Back in my “How I Got an Agent” post, I promised to share a query tip on how to easily send out your query letters using Gmail’s Canned Responses feature. Whether your sending six query letters or sixty, this tool will help you save time and ensure that you always sending your letters with the proper formatting (which is tricky if you’re copy/pasting from Word every time).

Gmail Canned Responses lets you save an email as a template. You can then select to use this template for as many emails as you’d like. And yes, you need to use Gmail for this to work.

1. Activate the Canned Responses feature

Click the gear icon at the top-right hand of the screen, and then click Settings.

Gmail Settings Query Letter

Click the Labs tab. Do a search for “canned” to find the Canned Responses tool. Select the Enabled radio button. Then click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

Enable Canned Responses Query Letter

2. Make your query letter pretty

Paste your query letter into a new Compose window. You may want to save one template per most popular query submission requirement:

  • Query Letter
  • Query Letter + 1st Chapter
  • Query Letter + 1st 10 Pages
  • Query Letter + 1st 3 Chapters
  • Query Letter + 1st 25 pages

In this case, let’s just paste in the query letter itself. First, clear the formatting since Word can make your email look weird once you send the email. Just select all the text, then click the Formatting icon, then the Clear Formatting icon.

Clear Formatting Query Letter

Then make sure your paragraph breaks are pretty, the text looks right, etc.

3. Save the Canned Response

Click the More Options arrow (next to the trash can icon). Select Canned responses > New canned response…

Save Query Letter as Canned Response

Name this template “Query Letter” and save it. Repeat this process for each type of query submission requirement type. This will save you from needing to scroll through your manuscript OVER and OVER for the 1st chapter, 1st 10 pages, 1st three chapters, etc. all over again. Trust me, this would get tedious.

4. Use your “Query Letter” template

The next time you want to use your query letter template, spin up a new email. Then click the More Options arrow. Select Canned Responses > Query Letter (or whichever template you’d like to use). Be careful here — choose the Query Letter under Insert, not the one under Save, otherwise you’ll overwrite your template with a blank email.

Insert Query Letter

Before sending, remember to personalize the query letter with the agent’s name in the greeting. I also opened my query letter with:

“I understand from your [website/interview on] that you are interested in [genre].”

And then I included a simple sentence about why I thought my novel would be a good fit.

I hope that someone out there found this useful! If you have any more tips on query letter efficiency, please share them in the comments below.

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