Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Querying Tip: The Subject line

I wanted to write a brief article on that all important subject line of an email query. I think a lot of people don't realize how important it really is. A good subject line can get your query read faster! So... what makes a good subject line? *Note:*This is personal to me, other agents likely have different submission policies and preferences.

First off, I generally read queries from oldest to newest, but I skim daily to look out for anything that needs my attention such as offers of representation/publication, check-ins, and other requests. So to look out for these things that need my attention, I am scanning subject lines. Most subject lines say something like "Query" or "Submission" or "Looking for Agent." These are all very general. While you can't write much in a subject line I think it's best to make it clear what I'll be seeing when I open the email.

Here are some examples:

YA contemp. TITLE

MG fantasy TITLE

I want to know what genre and age group the query is for as well as the title. Don't try to pitch me in a subject line. I open all emails and read them. There's just not enough space in a subject line to pitch. So no Gossip Girl meets Hannibal in the subject (hmm...that intrigues me. I wonder if that could even work? :)

You don't need to say "Query from a Published Author" or anything about you in the subject line. That can be explained in the query itself.  But, if it's a referral or a conference submission or requested material you should note that:

Requested Material: TITLE
SCBWI NY submission: TITLE

I look at requested materials, conference submissions and referrals before other queries. I keep a list of what I'm participating in on my blog so if you want your query read faster try to get involved!

And if you have an offer of rep note that very prominently in the subject line:


As you're likely noticing, I keep mentioning to put the TITLE in the subject of your query email. While titles often change from query to published work, never underestimate the power of a good title. A good title can grab my interest in a subject line. Put the title after the genre and age group.

Don't waste space writing "query" or "submission" anywhere in your subject line. I have a query email that is separate from my main email. So I assume anything coming to that email is a query.

I have always been a genre girl, but right now I am looking primarily for YA and MG contemporary. I'm tough when it comes to taking on fantasy of any kind as it's an area I know well...so, it has to be that much better for me to take it on. My list is pretty full of dark projects at the moment. I have dark contemporary and horror, so I am very selective in these areas as well currently. But, of course, what I'm looking for at any given time will shift somewhat as I fill spaces on my list or the industry changes so check out my blog occasionally for updates!


  1. Thanks for the terrific tips Christa! I am always up in the air on what to include in the subject line. This is super helpful!

  2. I wanted to thank you for all the great information you have been providing. It is so helpful and I learn a little more each time!

  3. Thank you for being so clear about what you want to see in a subject line. Your blog is full of useful information.

  4. Christa, I recently sent you a query, but immediately after sending it I realized I did not mention anything in the subject line about it being an SCBWI Carolinas conference submission. Now I'm kicking myself. What should I do? Should I resubmit it with the appropriate subject line?

  5. So glad this was re-shared in SubItClub on Facebook! I've always put Query: Picture Book TITLE, but it wasn't for the agent, but for my own inbox to know where to send the reply. LOL, guess I'm being selfish... now that I know an agent's preference, I'd better figure out how to set up my inbox so it knows where to put my queries. :)