Many agents accept queries by email. While the basics are the same as if you were mailing the query, there are a few differences you’ll need to take into consideration. As always, you should check the agent’s guidelines before submitting as they may have specific instructions for what they want to see and how they want it sent.
Keep in mind that this is still a business letter even though it’s sent electronically instead of through the mail. If possible, use an email address that sounds professional, with your own name listed rather than your spouse’s or some cutesy user name.
Use a simple, readable black font, like Courier or Times New Roman, 12 point. Send the email as plain text to avoid problems with email clients that might be different from yours. Often emails contain odd symbols or gibberish when special formatting codes are included. (That frequently happens when cutting and pasting from a word processor into the email program.)
To: Try to use the exact email address of the person you are contacting rather than the agency email.
Subject: Never leave the subject line blank or your email will probably end up in the Spam folder. Put Query: Title of Your Book
Body of the Email:
There is no need to put the agent’s contact information in the email. Simply start with the formal salutation, with the name of the agent you are contacting, such as Dear Ms. Benedict:
The letter can be single-spaced. Use block paragraphs (no indenting), and leave an extra space between each of them. Include 3 or 4 paragraphs introducing your book, giving your pitch, telling a little about the story, and summarizing your credentials. Don’t forget to thank the agent, and tell them you look forward to hearing from them.
In closing simply use Sincerely, followed by a comma, double space, then type your name and put your address and phone number under it.
Do not include the URL for a blog or website unless it deals specifically with your writing. For instance, if you have writing clips posted on your site you might want to include that information so the agent can look at them.
Do not include attachments unless the guidelines state that they are acceptable. Some agents delete unsolicited email with attachments in order to cut down on potential viruses.
Edit March 18, 2010:
Agent Nathan Bransford posted an example of email query format today on his blog. The only thing I noticed different from what I have said is that he didn’t double space between his closing and signature.
Edit August 1, 2011: Agent Rachelle Gardner has a helpful post on her blog today about emailing queries.
Do you prefer querying by email, or snail mail? How do you keep track of your email submissions?