6 Technical Steps to Remember When Formatting Your Query Letter

Sometimes I think that writers spend so much time writing, and re-writing, their query letters that they ignore all the smaller details. Even if your query sounds great, you need to pay attention to how you put that information together—and how it’s going to look on the other end of cyberspace. It’s important to consider how you are formatting your query letter, and how all those little technical things are going to impact your first impression with an agent.

Query letters don’t need to be formatted like an actual, professional letter. They still need to be professional, but there are certain limitations (and benefits) to living in the digital world. Here are six things to consider before sending out your query letter via email:

Do not use crazy fonts. You should be good using the default font for your email software. You want to use something basic so that the agent receiving your query will actually be able to read what you’ve written. Also avoid using wacky colours. Stick with black text.

Break up your paragraphs. One long paragraph is difficult to read. Break your query up into 2-4 sections. Don’t double space your lines (complicated formatting in an email is bound to cause problems); single space is fine when you have multiple paragraphs. 

Make sure your subject line is useful. Most of the queries I receive use “query” as the subject line. This gets really confusing really fast. There’s a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time thinking of the best possible title for your book. Show off that title in the subject line! It’s a great first introduction to your novel, and it will make agents’ lives much easier when they go searching for your query again. 

Include your contact information. I receive way too many query letters that have zero contact information included. Your email address is already obvious to me, but how else can I contact (or learn more about) you? Phone number, website link, blog link, social media accounts, etc. are all useful. 

Do not attach documents unless requested. Attaching unrequested material is the easiest way for your query to end up in the spam folder.

Check the profile image for your email account. I have seen some very interesting photos accompanying query letters. Most email programs show your profile picture beside your email address, so make sure your photo is a professional one (or at least not offensive). While you’re at it, make sure you’re using a professional email address; make a new account just for querying if you need to.