Publisher Peggy Tierney on the Question How Important is the Query Letter

The Importance of the Query Letter

Because Reading Your Manuscript Isn’t a Given

We all know that first impressions are important. For a job interview, you are going to don your professional clothes and meet your interviewer with a firm handshake and a smile. Any writer should see their query letter in much the same way.

It’s not enough for an agent or editor to see that you have skills, although writing skills are important. We also want to know that you will treat this as a professional endeavor. Publishing is a long process of a book being worked on by many professionals who need to be paid: editors, designers, photographers, illustrators, marketers, sales reps, publicists, and many others who are handling administrative work to keep the system going.

Keeping the business aspect in mind, here are my insights on what your query letter must include to open the door for your manuscript to be read.


While writing your book might have been a personal experience, the publishing process requires collaboration. Your tone should indicate that you will take a professional approach to the publishing process and be willing to work together with the publishing team.

Outstanding Writing

Show me that you are a great writer in your query letter. A letter that sparkles will not only motivate me to read your manuscript, but I will begin reading with the belief that you have a flair for writing.

An Understanding of Your Audience

Tell me who you are writing for – it’s the first step in the writing process. The most important aspect is the age range. Books are published for specific age ranges, and there are some general rules of length and content for each, which you should know.

A Succinct Synopsis

You should write a synopsis of your book, from one to three paragraphs in length, and it should grab my interest. If the synopsis is long and rambling, I am going to think the manuscript is going to be long and rambling as well, and I’m probably not going to keep reading.

Story Background

Tell me about any research you did, your connection to the story. If you are featuring a story or character of a race or nationality different than your own, tell me how you have ensured that your portrayal is authentic. It should involve personal consulting, not just reading up on any particular group of people.

An Understanding of  the Market

Tell me where your story fits into current children’s literature – what book is it like, but how is it different from existing books?

Your Background

How you are qualified? Have you had any other books published? Do you have a degree or are you a member of a writer’s association or group? Anything that gives me a sense of your writing background is helpful. Are you willing to help promote your books? Let me know if you are active on social media and have followers.

Contact Information

Be sure to include your contact information not only on the email but on the manuscript portion you attach. Things can get separated or accidentally deleted in emails.

Agents and editors receive a large number of manuscripts – hopefully the tips above will help yours stand out.