If you familiarize yourself with the best practices of writing a query letter, use your best judgment, and act in good faith and send the best query you can you’re going to be fine and there’s no need to sweat the tiny details.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a nearly identical post by agent Michael Bourret.
It’s not about the details.
Only…. it kind of is.
I mean, it is and isn’t.
The details that matter
It isn’t about the details in the sense that there really is no such thing as an instant rejection if you make a query faux pas. Literary agents are going to take everything into account when making a decision, and just because you, say, started with a rhetorical question doesn’t mean you will automatically be rejected.
It is about the details in the sense that literary agents are making a decision based on a short letter and maybe some sample pages and so of course it’s about the details.
But which details to sweat and which details to not sweat?
Here’s my sweat list.
Around the right length, a reasonable font at 10 or 12 points, broken into reasonable paragraphs, no fiddling with margins, pictures, indenting, colors, etc.
Just a clean, professional-looking letter.
Don’t sweat if it’s a little long or a little short, and definitely do not start messing around to try and make it look creative or different. When it comes to letters, “creative” tends to look “insane.” It’s like showing up to a job interview in a clown costume. When you’re formatting your query: wear a boring suit.
The description of your work
Get it right. Get it right, get it right, get it right. Get it right. Sweat this. This is what we care about. We’re looking for a good story idea and good writing, and you want both to jump out in the query.
Annnnd, we’re done!
All that other stuff like credits, genre, word count, series, etc. etc. etc.? Sure, great if you can sort through an agent’s pet peeves and get yourself in the ballpark of the right genre, and every little bit helps if you can show that you’re cool and professional and know what you’re doing.
But when it comes down to it: use your best judgment and get the big stuff right. All the rest is gravy.
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Art: Looking Up the Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt