YOU KNOW YOUR QUERY LETTER SUCKS WHEN ... You Haven't Grabbed Them Emotionally

When reading this series of articles from my good friend Jeff Rivera, please substitute "agent" for "publisher" and follow his advice to send us a query letter we'll be excited to read. ~Cheryl Tardif, publisher

YOU KNOW YOUR QUERY LETTER SUCKS WHEN ... You Haven't Grabbed Them Emotionally

by Jeff Rivera, founder of

I love going to the movies. Chomping on the popcorn, being so engaged with the film that for two hours (and sometimes dreadfully much longer) you forget about your worries and strife and if you're lucky, you're swept away on an emotional journey that takes your breath away.

People want to feel the same way when they read your memoir or your novel and believe it or not, agents would love to feel the same way when they read your query letter.

Your query letter is supposed to be an example of your storytelling skills. But let's be honest, what if your story is just another Da Vinci Code knock off? What can you do to really grab the agent in that very first sentence?

I've ghost written over 100 query letters for clients and all of them, 100%, have gotten at least 10 top agents to request to read their manuscripts.

When I run across a client who's weak on spaghetti sauce but heavy on spaghetti, then I know that I need to dig a little deeper. Sometimes the selling point is the author themselves. Their backstory is much more interesting than the actual story they're telling.

I once had a client who had written a book of poetry, which anyone will tell you is the hardest thing to sell for an agent right next to a collection of short stories, yet his backstory of success from the tough streets of South Chicago to being an incredibly successful broadcast executive was so powerful, I just had to include that in the query letter.

The result? Over 30 clients requested to read his manuscript. In fact, you can read his query letter here:

Use this technique and you'll be one step closer to landing an agent.

If you would like to see an example of query letters that worked, visit:

Jeff Rivera is the founder of He and his works have been featured or mentioned in Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, Mediabistro, Los Angeles Times, New York Observer, NPR and many other media outlets.