Query Letters and Book Proposals

When you’re ready to present your manuscript to an agent or publisher, it’s time to craft a successful query letter and/or book proposal.

Some years ago, Herta worked as the executive editor of a literary agency, where she received and read hundreds of query letters, book proposals, and manuscripts. At Chrysalis, she and Emily have written scores of query letters and book proposals for clients. We welcome the opportunity to help you compose one that will draw an agent or editor’s attention.

Query letters

For novels and short story collections you need a complete manuscript and a compelling query letter. Query letters follow a basic formula, which we can provide you, and once you’ve written a draft, we can help you polish it to perfection. They can be tricky though:

  • How do you summarize your book in one or two sentences?
  • How do you capture the interest of the agent or editor?
  • How much or how little should you write?

Book proposals

For non-fiction and memoir** manuscripts you don’t need to have a complete manuscript, but you will need to compose a book proposal. This is an entirely different beast. While you might write a query in a day (or two), a solid book proposal can easily consume a couple of weeks. If you’ve never written one, we recommend purchasing a book that can help you (there are many). For some of our favorites go to the Resources for Writers page of this website. Whether you are approaching agents or editors at a smaller press (that might not require an agent), it’s always necessary to have a well-written query and book proposal.

(**Sometimes agents or publishers do not require a book proposal for memoir, but if that’s the case, they usually require a full manuscript.)

We are skilled in evaluating each aspect of the proposal—from overviews, to chapter summaries, to market competition, to building an author platform.

With Chrysalis at your side, you’ll feel confident that your query letters are enticing, your book proposals substantive and complete, and that the agents and editors you approach are right for your project. We can help you create your proposal from scratch or revise an existing one. We can take care of some of the process or all of it, including giving you advice on how to negotiate fees and avoid scams.

Note: This service does not guarantee that you will find an agent or a publisher. Every agent and editor receives hundreds of manuscripts, and anyone who guarantees that yours will be chosen from the slush pile is not telling the truth. But we will do everything in our power to make the process more manageable.

Visit our Resources for Writers page for more tips on finding an agent or publisher.

Herta Feely is a pleasure to work with. She helped me compose a query letter that caught the eye of two New York City editors, both of whom asked to see my manuscript. She has a firm but gentle hand, and better yet, she has compassion for writer anxiety and can adjust her tone accordingly. I am extremely grateful to Herta. She has an astute eye for both macro and micro-editing, and I have been very pleased with the suggestions she has given me. I can’t imagine getting as far as I have without her help. Thank you Herta! I’m sure I’ll be back for more help soon enough. -Diana Friedman (novel, All That You Can Leave Behind)


I have worked with a number of editors during the last decade, but Herta has been the most versatile and talented of them all. Many big name editors I have worked with, who once worked as publishers, were great, but usually only at one or two things (plot or character, setting the scene or dialogue, etc.). Herta does it all, whatever you need, whatever your book needs, she can figure it out and help you on your way. I can’t say enough about her, though I fear she will become so popular it will become harder to schedule my work with her! 
-Rangeley Wallace
(novel, No Defense, St Martin’s Press)