How Can I Improve on This Query Letter to Literary Agents?

emailing nonfiction query letters to literary agents

Amelia Earhart - A Woman Who Wasn't Well-Behaved

Two years ago, my agent stopped trying to sell my nonfiction book because the biggest publishing houses rejected it. Now, I’m sending a revised query letter to different literary agents because I really really want to write this book (under contract with a book publisher)!

Back then, I was sorta relieved that a publisher didn’t buy it because I loved blogging full-time for “Quips and Tips. But now I’m ready to embark on a new writing adventure.

If you have any tips or thoughts on how I can improve this query letter, I’d be grateful!

Big or little comments welcome…the more critical, the better.

How Can I Improve on This e-Query Letter to Literary Agents?

Query – 101 Secrets From Women Who Weren’t Well-Behaved

Dear Powerful, Wise Literary Agent,

Take a traditional biography, add a twist, and what do you have? Practical, inspirational life tips for readers!

Most biographies or anthologies describe how people accomplished great things or survived incredible situations – but few offer magazine-sidebar style takeaways that enchant and delight.





“Well-behaved women rarely make history,” said Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. That’s because well-behaved women don’t rescue men in the Wild West, discover radium, or achieve Hollywood stardom after being fired from countless chorus lines. Well-behaved women don’t speed 300 miles/hour around a race track, trek in the Egyptian desert in full Victorian garb – and they certainly don’t soar into the mysterious unknown.

But, well-behaved women do have secrets…and we want to know them.

This book – SEE JANE SOAR – proudly features 101 short, snappy biographies of women who weren’t well-behaved, and weaves in specific life lessons for readers.

This book offers more than a glimpse into history, more than a nod to women who paved the way. SEE JANE SOAR spills the secrets of successful women and gives readers permission to pursue their dreams – whether they want to travel to India, apply for a business loan, or leave a bad relationship. (And, yes, many women need permission to act! I’ve heard countless women say, “I gave myself permission to…”)

Sometimes fearfully, always relentlessly, these women made their dreams come true. Let’s explore their personality traits and expose their secrets – and show readers how to create legacies of their own.


SEE JANE SOAR is a collection of inspirational biographies that offers practical life tips for female readers. This book profiles 101 historical and contemporary women in short, reader-friendly 500-700 word summaries. Each summary includes a magazine sidebar-style life application (~200 words), so readers can quickly and easily see what made these women successful. They can apply those secrets, tips, and strategies to their own lives.

SOAR Series potential

Why stop at SEE JANE SOAR? How about SEE JACK SOAR (life tips from men who made history), or even SEE SPOT SOAR (lessons from smart, courageous animals)? We could get even more specific, and highlight athletes, senior citizens, baby boomers, teenagers, people with disabilities, etc.

Also, this book could easily morph into a calendar or daily journal for holiday or first-day-of-school gifts.

My Bio and Platform – The “Adventurous Writer”

I’m Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen – The Adventurous Writer – a full-time freelance writer and blogger in Vancouver, BC, Canada. My work has appeared in magazines such as Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day, Writer’s Digest, Health, and More. My degrees are in Psychology and Education, from the University of Alberta in Canada.

I created and maintain the “Quips and Tips” network of blogs, including Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals; Quips and Tips for Successful Writers; Quips and Tips for Money and Love; and Quips and Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility.

I have almost 7,000 followers on Twitter (QuipsAndTips), several thousand blog followers, and am just breaking into Google Plus (Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen).

It needs some tweaking, but I also created the See Jane Soar blog. If SEE JANE SOAR has potential, I’ll revamp the blog to make it more appealing, with posts that better reflect the nature of the book.

Can I send you a book proposal, or answer any questions?

Thank you for your time!

Best regards,

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


Phone Number

So, fellow scribes…got any tips for improving this query letter?

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3 thoughts on “How Can I Improve on This Query Letter to Literary Agents?”

  1. Thanks for your comments! I am sorry I missed them, and am too late to respond. But ultimately this query letter failed; I did not land a literary agent with it.

    Maybe in my next life I will be a published writer…

  2. Only one comment – “it needs some tweaking” sounds weak, whereas everything else in the letter sounds strong. A pitch is no place for humilty, and you don’t want to end the pitch on a down note.
    Also, I hope you had a clean break with your previous agent.
    How does it look formated on paper? Is this one page or two?

  3. No tips, but I wanted yto say how impressed I was at the casual tone of the letter. Not having much experience with query letters, I probably let them intimidate me more than I should. It is obvious that you believe in your topic, have allowed plenty of room for growth, and can make each story enjoyable.

    My only question, as a reader: I would wonder how this can be inspirational if it is focusing on the women who were not well-behaved. I get it, but may not choose to purchase it if I was hoping to be inspired. Maybe the subtitle could say something about women who captured a spot in history, and why.

    Does that make sense?