How to Format a Query Letter

Nathan Bransford, TVWriter™’s favorite publishing know-it-all, has important advice on something all er writers hate and fear yet find ourselves doing anyway: The Beelzebubian torture  also known as  query letter writing.

by Nathan Bransford

SUBJECT LINE: Query – [Something that makes sense like your book title]

Dear Blog Readers,

This is how you format an e-mailed query letter. Note that I did not begin with the recipient’s address or my address or the date, as that is not customary for an e-mail. I also am not indenting because indenting and e-mails do not mix.

I am using block formatting. My BOOK TITLE is capitalized. I double space between paragraphs but otherwise the query is single-spaced. It is written in a default font, it is left-justified, and the font is a normal size and color. If I have copied from a word processing program or a past e-mail I am careful to have stripped any lingering formatting (pasting with Alt-Shift-Command-V can help). I haven’t added pictures or tried to get fancy with anything because I want the agent to see that I’m confident in my words and don’t need any gimmicks to make my query stand out.

Believe it or not, less than 25% of the e-queries I received when I was an agent were properly formatted. While you won’t get rejected if your query is incorrectly formatted, if you accomplish this simple task correctly you will convey an indispensable aura of professionalism.

And remember: the amount of time you spend formatting, coloring, bolding, italicizing, and adding pictures to your query is inversely proportional to how professional it looks when you’re finished.

Nathan Bransford (note that I didn’t leave space for a signature since it’s an e-mail)

My e-mail address
My phone number
(optional: my website)….

Read it all at

Need help with your book? Nathan is available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!

For my best advice, check out Nathan’s guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and his guide to publishing a book.

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