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Book Proposal: When to Send a Query Letter

book proposal coach lisa tener
Your Book Proposal Coach Lisa Tener

I just got off the phone with an aspiring author (I’ll call him John) who’d sent out forty query letters expecting it would take a while to hear back from agents. Within a day he’d heard back from several with yay (send your proposal) or nay. Now what? He confessed that his book proposal was hardly in shape to send.

So, here’s my first bit of advice. Don’t contact a single agent until you have a polished book proposal. Ideally, you’ve had it looked at by a professional book proposal editor or book proposal coach and gotten some detailed feedback.

But let’s say you’ve sent your query letter too soon and you’re in the same position as John. Thank the agent for her interest. Let her know that you’ve decided to work with a professional editor and that it will be x weeks before  she receives the proposal. Not ideal but better than sending something half baked.

John told me he wondered whether the agent were any good to respond so quickly. A quick response does not necessarily mean that the agent has no work to do. He may be especially efficient and organized. A quick look at Preditors and Editors showed that this agent was, in fact, highly recommended. Another reason not to blow the opportunity.

Recommended Resource

As you may know if you’ve read my other posts about book proposals, I highly recommend Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal. In addition, since the new edition of the book is not yet out, go to Mike’s website and look at the guidelines for the proposal on a page. Busy agents and editors often want to see an executive summary nowadays and Mike and Elizabeth have an excellent blue print for that in the proposal on a page.

Good luck. What are your book proposal questions? I’d love to hear from you (and am happy to provide an answer).

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Robin Gillette says

    Great article, Lisa. Very motivational to get working on my blog and website in terms of keeping them both current. I hope I’ll be ready to write a proposal soon.

  2. Rivvy Neshama says

    Just found your blog and enjoyed your comments. I wondered if you could advise if there are bad times to send a query letter. I have one ready, but I’m thinking it might not be good to send it out in late June before summer vacations begin, etcetera.
    I’d appreciate hearing what you think.


  3. William Paisley says

    Hello Lisa, I need a little help… I have an awesome Book proposal, which is due to your expert guidance(thank you!) and now I’m ready to send it out to agents, but not sure what the query letter is supposed to say or include to peak an agent’s interest. Could you point me in the right direction? Thanks again… you rock!

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