them, right up front.

Agents read e-queries with finger poised over the delete key. If one of these two vital aspects is missing, off the query goes into cyber oblivion. The agent instantly moves on to the next one, ever hopeful.

Keep in mind agents want fabulous non-fiction and fiction manuscripts. They want to find skillful writers. Their business depends on being successful in this quest, which is why they click through query after query, always searching. 

Agents who do not accept email submissions have made a business choice. This doesn’t mean they’re relics or out of touch with current technology or ignoring the green movement toward paperless submissions. It simply means this is how they prefer to receive query letters.

Many believe that more “serious” writers are willing to spend the time and money to send a letter. Having to expend that extra energy and cash may discourage wannabes (not as committed to the craft of writing) who prefer e-queries because they’re quick and cheap to send.

Regardless of the “why,” this policy definitely cuts down on the number of submissions received.

One hard and true fact remains: whether you use email or snail mail to delivery your query, you must write those opening sentences as if your writing future hangs in the balance  . . . which it does.

You can sign up for Molli’s Free e-Query Mini Workbook by clicking this link

Hope this helps, Kathy


  1. It’s amazing ANYONE gets published these days… There is so much to think about, so much beyong your MS!

    BTW, thanks for your comment on my blog… do you think I can turn one of my postings into an article?

    I think you might be my number one cheerleader. It means a great deal to me!



  2. Sheri,

    Yah, I do think you could turn something from your blog into an article. Give it some thought.



  3. Great article! Thanks for sharing.


  4. While e-queries are cheap and easy, I feel they lack elegance. I like to write my query on high-quality, watermarked paper. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I can’t help but think that any query looks better on nice paper than pasted into the body of an email. If I have the option, I prefer to query via snail-mail despite the additional cost and trouble.


  5. Very helpful information, especially for me, as I am in the process of putting together a few Query Letters.


  6. Keith,

    Definitely take some time writing them. Sometimes they are so busy the query is your only opportunity to make an impression.

    Good luck,



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