Monday, July 9, 2012

The (awesome) Query Letter

The query letter. 

So many writers hate query letters. We have to sum up our book in less than 300 words. We have to make our characters and concept sound awesome in one tiny little email. One tiny email surrounded by a thousand other emails from hopeful writers.

It’s scary.

But I’ll let you in on a secret: I love the querying process.

I know, I’m WEIRD. But hear me out.

I used to work at a major talent agency. The agency represented everyone from the film editor of a movie to the major movie star. They represented a whole slew of screenwriters.

But still, I can't tell you how to get your screenplay in front of an agent. I could give you a few vague pointers (enter contests, look for managers who accept unsolicited submissions, hang out in front of cool-looking bars waving your script around in the air), but I have no concrete advice to give you. Even after working at a talent agency for three years, I can’t tell you how to get an agent to represent your screenplay.*

Novelists looking for an agent, I can tell you EXACTLY what to do.

Have a finished, polished, critiqued manuscript? Awesome. Write a letter and an agent will consider taking a look. In fact, lots of agents will consider taking a look. So many agents are open to query letters it’s almost overwhelming.

Are you going to get rejected? Yep. A lot, probably. I have a whole pile of rejections from the first time I queried. About 70 query letters sent, 3 measly requests, and 0 offers of representation.

But guess what? You can try again! (I know, my enthusiasm on this subject is annoying. Just roll with it, we’re almost done.)

Querying isn’t a one-shot thing. I wrote another book (REBOOT). I queried less agents with REBOOT and got way more responses. I got an offer of representation. I got a book deal.

I had no connections (I spent more time writing than networking at the talent agency where I worked), no published short stories, no huge blog following. But I had a finished, polished novel and I queried agents according to their guidelines.

And it worked. That’s a pretty awesome system, in my opinion. 

*It should be noted I was truly terrible talent agency assistant. Never take any advice I give about Hollywood. Except that bit about waving your script around in people’s faces. That totally works.**

**No it doesn’t.***

***Maybe it does. I really don’t know.

Amy Tintera is a full-time writer living in Los Angeles, CA. HarperTeen will publish her debut novel, REBOOT, in Summer 2013. Visit her website and blog: or follow her on Twitter: @amytintera


  1. I hadn't thought about querying this way before, but it's true! It's so... maybe "meritocratic" is the right word, or close enough. No matter who you are or who you know, if you've written a great book, it'll find a home, even though it may take a while.

    1. Yes! That's what I love about it. To me, it seems like if you just keep trying and working you'll eventually get there. :)

  2. I've also worked in the industry (haha, only in Hollywood can people refer to their line of business as "the" industry) and I completely agree: getting a screenplay in front of a film agent is so different from getting a novel in front of a lit agent. Worlds different! Thanks for the fun post.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one, Sarah! Part of me thought I just didn't learn anything at the agency because I wasn't into it.

  3. I'm going to take a script, go and wave it around out the front of some classy-looking cafe, and let you know how it goes :)

    Lol, I'm kidding. Or am I?

    Thanks for being so straightforward about the essence of querying here. I get what you mean. It's one of those, if you're ready, just go for it, sort of things. Just do it. And once I've finished getting the manuscript critiqued, I will. :)

    1. Wave the script around and tell me how it goes, Bonnee! (Hey, in Hollywood you never know.) And I definitely think querying is a "just go for it" sort of thing. A lot of writers get too scared and put it off. But it's not so bad!