Bookselling Requires a Great Query Letter & It's Harder Than It Looks

This episode Jason talks to Angie Hodapp about her new book Query Craft, the Writer-in-the-Know Guide to Getting Your Manuscript Requested. The author is the Director of Literary Development at Nelson Literary Agency, where she acts as a conduit between authors pitching books and agents looking to represent them. Her new book is about the tool that authors use for pitching: the query letter.

Cover of Query Craft and the logo of the Castle Talk Podcast, used by permission
Cover of Query Craft and the logo of the Castle Talk Podcast, used by permission

The query letter is a single page—usually closer to half a page—whose purpose is to explain who the writer is and what their book is about. As Hodapp says, the letter has one goal: to get the agent to request the full manuscript, "period." It's harder than it looks. Agents receive thousands of letters and only respond to a small fraction.

Hodapp spent time explaining so many ways a query can go right or wrong. She talked about "comps," or comparative titles, the one or two existing books that the author's book is most like. Sometimes authors are afraid to mention comps because they don't think the comparison is close enough, or they mention too many– just another example of a challenge the author has to navigate to get the agent's eye. She also talked about tone, how authors can let emotions curdle a letter into a sort of complaint email, which defies the purpose of trying to get a follow-up. Hodapp frequently presents on writing and querying, and her advice is invaluable.

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Jason Henderson is the host of the Castle of Horror and Castle Talk Podcasts, the editor of the Castle of Horror Anthology series, and the author of Quest for the Nautilus: Young Captain Nemo from Macmillan Children's Books. His new horror novel, under the pseudonym Peyton Douglas, The Book Man, debuts on June 2.The_Book_Man_June_2

About Jason Henderson

Jason Henderson, author of the Young Captain Nemo (Macmillan Children's) and Alex Van Helsing (HarperTeen) series, earned his BA from University of Dallas in 1993 and his JD from Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., in 1996. His popular podcasts “Castle Talk” and “Castle of Horror” feature interviews and discussion panels made up of best-selling writers and artists from all genres. Henderson lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters.

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