Query Letter And Synopsis Worksheet: Our Free Download
Writing a successful query letter needn’t be hard work with our free resources, and easy to fill in template that will help you create the perfect letter and synopsis.
Not only can you query your manuscript with our cheat sheet, but you will also learn the best way to present your synopsis, format your query letter, and pitch your work in the most eye-catching way possible. After all, your email is a sales pitch to an agent – and if you can’t sell your book to them, how can you expect them to sell it to a publisher?
Download Our Query Letter Worksheet
You’ve written your novel and you’re happy with it. Congrats!
So what’s the next step?
Getting it published!
If you’re looking to go down the traditional publishing route, then that means approaching literary agents for representation.
Unfortunately, that is easier said than done…
But lucky for you, we at Jericho Writers have put together a FREE query letter and synopsis worksheet, a helpful guide to getting you a dream agent and your book published.
Searching For Literary Agents
If you want to see your book in the shop window of your favourite bookstore, the best way to achieve that is to be published by a traditional publisher. The only problem with that is that traditional publishers will only work with reputable literary agents – which means you need to find your own agent to rep you.
An agent represents authors and works hard matching them with the perfect publisher (as well as negotiating contracts, advance payment, foreign rights deals, and sometimes film deals).
Unfortunately for writers, most literary agents receive up to 300 manuscripts to consider per week. Can you imagine that?! That’s a lot of stories to wade through. And most agents only pick 2-3 authors to represent a YEAR!
So with odds like that against you, you and your book are going to need some help to get noticed. And that’s where we come in…
What Does An Agent Do?
No big five publisher (ie Macmillan, Harper Collins, Penguin, Hatchette, and Simon & Schuster) will accept a book directly from the writer (unless you are extremely famous). This is why you need a literary agent.
Agents are the middle people between you and the top publishers. They will help you perfect your manuscript, and get it ready to go on submission.
Going On Submission
Going ‘on sub’ means your agent pitching your book to editors at the right publishing houses. If an editor is interested, the agents will then negotiate a contract with them, always ensuring you are fairly represented. Sometimes it even goes to auction, which means you may get more than one offer which your agent with also negotiate.
Agents receive a 15% commission of any advance a writer received and from their royalties. They also manage your finances and chase publishers and anyone else they work with for money due.
This may seem a big cut, but considering you can’t go to the big publishers directly, and those editors pay the most, it’s definitely worth having an expert by your side!
Agents will also sell your book rights to publishers in other countries, and they can organise the option of TV and film rights to your work, along with other formats including audio and digital.
If there are any problems with your publisher (ie you are unhappy with the cover, book title, or working relationship), they will also step in and liaise.
In short, a good agent is hard to secure but will be by your side throughout your writing career. So choose wisely!
How To Get Traditionally Published
One of the questions we are asked the most at Jericho Writers is ‘how can I get traditionally published’? The answer to that is ‘it’s really easy…and really difficult’.
Writers ready to query are often so enthused that they have reached the end of their manuscript, that they rush to send it off to agents expecting to be a bestseller the following year. Unfortunately, it’s not that straight forward and there are a lot of things you must do before your book hits the high street.
Here’s our guide to getting traditionally published in six simple steps.
Write A Great Book
Yes, this is the hardest step.
A ‘great’ book is a subjective term and, of course, what doesn’t interest one agent may sweep another way. But before you consider approaching a literary agency it’s really important that your book is written correctly.
- You are confident about the genre
- Your word count matches the genre (no agent is going to read a middle grade book with 167,000 words)
- It has a clear beginning, middle and end (check out our plotting guide and Save The Cat worksheets for help with structure and pacing)
- You need to have a clear pitch, theme and storyline
- You need memorable and fleshed-out characters
And that’s all before we talk about language, grammar and spelling…
Use An Editor
Once your manuscript is ready, we strongly recommend you work with an editor to get it into great shape. Your book being edited doesn’t mean it’s not good. All bestselling books need to be edited, and even once your agent sells your story to a publisher, it will also go through at least three rounds of edits. So get used to your story being pulled apart!
Editors look at the structure, they make sure the pacing works, and the characters are strong. They may suggest you add more chapters in places, or cut words in other places. Their job is to ensure your book is as good as it can be by the time it’s seen by an agent.
If you can’t afford to get your book professionally edited, then ask your book-loving friends and family to beta-read it – but be prepared to hear things you don’t like.
Try not to see the feedback as criticism but as others helping you, because the chances are that what they think of your manuscript is the same as what an agent will think.
Write A Synopsis
The hardest part of selling your novel to an agent is trying to condense the plot to less than 500 words!
But writing a synopsis is crucial when querying agents. Most agents request just the first three chapters of your work (a good indication of your writing style and ability), and after that, they will read the synopsis to decide whether it’s the type of story they are interested in selling.
If you can hook an agent with your first three chapters and synopsis, they will ask for a full request. That means they’re eager to read the entire book! That’s a really good sign and what you should aim for, so it’s important to get the synopsis right.
Do Your Research
The next stage is to research agents. Members of Jericho Writers get exclusive access to our database of thousands of agents around the world, where you can choose one based on genre, experience and other authors they represent.
Alternatively, you can look at the acknowledgement section of similar books and see who your favourite authors are represented by. You can also Google and join the writing communities on social media (Twitter is great for authors and agents).
Free plotting worksheets
Make the hardest part of writing so much easier with our free plotting worksheets.
Get Your Query Letter Ready
Once you have a list of agents in place and you’re confident about your manuscript and synopsis, the next stage is to write your query letter.
Query letters follow a specific format and should ideally include:
- The title of your book
- A short one or two-line pitch
- The genre and word count
- A comparative book example or two (this helps the agent with market positioning)
- An outline of your plot
- Some info about the main character and their motivation
- Some information about you (past writing experience, accolades, why you wrote this story)
- Your contact details
Please email queries, do not post. It’s very rare for an agent to request printed manuscripts!
It’s OK to approach multiple agents at once, in fact, a batch of around 6 is a good idea. But don’t send it to all of them at once (as tempting as it may be) for two reasons:
- You may get feedback and will want to adjust your work
- If you’ve had no luck with a handful of agents, something needs to be tweaked. Don’t use up all your favourites at once!
Trying to get a good fit for your book is vital. No agent is better than the wrong agent.
You will need to query as many times as it takes to find a match, but always ensure you are adjusting the letter, synopsis and even the manuscript as you go.
Top Tips For Writing A Submission Email
Never send a cut and paste copy of your submission email queries to every agent on your list. It’s important to hand pick the right agent for your work, and ensure they know you understand what they’re looking for.
Here are a few other things to bear in mind:
Check What Your Literary Agent Wants
You’ll need to adapt this letter for different agents. Don’t forget to change agents’ names!
Adopt The Tone Of A Capable, Professional Author
Keep it succinct. Agents’ time is limited, so don’t ramble. Don’t sound apologetic, and don’t sound arrogant. Keep the focus on your story, not yourself.
Take Care With Language
Proofread carefully. Avoid awkward sentencing, poor punctuation, and subtle typos. You are seeking to market yourself as a writer, so don’t let yourself down with obvious mistakes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does A Query Letter Include A Synopsis?
Yes, a synopsis of approx 400-500 words is always part of a query letter.
Most agents ask for just the first three chapters or ten thousand words of your novel. This is so they can make a fast assessment of your work and look at the quality of your writing – but they still need to know what the story is about before they ask to read more.
Your synopsis doesn’t have to be exciting, it just needs to explain the plot (including the climax and resolution), contain a little bit about the characters, and detail every twist and turn. Spoilers should not be left out!
What Are The 7 Steps To Write A Query Letter?
- Start the query with a friendly greeting. ‘Dear (first name)’ is sufficient.
- Personalise your letter so the agent knows you picked them specifically.
- Write a captivating “hook” for the book. This should be a 1-2 sentence pitch.
- Include a brief story outline.
- Include your author credentials (courses you have attended, published work, awards etc).
- Thank the agent kindly.
- Proofread the letter, the synopsis and the manuscript before sending (and make sure the agent’s name is correct!)
How Long Should A Synopsis Be For A Query Letter?
A synopsis should be approx 400-500 words, no more than a page long (perhaps a bit longer if you’re writing epic fantasy with a big word count).
Top tip: It’s a lot easier to write a synopsis BEFORE you write your book because at that stage you are already aware of the skeleton of your story and the key twists and turns. It’s much harder, once you are distracted by amusing scenes, deep characterisation, and your favourite dialogue, to then condense a 90k word book into just 400 words.
Go Get That Agent!
We hope you now have everything you need to find the perfect agent to represent your book to traditional publishers. Don’t forget to download our FREE worksheet to help you on your way!
The most important thing to remember is that, when querying agents, you must remain open-minded.
Be prepared to receive criticism and rejection, and be open to editing your manuscript, synopsis and letter to ensure your book gets the best chance of being picked up and represented by the best agent for you!
Free plotting worksheets
Make the hardest part of writing so much easier with our free plotting worksheets.