How to Query a Nonfiction Project
Most of the querying advice on the internet is geared towards pitching a fictional story. While the majority of query letters I receive are for fiction, I do receive a handful of nonfiction submissions. These are often misguided and lack the information that literary agents need to consider your project. If you’re thinking about querying a nonfiction project, here are the three things you need to include in your query letter:
Start with a captivating pitch. There’s a good chance that there are other books written on the same topic as yours. Tell us why yours is different. This pitch should only be 1-3 sentences. Be concise and creative!
Continue with an overview of the project. Just like a query for a fiction book will include a brief synopsis of the plot, a nonfiction query needs to have an overview of the project. Explain what the object of the book is, what some of the chapters will be, how the book will be formatted, etc. This information will vary depending on the type of book you’re working on, but give enough information so that the agent can understand your vision. Read the back cover copy of published books for inspiration. This section of your query shouldn’t be more than one paragraph.
Close with information about yourself. I prefer when all writers include an author bio at the end of a query letter, whether they’re pitching a fiction or nonfiction book, but it is especially important for nonfiction writers. You are your platform. Tell us what you do for a living, where you’ve been published, and why you are the right person to write about the topic of your book.
It’s true that you don’t have to have a complete book to query a nonfiction project. However, you do have to have a complete proposal ready. If an agent reads your query letter and is interested in the project, they will most likely request a proposal. Make sure you have that proposal ready to send as soon as it is requested. Want more information? Read my post on The 7 Sections of a Nonfiction Book Proposal.