How to Insert Your Platform into a Query Letter


A mystery novel query letter to a literary agent should include four single-spaced paragraphs in its 250-word entirety. But there’s more that needs to be couched within those paragraphs than meets the eye — the platform, to be exact!

Prior to Paragraph 1, insert a greeting line: Dear Ms. Greenbaum,

Paragraph 1: Two-sentence description of why you are querying that particular agent (met at writers’ conference, researched that agent’s genre interests on Internet, found in Writer’s Market, referred by another author), along with the italicized title of your book and its word count,
Paragraph 2:  Forty to fifty word description of your novel, i.e. introduce your main character and immediately share her/his problem/choice, along with who wants to foil that character’s plan and why.
At the end of that paragraph, include your PLATFORM: list three themes in your novel that will spark interest in your readers, i.e. gardening, dogs, foreclosures, child abuse, terrorist attacks. You can also compare two authors, i.e. Dean Koontz meets Sara Paretsky, or compare two authors’ main characters — can’t help you on that one. I stink at recalling character names. Think of it like Wonder Woman meets Willy Wonka. Of course any comparison you use must flow with the tone of your book.

Paragraph 3: Tell the agent why you are qualified to write this book, i.e. speaking engagements, special interest, career, hobby, volunteer activity, education degree in that particular subject area.
Paragraph 4: Check submission guidelines before e-mailing or mailing your query. If agent only asks for this one document, ask if you may send the first-three chapters or a proposal of your manuscript. Sign off by saying: Looking forward to hearing from you….

Then sign off with:

telephone number
e-mail address
website address

How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter!


This month I’m teaching an on-line course for MWA Mystery Writers of America entitled How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter! The resources we’re using (See below) are thorough in the nuts & bolts of query letter construction, i.e. One single-spaced page of 250-300 words condensed into 3 to 4 paragraphs, a double space between paragraphs, each paragraph with a designated purpose, title and word count mentioned in first paragraph (80,000 to 100,000 wds. for adult, 40,000 to 60,000 for young adult), all typed in Times New Roman 12-pt. font size.

I used these same guidelines in my award-winning first novel Deadly Choices. Yet life is not just in the structure of a query letter, but in its overall “personality.” The gusto that inspires a literary agent to ask for the first three chapters of your manuscript rather than toss your letter into the land-fill. Tune in for more on this subject….

Writing a Successful Query Letter, Joe Moore, KILL ZONE blog, 3/11/2009
How to Write a Query, AGENT QUERY

Query Shark Blog, Janet Reid

How to Write a Query Letter for a Mystery Novel, Nancy Curteman blog, 11/4/2010