Five things you might forget to include in your query letter

Guest blog by Gillian McAllister

When I was querying, I found there was almost too much material on the internet (especially because some other markets, like America, rely only on queries and not on sample chapters which puts a totally different emphasis on things). That being said, I thought it would be helpful to distil some of the less obvious tips I read into five key points.

1. Your word count

I wasn’t aware that the word-count should be included until quite a late stage, but it helps agents to flag at the earliest opportunity whether there is likely to be a problem. While word counts are not strict rules to be obeyed, under 60,000 or over 150,000 is very unusual, and it varies again within those for genre. Fantasy is likely to be longer, but if your crime/rom com/police procedural runs to 150,000 words it might cause an agent concern.

2. Whose readership you would like

Do not say your book is ‘the next Harry Potter’, but do feel free to state in whose genre you are writing, particularly if you are working across genres. There are hardly any writers who sit exactly in my genre and, if I were querying now, I would most certainly mention Liane Moriarty’s name.

3. The age of your protagonist

This isn’t always necessary. In a police procedural, for example, it matters less because saying it is a police procedural tells the agent all they need to know about where to place it on the shelf. But if you’re writing dystopia, the distinction between YA and adult is huge. Likewise, women’s fiction with a twenty-year-old protagonist is hugely different from something like Thursdays in the Park which features two people in their sixties. It goes quite a way towards identifying genre.

4. You book’s hook

Don’t say it’s crime fiction with a gripping twist. Tell the agent what the hook is: its USP, the central question which needs answering in your novel. State themes, for sure, but always, always, always state your novel’s hook.

5. Why that agent

It’s so easy to do a blanket submission, but a sentence or two about that specific agent – a work they represent, how good they are at Twitter, a blog piece they recently wrote, a book they sold – goes some way to getting you to stand out of the slush pile and getting your chapters taken as seriously as possible.

gillian-mcallisterGILLIAN McALLISTER‘s debut novel, Everything But The Truth  (Penguin Spring 2017) follows newly-pregnant Rachel, who slowly begins to realise that her boyfriend Jack is hiding a huge secret about his past. 

Gillian graduated with an English degree in 2006 and is now a lawyer with a large law firm. Her blog has been featured in various publications including Company magazine and Gillian is represented by literary agent Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson. Gillian tweets @GillianMAuthor and blogs at

More posts from Gillian:

Five ways to find time to write

Five ways to add tension to your novel

Five things I didn’t understand before I got my publishing deal

Five signs your book is ready to go out into the world  

Five ways to stay sane while out on submission

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