The query letter that got me FOUR offers of representation from literary agents—and why it worked

The query letter that got me FOUR offers of representation from literary agents—and why it worked

One of the best things I ever did for myself as a querying writer was get strategic about how I was writing my query letter—and it paid off with a query letter that really worked. I ended up with a whopping 47% request rate, and yielded a total of four offers of representation!

Compare that to the 12% and 7% request rates I had on previous projects that I queried, and it’s easy to see how giving attention to your query can really pay off.

Me cracking open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate when I signed my agency agreement!

At the end of the day, it’s your whole query package—query letter, synopsis, sample pages, and anything else the literary agent asks for—that combines to get you an offer of representation. Advice runs rampant for how to write an effective query letter, but as one of the most common writing rules tells us, it’s better to show than tell!

In this post, I’ll show you my example of a query letter that worked. Then I’ll break down the strategy behind every sentence, so you can learn to write an effective query that will have agents salivating over your work!

Here’s my query:

Dear [agent],

I was so pleased to see cozy fantasy on your wish list, and I’m thrilled to throw my hat into the ring with my adult cozy fantasy, VIOLET THISTLETHWAITE IS NOT A VILLAIN ANYMORE. 

After the evil sorcerer that Violet has served her entire life is vanquished, all she wants is a chance to start over and set down some roots that sprout peonies instead of poisons for once. She settles in the town of Dragon’s Rest, where she hopes to open a flower shop, keep her sentient (and mildly homicidal) pet houseplant out of trouble, and cold-turkey quit the use of dark magic after a lifetime of villainy. Simple, right?

Violet’s vibrant bouquets and feats of plant magic soon charm the welcoming townsfolk, although nothing she does seems to impress Nathaniel Marsh, the prickly-yet-handsome alchemist who shares her greenhouse and is desperately seeking a second chance of his own. 

But just as Violet starts to think she’s pruned away all the thorns of her nefarious former life, a mysterious blight threatens her new home. Violet and Nathaniel must work together through their fears, their pasts, and their growing feelings for one another to save their community. And when a figure from Violet’s past comes knocking on her door, threatening to expose her secret and destroy everything she’s built, Violet is forced to face whether a villain like her ever truly deserves to grow her own happily ever after.

VIOLET THISTLETHWAITE IS NOT A VILLAIN ANYMORE is an 80,000-word cozy fantasy romance about second chances, found family, and redemption. Bursting with cottagecore garden imagery, compelling stakes, big emotions, and spice (and I’m not talking the spices you grow in a garden), VIOLET THISTLETHWAITE is perfect for adult readers who loved the warm community of LEGENDS & LATTES, the sweet-and-spicy romance of THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY, and the immersive lore of EMILY WILDE’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FAERIES. Given its initial success as well as the growing need for gentle escapism, cozy fantasy as a genre is here to stay. By fusing it with the rabid romance reader base and the powerful zeitgeist that is Booktok, VIOLET THISTLETHWAITE is well poised to bloom in an even larger market.

I’m a bestselling ghostwriter, editor, and award-winning book coach who has worked with hundreds of authors as they write, edit, and publish their books. I’ve worked on projects that have sold for six figures to Big 5 publishers and been featured on the USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, Wall Street Journal, and LA Times best sellers lists. Outside of my day job, I teach about writing and decorate bookish cakes to my social media following of 8K across platforms. I live in beautiful Denver, CO, and spend as much time hiking and traveling as possible—I find it’s much easier to pretend I’m a character in a book that way.

Thank you for your consideration,

Emily Krempholtz

Why did this query letter work?

Below, I’ll break down exactly why the example query letter above worked as well as it did. See if you can figure it out yourself before I give away the answer below:

"Anatomy of a Query Letter" graphic breaks down Emily's query letter and shows how each part of the letter exemplifies the following:
- Why I queried the agent
- Genre, audience, and title of book
- Inciting Incident
- Who is the protagonist?
- What does the protagonist want?
- What is she doing to try and get what she wants?
- What is getting in the way of the protagonist and her goal?
- What's at stake if she fails?
- Meta data: length of book, genre, etc.
- Comp titles
- Why will this book succeed in today's market?
- Who are you (the author) and what is your relevant experience?
- A brief personal fact
- Polite sign-off

See how virtually every part of the example query letter serves a specific, unique purpose? See how the blurb about the plot speaks to both the protagonist’s external and internal character arc?

When you’re writing your query letter, thinking strategically about the above tips in that graphic will allow you to serve purpose along with your content. And when every word of your query letter has been written with intentionality and strategy, you’ll start to see those requests rolling in. Eventually, your query letter will work too, I promise!

If you’re looking for more tips on how to write a successful query letter, check out the rest of my series on the querying process, or subscribe to Pen Pals: The Newsletter for Writers Who Mean Business, for some biweekly inspiration and tips on writing and publishing, right in your inbox!

Interested in learning more about Violet Thistlethwaite Is Not a Villain Anymore or any of my other writing projects? Watch this space or follow me on social media for updates on my publishing journey!