In Search of the Perfect Query

Carmen Ferreiro Esteban





Dear Agent Number Three,

I just finished writing my new novel, All Agents Are Fools and So Are You Too, and was wondering if you’d like to represent me.

I hope you are smarter than the previous two agents I queried as they sent me a standard rejection letter. Obviously, either they didn’t read my novel or they were too stupid to appreciate it.

On the other hand, the members of my Book Club, all seasoned readers, couldn’t put it down and agreed it is a most excellent novel, destined to become a bestseller and/or win the Pulitzer Prize.

All Agents Are Fools and So Are You Too is a complex story that defies summarization. So I will not attempt to do so. Instead I’m sending it to you here as an attachment. I would recommend that you print it (it is only two thousands pages short) and take it home with you so you can appreciate it in full.

I will call you tomorrow at dinner time on your cell phone to see if you have received it.

Looking forward to signing your contract.

Yours truly, 

Best Author Ever


As I promised to Bella Nona, this blog is about queries.

A query is probably the most difficult piece of writing you’d ever attempt. But write it you must, if you want to lure an agent into reading your manuscript.

My first advice about writing a query is that you take your time. If you have already invested one, two, three years writing your novel, what are a few more weeks of waiting while you perfect your query?

After all, you don’t want your query to read like the one above, now, do you?

What is wrong with that query? you wonder.

Well, although there is nothing grammatically incorrect with it, some agents may find it a little too aggressive. Others could take offense at your insulting two of their colleagues. They may even know them personally and that would be embarrassing.

Also agents do like the query letter to include a summary of the book, and most do not accept e-mails with attachments unless they have requested them. And, believe it or not, they don’t like to be bothered while having dinner.

You only have about 250 words to convey the awesomeness of your book. Make every word count and get rid of superfluous ones. Adjectives and adverbs are prime suspects here, and should be ‘mercilessly’ eliminated. For instance, you don’t need to say you finished a ‘new’ novel. If you just finished it, could it be any other thing but new?

So now that we know what not to say in a query, I will proceed to write a perfect one, or at least a ‘perfectly serious’ one, and post it here next week.

 Until then, enjoy your writing.

 Carmen Ferreiro Esteban


  1. June 23, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Carmen, I laughed my way through the sample query. It’s a good thing we don’t know before we write a book how hard it is to write a query. You’ve put the whole thing in perspective. Nice post.

  2. June 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks Sandy.
    If only agents would believe us when we say our book is ‘really’ good and not make us prove it before they even bother to read it.
    Then again, life wouldn’t be half as much fun without the struggle.
    Have fun.

  3. chrysa smith said,

    June 23, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Nice teaching tool. Did you create that yourself?
    It reminds me of that movie: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
    can’t wait to see the perfect example next week.

    • June 23, 2009 at 10:26 pm

      Hi Chrysa,
      Yeap. Wrote it all by myself. Send it too.
      I don’t understand why I still don’t have an agent.

  4. maryfranbontempo said,

    June 24, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Hahahaha! Loved the sample query, Carmen. I’ve always wanted to write a column entitled, “What I Really Wanted to Say Was…” and that would certainly fit the bill. More important, you’ve touched on the lifeline to having your book read–the well written query. Looking forward to reading the “real stuff” next week.

    Mary Fran

    • June 24, 2009 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks Mary Fran.
      I am also looking forward to reading the perfect query.
      Just hoping someone would write it and send it to me.

  5. Marielena said,

    June 24, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    The title of the book in your “perfect query letter” made me burst out laughing! Thanks for the smiles on an otherwise dreary work day. It reminds me of that TV show “what not to wear,” only this is “what not to write.” Thanks, again! Marielena

  6. July 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I wonder what would happen if you sat down and wrote a query about a made-up book, but put all the suspense, power and magic you could into the summary, so it sounded like a perfectly unbeatable book – and THEN wrote the book? Sort of like doing one of those maze games in the newspaper by starting at the end of the maze and finding your way out!

    • July 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm


      Great minds think alike.
      I tried that not writing a query, but writing a first page (see my blog entrance A Killer Beginning). The problem was that later I was unable to continue the story.

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