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Pursuing Publishers and Writing Query Letters: What You Need to Know

June 12, 2024 (Last Updated June 25, 2024)

Marcy G.

If you’re an author looking to be published by a traditional publishing company, there are steps you can take to submit your work. In the past, acquiring a literary agent was crucial, but the landscape has changed and there are smaller publishing companies (outside of the “big 5”) that are willing to accept inquiries without the help of an agent. You can take pursuing publishers into your own hands by submitting query letters.

Pursuing publishers and writing query letters are crucial steps in the journey to getting a book published. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process:


Pursuing Publishers

Research Publishers:

Identify the right publishers: Look for publishers that specialize in your genre. Resources like the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Writer's Digest can be helpful.

Check submission guidelines: Each publisher has specific submission guidelines. These can usually be found on their websites and must be followed meticulously.

Consider literary agents: Many large publishing houses only accept submissions through literary agents. Research and reach out to agents who represent your genre.


Prepare Your Manuscript:

Polish your work: Ensure your manuscript is complete, thoroughly edited, and proofread.

Format properly: Follow the standard manuscript format, including double-spacing, 12-point Times New Roman font, and 1-inch margins.


Create a Synopsis and Proposal:

Synopsis: A concise summary of your book, typically 1-2 pages long.

Book proposal: For non-fiction, a proposal is crucial. It includes an overview, chapter breakdown, market analysis, and author bio.


Writing Query Letters

A query letter is your first impression with a potential publisher or agent. It needs to be compelling and professional. Here’s how to structure it:


·      Your contact information at the top.

·      The date.

·      The recipient’s contact information (if available).


Opening Paragraph:

·      Start with a hook that grabs attention.

·      Mention why you are writing (i.e., seeking representation or publication).

·      State the title, genre, and word count of your manuscript.



·      Provide a brief summary of your story. Highlight the main plot points and central conflict.

·      Introduce the protagonist and other key characters.

·      Convey the tone and style of your book.


Author Bio:

·      Include relevant writing experience, publications, and credentials.

·      Mention any awards or recognitions you’ve received.



·      Thank the agent/publisher for their time and consideration.

·      Indicate that you are happy to send the complete manuscript or additional materials upon request.

·      Provide your contact information again.


Example Query Letter

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[City, State, Zip Code]

[Email Address]

[Phone Number]




[Agent/Publisher's Name]

[Agency/Publishing House Name]


[City, State, Zip Code]


Dear [Agent/Publisher’s Name],

I am seeking representation for my [genre] novel, [Title], complete at [word count] words. [Title] is a [brief genre description], and I believe it would be a great fit for your list.

[Title] follows [main character] as they [provide a brief summary of the plot and main conflict]. [Provide additional key plot points, stakes, and unique elements]. The novel explores themes of [themes], offering readers [unique aspect of your book].

I have [mention your writing credentials, relevant background, and any previously published work]. Enclosed [or attached, if emailing] are the first [number] pages of my manuscript, as per your submission guidelines.

Thank you for considering my work. I look forward to the possibility of working with you and am happy to provide the complete manuscript or any additional information upon request.



[Your Name]

[Email Address]

[Phone Number]


Additional Tips:

Personalize each query: Tailor each letter to the specific agent or publisher.

Be Professional: Maintain a professional tone throughout your query letter.

Follow up: If you haven’t heard back after the typical response time (usually 6-8 weeks), a polite follow-up email is appropriate.

By thoroughly researching publishers, preparing a polished manuscript, and crafting a compelling query letter, you’ll significantly increase your chances of getting published. Good luck!


Taking the Self-Publishing Route:

Now that we’ve discussed how to pursue a publisher and those steps, another option for authors is self-publishing. When you choose to self-publish, you are in charge of everything from formatting your book to marketing. While this may seem overwhelming, self-publishing a book has become a popular route for many authors. It can be difficult to catch the eye of a large publishing house; they are normally looking for authors with name recognition and guaranteed sales.

Self-publishing a book is also a great way to show publishing companies that there IS interest in your book once you have garnered some sales and reviews. You can always self-publish first then get picked up by a literary agent. Look no further than other best-selling authors like Colleen Hoover, E.L. James, or Andy Weir. These notable authors started by self-publishing their books before going on to selling millions of books through a publisher.

48 Hour Books can help you on your journey with high-quality book printing and self-publishing resources such as obtaining an ISBN and barcode so you can sell your books in stores or online. We also provide free book templates to help format your book, or you can pay to have our designers format your book for you or create your book cover.

Whether you decide to submit a query letter to publishers or self-publish, we wish you luck on your author journey!



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