To capture an agent’s or publisher’s attention with your query letter, begin with the end in mind. The best queries irrefutably answer the most critical question for any book published today: Why should someone pay up to $28 for your book?
With this end result in mind, you can reverse-engineer: First identify, then highlight the key components of your book that will stop a reader (or agent!) in their tracks.
In your query letter, describe your book as you would in its description on Amazon. (No matter what an agency’s guidelines say, there is no tool more proven to sell books than Amazon.)
You can also use Amazon to search for similar books in the same genre. You’ve now landed on some compelling comparative titles (or “comps,” which are necessary to include in your letter). Like Hollywood, publishing is a lookalike business. If your book resembles other popular titles, your chances of persuading an agent to take you on as a client increase. As I explain in my book, Get Signed: Find an Agent, Land a Book Deal, and Become a Published Author (Hay House, February 2024), comps have to be a good fit, not a perfect fit. You will also need what I call “the differentiator”—an element that sets it apart from other titles—to help your book stand out in a crowd.
—Lucinda Halpern, founder, Lucinda Literary