As a professional writer and blogger, I know just how challenging it can be to write a query letter, especially when you have zero credentials to your name.
Here’s how to write a query letter with no credentials:
Write a query letter with no credentials by highlighting the strengths of your story, avoiding emphasis on your lack of experience, and personalizing your pitch. Don’t lie, apologize, or exaggerate. Submit to newer literary agents and expand your definition of credentials.
In this post, I’m going to share with you my top tips on how to write a query letter even if you have no experience.
Can You Write a Query Letter With No Credentials?
Yes, you absolutely can write a query letter with no credentials.
While having credentials or writing experience can certainly help your chances of landing a publishing deal or getting a literary agent, they are not absolutely necessary, especially for fiction.
Non-fiction projects may require credentials or experience, but for fiction, the most important thing is having a great idea and being able to present it well in your query letter.
However, there are certain things you should (and shouldn’t) do.
That’s where we are going next.
11 Tips for How To Write a Query Letter With No Credentials
It doesn’t matter if you have no credits, experience, or expertise. You can still write a query letter that is impactful and successful.
Here are my 11 best tips to keep in mind.
1) Simply Skip the Bio Section
When you don’t have any credentials to speak of, there’s no need to draw attention to it.
Simply skip the bio section altogether and focus on the important parts of your query letter, such as the pitch and the synopsis. Remember, the goal of a query letter is to entice the reader to request more material.
If you don’t have any impressive credits to highlight, then don’t draw attention to your lack of experience by including a bio.
Give more space and a spotlight to the other elements of your pitch.
2) Don’t Lie
It may be tempting to embellish your writing experience, but lying is never a good idea.
Literary agents and publishers can easily verify your writing credits, and if they catch you in a lie, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to work with you in the future. After all, your query letter is your first impression to a literary agent or publisher.
You want to start the relationship on a foundation of honesty and trust.
If you’ve only published a few articles in local newspapers or literary magazines, don’t claim to have written for major national publications.
Instead, emphasize your unique voice and the themes and ideas that drive your work.
3) Don’t Exaggerate
Just as you shouldn’t lie about your writing experience, you also shouldn’t exaggerate it.
Be honest about your credentials (or lack thereof) and focus on what you do have to offer: your writing itself. Literary agents and publishers are looking for talented writers with fresh perspectives and unique voices.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not; instead, focus on the strengths of your own writing style.
For example, if you’re pitching a memoir about your experiences growing up in a small town, don’t claim to be the next Joan Didion or David Sedaris.
Rather, focus on the unique elements of your own story and how they relate to larger themes and ideas.
4) Don’t Apologize
Don’t apologize for your lack of experience or credentials.
Doing so will only draw attention to your weaknesses and undermine your confidence. Don’t apologize for not having a long list of previous publications.
It’s much better to highlight what makes your writing stand out.
If you’re pitching a thriller that takes place in a unique setting, such as a remote island or an underground bunker, don’t say that you’re sorry for not having any previous novels published.
The agent only cares about why your story is worth their time.
5) Don’t Emphasize Your Lack of Experience
Emphasizing your lack of experience in your query letter can backfire and draw unnecessary attention to your weaknesses as a writer.
Avoid underscoring your lack of credentials, and certainly don’t give much time or space to it in your query letter. In fact, in my opinion, the best approach is to simply skip the section entirely.
By doing so, you make space for what you do offer to shine.
6) Highlight Your Story
One of the best ways to grab a literary agent or publisher’s attention is to highlight the most compelling elements of your story.
Focus on your main character, the conflict they face, the consequences of their actions, and the ticking clock that adds urgency to the plot.
Your query letter is your chance to sell your story and make the reader want to read more.
For example, pretend you’re pitching a thriller that takes place on a submarine. Focus on the high-stakes conflict between the crew members, the ticking clock of running out of oxygen, and the consequences of their actions if they don’t complete their mission.
Use powerful language to draw the reader in and make them feel the urgency of the situation.
If you do this right, the agent may not even notice you didn’t mention any credentials.
7) Lead With Personalization Pizzaz
Personalize your query letter to each literary agent or publisher you submit to.
Do your research and mention specific works they’ve represented or published that are similar in tone or genre to your own. This will show that you’ve done your homework and are serious about working with them.
Literary agents and publishers receive hundreds of query letters every day. Standing out from the crowd is essential.
For example, if you’re submitting a query letter to a literary agent who represents science fiction, mention specific works they’ve represented that are similar in tone or genre to your own.
This will show that you’ve done your research and understand the types of stories that interest them.
Use language that shows you’re excited to work with them and that you believe your story is a good fit for their list.
Again, your personalization can story can easily make up for any lack of publication credentials.
8) Compare Your Book With Other Books
If you want to “fill the space” for where your credentials would have been in a query letter, consider comparing your book with other popular books in the same genre.
While this is optional, it can work wonders.
A comparison gives literary agents and publishers a frame of reference for your work and helps them understand where your story fits into the market.
Also, comparing your book to other successful titles can help them understand where your book fits in the market.
Let’s imagine that you’re pitching a cozy mystery set in a small town. You can compare your book to other successful cozy mystery series such as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series.
This will show the agent that you understand the market for cozy mysteries and that your story fits into that genre.
9) Submit To Newer Literary Agents
While established literary agents and publishers may be hesitant to take a chance on a writer with no credentials, newer agents may be more willing to take a chance on a promising new author.
Newer agents may be looking to build their client list and may be more open to taking on a writer with less experience.
Submitting to newer agents can be a great way to get your foot in the door and start building a relationship with a literary agent.
As a debut novelist with no previous publications, research literary agents who are new to the industry or who are actively building their list. Sometimes agents even clearly state this in their bios or social media posts.
Similarly, look for agents who are interested in your genre and who have a track record of working with debut authors.
10) You Might Have More Credentials Than You Think
Think outside the box when it comes to your writing credentials.
Have you lived or visited the settings in your novel? Have you experienced the same health condition, challenge, setback, or lifestyle? Are you the same age as your protagonist?
These are all examples of writing experience that you could possibly use to your advantage in your query letter.
11) See Your Experience Level As a Strength
Finally, reframe your lack of credentials as a positive.
While you wouldn’t say it in a query letter, this mental reframe can help you feel better and more confident about the querying process. As a writer with no credentials, you are in good company.
Many now-famous authors started from scratch with no experience and no industry connections.
Don’t underestimate your potential or the power of optimism.
Check out this video I made that sums up how to write a query letter with no credentials:
Examples of Query Letters With No Credentials
When I’m learning, I love to see concrete examples.
So, here are three examples of query letters with no credentials. I hope they inspire you!
Example 1: Mystery Novel Query
Dear [Agent’s Name],
I am excited to submit my mystery novel, THE FORGOTTEN LIBRARY, for your consideration. Complete at 86,000 words, THE FORGOTTEN LIBRARY is a suspenseful mystery novel in the vein of The Da Vinci Code and The Name of the Rose.
When rare books dealer Amelia uncovers a long-forgotten library in an abandoned mansion, she can hardly believe her luck. The library contains some of the world’s most valuable and elusive books, including a long-lost volume of Shakespeare’s plays. But as Amelia begins to catalog the books, she realizes that something sinister is afoot. Someone is watching her every move, and the more she digs, the more dangerous the situation becomes.
Amelia enlists the help of her former boyfriend, Detective Jack, to unravel the mystery of the library. Together, they uncover a web of secrets and lies that spans centuries, from a medieval abbey to a modern-day cult. As they get closer to the truth, they realize that the library holds the key to a powerful and dangerous secret that someone will do anything to keep hidden.
I appreciate your consideration.
Example 2: Romance Novel Query
Dear [Agent Name],
I’m writing to you today to pitch my completed 90,000-word contemporary romance novel, LOVE IN THE TIME OF TACOS. Inspired by my own love for Mexican food and the vibrant culture that surrounds it, my novel tells the story of 27-year-old marketing exec Mia and her unexpected journey to finding love.
Mia is a workaholic with a passion for creating memorable ad campaigns. When she lands a coveted account with a local taco joint, she finds herself working closely with the restaurant’s owner, Carlos. The two clash initially, but as they spend more time together, they realize that they have a lot in common. Their mutual love of tacos brings them together, but as their relationship deepens, they must navigate the challenges of working together and the pressures of their individual careers.
As Mia and Carlos grow closer, they find themselves falling deeply in love. But when a past relationship threatens to tear them apart, they must make a choice: let go of the past and embrace their future together, or go their separate ways.
I have attached the first 10 pages of my manuscript and a synopsis for your consideration. Thank you for your time and I eagerly look forward to hearing from you.
Example 3: Fantasy Novel Query
Dear [Agent Name],
In a world where magical powers are granted to only a select few, my debut fantasy novel, THE KEEPER OF THE MOONSTONES, follows the journey of a 16-year-old orphan, Lyra, who discovers she possesses a rare and powerful gift. As someone who champions diverse and original voices in literature, I believe you would be the perfect agent to represent my work.
Lyra’s journey begins in the bustling city of Caelum, where she lives with her adoptive father and spends her days working in the local market. When she receives a mysterious message from a stranger claiming to have information about her past, she embarks on a dangerous quest to uncover the truth about her family and the source of her magical powers.
With the help of her trusty sidekick, a witty and sarcastic fire sprite named Ash, Lyra travels across treacherous mountains, through dark forests and deep caverns, and even to the depths of the ocean in search of the legendary moonstones that hold the key to unlocking her true potential.
As she delves deeper into her past, Lyra discovers that she is not alone in her quest for the moonstones. A powerful and malevolent sorcerer is also seeking the stones and will stop at nothing to obtain them and use their power for his own nefarious purposes.
With danger at every turn and time running out, Lyra must learn to harness her powers and face her fears if she hopes to save her world from falling into darkness.
As an avid fantasy reader and writer, I have been working on THE KEEPER OF THE MOONSTONES for several years and have honed my craft through writing courses and workshops. Attached, you will find the first three chapters and a synopsis of the manuscript. I believe this story has a strong commercial appeal, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to work with you in bringing it to a wider audience.
Final Thoughts: How to Write a Query Letter With No Credentials
The main thing I want you to take from this blog post (and these three examples) is that you can write a perfect query without credentials.
That’s right. Your lack of experience does not take “points” away from your query letter.
I’ve written a ton about query letters on this site – and in my Query Letter Swipe File book – so please check out the links below.
Read This Next: