Updated: Nov 28, 2022
What is a query letter?
The word "Query" comes from the Latin "Quaere," which means to "ask" or "inquire." So when you're writing a query letter, you are asking or inquiring about something.
When do you write a query letter?
When you want an agent/manager to consider you as a client, or you want a production company to consider your script. (I mean, you can also write a query letter to Matt Damon to ask if he'll leave his wife and marry you instead, but that's not really what we're talking about here.)
How do you write a query letter?
It's pretty simple. Here's a sample:
My name is James Cameron and I've written a feature called "Titanic," which is about a seventeen-year-old aristocrat who falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
I've worked as an art director, miniature-set builder, and process-projection supervisor on Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars and wrote and directed "The Terminator," a futuristic action-thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Additionally, I won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films' illustrious Saturn Award for Best Director for "True Lies."
If you are interested in reading my script, I'll send it along to you.
What if you have no credits or awards to write about?
This is why I urge writers to submit to competitions and festivals before writing one of these letters. Get yourself some recognition so you have something to say for yourself. Also, you might have some good things to share that you're not thinking about. Are you in high school, and you won some playwriting competition in 10th Grade? Use it. Are you 50 years old and you worked as a writers' assistant 25 years ago? If that's all you got, throw it in there! If you really have nothing to share, don't beat yourself up. Enter a competition. Become a finalist, and then write about that in your query letter. Afraid you won't place in a competition? Then maybe your script isn't ready to send out. Need help finding a competition? Check out my article on screenplay competitions here.