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Thank You for Your Time

One time, long ago, I said that I don’t like people to thank me for my time in query letters. And wow, what a mistake that was. I think that of all the things I have written this is the one that has created the most problems and the biggest misunderstandings. I’ve seen other bloggers comment on it, I’ve seen rages on message boards, and I’ve listened to how people will never submit to me because of it. If this isn’t proof of how blown out of proportion things can get, I don’t know what is.

So while I’ve sat back for more than a year, slightly amused and bemused by the entire thing, I’ve finally decided once and for all that it’s time to set the record straight. I am the queen of thank-you notes. Certainly I’m not perfect and have missed a few in my time, but for the most part I make every attempt possible to send out a handwritten thank-you note whenever necessary. Which is why this little urban legend about how Jessica Faust hates being thanked is really very amusing, and of course how it’s gotten out of hand is bemusing.

The entire myth started here during a query critique workshop. Granted, my wording was harsh and snarky and for that I’ll take full responsibility. I do believe, however, as is often the case, that readers didn’t fully read what I was saying or understood why I was saying it. I was asked to critique a query and help make it as strong as I possibly could and, in doing so, the wrath of writers came down on me.

So what did I really mean? The truth is that I don’t believe you should ever begin a query letter by thanking me “for my time.” It’s not that I think it’s stupid for you to do and I certainly won’t reject you simply because of it, but I don’t think it puts your strongest foot forward. I write a lot of query letters and with each one I’m very careful about every single word I use. This is a marketing pitch, and like marketing managers everywhere I need to truly understand the power of words and how a simple word, phrase, or sentence can change the tone of an entire letter. With a query I want to strongly come forward and say, “this is the best book you’ll ever read,” and thanking someone up front doesn’t do that. Opening your query with a thank-you puts you in a subservient position no matter which way you look at it. Think of it this way: if you are going in for a job interview, do you think you’ll appear as the strongest, best candidate if you walk in and immediate thank the interviewer for her time or will you appear strong and assured if you walk in, shake hands, and simply introduce yourself? To me the introduction seems stronger. It puts you on even ground and says to the interviewer that you know what you are doing. At the end of the interview, when the interviewer has clearly given you her time, you definitely say thank you, and so should she.

However, queries are not job interviews. They are resumes, and thanking someone in that initial query seems silly. You aren’t getting anything from them to thank them for. They aren’t reading your work and might not even read your full query. If, however, I’ve requested and read a partial or a full, a thank-you is definitely called for. Why not? Now I have done something for you. I have made a request.

When writing my own queries I tend not to thank editors for their time because it implies they are superior to me and their time is more valuable. Does that mean I don’t say thank you? No, but it’s how the phrasing is used and when. I think it’s much stronger to end a letter with something like, “Looking forward to hearing from you,” or, simply, “Thank you,” but not “Thank you for your time.” In truth, though, I rarely put a thank-you in my initial query. Editors and agents are open to queries and I don’t see the need to thank them for that. It’s because of writers that we have jobs. We should be thanking you for querying us. However, in my case, if I have pitched the book and an editor is requesting to see it, then I will definitely send a thank-you. Something along the lines of, “Here it is. Can’t wait to hear what you think. Thanks!” Because now I actually have something to thank them for. Simply thanking them because they allow me to send a query doesn’t feel right to me somehow.

I’m no expert on etiquette and certainly don’t pretend to be. And frankly, I like being thanked, and if you are comfortable writing a thank-you in every paragraph of your query, go right ahead. My point with the original post, and this one, was not to tell you the rules of when or when not to thank someone. I don’t know those. My point was to help write a strong, marketable query letter that makes me sit up and think, “Wow, this person really believes in her book, it must be something I shouldn’t miss.”

I’m not sure if I made things better or just made things a whole lot worse. I’m starting to spin in circles on this subject myself. Either way, thank you for letting me clear the air.


Category: Blog



  1. Interesting, but I think you’re right.
    It’s like apologizing for bothering someone. Just ask.
    I guess I’m taking the thank you out of my query since I never felt it was strong anyway.

  2. and I thought it was “I look forward to hearing from you” that annoyed agents. I don’t see any problem thanking an agent for their time and consideration at the CLOSE of the letter. That, to me, is just good manners. But I get your point about the upfront “pick me! pick me!” groveling -implied position of that sentiment. A person needs to appear confident and secure–but the query process can be/is demeaning–it tends to beat a person down, so I can see how some people might come across as desperate–because they are! I would assume if the letter knocked your socks off after that, you wouldn’t discount it for this reason as that would be petty. And I don’t think you are being petty–I think you are trying to get people to remove something that can be potentially damaging. But I can see where you are damned if you do or don’t in this case–people will interpret this as another picky, petty, agent thing–but I get it!

  3. I also agree that at the start of a letter it does sound weak. At the end of a letter, it is just courtesy.

    I’ve always ended my letters with a thank you. It feels like a handshake before I leave the room, nothing more than a nice and polite way to exit. Without a thank you, I’m afraid some queries might come off as a bit arrogant.

  4. You’re welcome. Kidding.

    When I first saw that query, I thought it was the closing paragraph. Even so, your point was taken.

    I thought of that post while querying last year.

  5. I look at querying as a combination job application/request for proposals.

    The agent/author relationship is an odd one because the agent initially is “the boss” (ie, deciding what clients to take on) but then (as the name “client” suggests) the author becomes “the boss” because the agent works for the author to get the best deal for his or her books.

    The query letter, therefore, needs to be one part “please take me on” (job application) and one part “tell me how you’ll represent me well” (request for proposal).

    I’ve been on both sides of those two forms of communication, and yet I still have tonnes of trouble writing the query letter, especially ending it. Now that the thank you option is gone and the “look forward to hearing from you” is out for other agents, what’s left? Accept me as a client and we’ll get super-rich together…? {grin}

  6. Jessica — THANK YOU for your original post on thank yous. Because of that, I took the thank you off the ending of my query and I get good results with it. It sounds more professional. Why should I thank them for their time and consideration? (They often thank me for querying them, even when it’s not for them.) When I get a request, however, like you said, I definitely thank them. So thanks again!

  7. I think the myth arose from the fact that aspiring authors receive so much conflicting advice. This was just one more and it put ’em over the edge!

    We read complaints from agents all the time about us not following the rules. Actually, it’s only a handful of slow-learners, but we’re lumped in with them. So, we work really hard, do our research, and do our best to compose that perfect letter.

    And then someone says they want something else.

    I think it was a ‘straw which broke the camel’s back’ thing.

  8. You are a brave, brave woman to return to his topic. I stand in awe.

    As for all the flying thanks, in both the post and the comments, well, I’m having a Frank Burns/MASH flashback – “It’s nice to be nice to those who are nice.”

  9. With a query I want to strongly come forward and say, “this is the best book you’ll ever read,”

    Hm. When this comes from someone I have a relationship with – a friend or a reviewer whose tastes match mine (or if I were an editor, an agent I know) it would make me more willing to read the book. If it came from a random stranger, particularly a random stranger who is tryingh to sell me something, I’d go ‘yeah, whatever’ because *everybody* thinks they’ve written the Best!!! Novel!!! EVAR!!!!! – and I’ve heard that hype so often attached to truly abysmal prose that it will make me _less_ likely to pick it up.

    I think I’m approaching this from the point that I have a good product that will fit the market and should be to your taste… but I feel uncomfortable saying that it’s teh best evar. Then again, maybe that’s the Brit in me.

  10. Green Knight —

    I’m pretty sure Jessica didn’t mean that you should literally say those words. I think she meant that’s the impression you want to leave with your query letter. Sound confident.

    Yes, when an author calls his/her own work the best book we’ll ever read, we don’t take much stock in it. Just like if we’d call every book we represented the best book the editor will ever read, our credibility would quickly wane.

  11. I must admit I was taken aback by your post, but I do see your point. I can agree that you might not want to begin by thanking someone for taking the time to read something when they haven’t even read it yet. But I can’t agree with not expressing appreciation at some point to the agent/editor, not necessarily for their time, but simply as a matter of courtesy.

    Hey, I thank the guy at Burger King who hands me my Whopper, and I’m paying him for the service. But maybe that’s a cultural difference. I was reared in the South. I also say “please,” “thank you,” and “ma’am.”

  12. *shrug* I just say ‘Thank you for your consideration’ at the end of my letter. The wording might just be semantics, but it works for me. I agree that thanking someone upfront seems a little like groveling. I must say, though, the whole issue seems like a silly thing for people to get themselves in a tizzy over. Life too short. It’s not like you ever said being thanked was cause for beheading (or even worse, rejection). If I remember correctly, you were expression a preference. Other agents have preferences, and those who do their research follow those preferences.

  13. I have found as a freelance writer that what I want to project in a query is professionalism and confidence. So my word choices are focused on projecting: I can help you out, here’s how, get back with me. I don’t try to project arrogance, but I try to keep any sense of “begging” and “obsequiousness” (don’t use that word often, thank God) out of it. What I want to project is, Hey, I’m good, you’re good, let’s work together and make some money, partners. I don’t put it that way, but hopefully that’s the tone that gets set.

  14. The whole thank you thing is merely a polite, “invisible” phrase that’s become part of everyday American language. Like saying hello and goodbye. Think of how we start our letters with “dear.” Are these people we’re addressing really dear to us? It would make more sense to just write their name at the top of the letter. But addressing someone as “dear” is a polite and invisible greeting we all use. It’s part of a letter’s format. So I think of saying “thank you” as part of the format as well. It makes me feel good to say it, and the recipient probably doesn’t even notice it’s there. Despite the logic behind leaving out “thank you,” I think its absence would make it more obvious that it was missing. Like after my daughter and I talk on the phone, she never says goodbye when we end our conversation. That’s strange to me only because I’m used to hearing it, but “goodbye” is not a necessary close to a conversation.

  15. I get it. I would never say Thank You up front, probably for the reasons you stated. Doesn’t work for me.

    But at the end? Don’t see anything wrong with it. Don’t think it makes much difference either way but it’s a courtesy. Says I realize you don’t have to read this. I would hope that agents, if and when they respond, extend the same small courtesy, to say Thank You for submitting, knowing that I didn’t have to send my work to them. It’s a professional give and take.

    The little things oft matter more than we realize.

  16. I don’t think whether you close with “thank you for your time” or “I look forward to hearing from you” should make any difference. It’s just standard business etiquette to include a closure of some sort. I woundn’t judge a writer by their choice of “sincerely” over “best wishes” either. We use these words and phrases because they are traditional and customary.

    I think writers and agents spend so much time analyzing words that we become fixated on them. I don’t think that an agent is going to not offer representation to a writer because she thanked her for her time. Yes, we all have pet peeves, but let’s keep it in perspective.

  17. Holy moly!!! Does ‘Thank you in advance for your consideration’ at the end of a query bite the big one as well?

    If so, major uh oh, and redo query coming your way.

    Say it ain’t true, or I’m off to buy printer ink (who needs money for food, anyways?)

    Bloomin’ Girl

  18. Now I’m lost on how to close a letter. Most my formal letters to people I don’t know well close with “Thank you for your time.” To me it isn’t groveling or submissive it’s simply the polite thing to say to a stranger who is rendering assistance. In this case the stranger is the agent I am writing and who would get to bed 10 minutes earlier if I didn’t query and make her work.

    If thanking you is submissive and telling you I expect a call back is too demanding…. what is a good closing line?

  19. Jessica said…..However, in my case, if I have pitched the book and an editor is requesting to see it, then I will definitely send a thank-you.

    Never mind—big sigh—miss this paragraph. Bad me.

    Bloomin’ Girl

  20. Come on people! Stop OBSESSING! Write a good book. Write an intriguing query that tells a stranger what the book is about. Make sure all your contact information is correct. End the query ANY WAY YOU WANT.

    Stop parsing every syllable that comes from an agent’s mouth (or keyboard). And don’t, just don’t, bad mouth an agent that says something you disagree with. If agent A says she likes certain things in queries, and agent B hates those same things, write two different queries! How hard is that? It’s not like you’re using pen and parchment.

    There’s no big secret in writing queries that will get you representation if your book doesn’t interest the agent. If all your responses (after querying widely) are “no thanks, not for me” then it’s your book, not the “thank you for your time” you ended your query with.

    Sit down. Relax. Have a margarita. Don’t obsess. Thank you.

  21. I’m with Just_Me. I think the big issue people have isn’t the “thank you” itself being eliminated, but being unsure how to close the letter. Personally, I’m leaning toward “I look forward to hearing from you.”

  22. I feel that it’s a matter of courtesy and good manners to thank someone for their time. After all, we’re always told how busy agents are. To me, thanking a person for taking the time to read your letter rather than toss it in the bin or send it back unread, shows that you understand how busy an agent/editor is and how precious their time is.
    However, this is just my preference, just as Jessica is entitled to hers, but it worries me a bit that writers might now think that all agents are the same and don’t want to be thanked for their time.

  23. Well, I wish I had read the original blog before querying you. Ha ha. I’m sure I thanked you.

    It all boils down to background. Mine is Aussie with a strong English heritage. We say please and thank you A LOT.

    When we query an agent it’s with the desire to do business, to form a partnership. I’m not going to be any less than authentic. Why represent myself as a crisp businesslike persona when I’m not? Doesn’t make sense. Either the agent will like my voice or hate it, or just go bleh. However, you have some excellent points in that original blog and I’m going back to take notes. So, thanks.

  24. I think this entire discussion is silly, I mean really…if Miss Jessica doesn’t want to be thanked she can surely post that somewhere on her website…like under her personal info…let’s get on with it and have something serious to discuss….something that might actually help one sell a book and write a better query….not whether an agent wants to be thanked or not…geez…enough whining about it Jessica…

  25. I come from a time where we said “Please” and “Thank You.”

    Somewhere along the line we lost that and a little bit of respect.

    My queries start with a statement and end with a thank you. I don’t plan to change that.

  26. But that is just the problem. We shouldn’t be expected to sift through a hundred blog posts to determine which agent wants a letter to close with “Thank you for your time,” and which one gets their bristles up if we say “I look forward to hearing from you.”

    We are told every single word counts. We shouldn’t have to write two different queries for two different agents where the body is the same but we have to be sure not to address so and so by Ms. and make sure we close with “Sincerely” because she likes that closing the best, etc. etc.

    We should be able to write one clean professional sounding confident letter and have faith that agents aren’t so hung up on every single word that they aren’t seeing our story through the semantics trees.

    We want our queries to be perfect for you. If a preference is out there and we miss it, we do feel like we made a mistake with you and we shouldn’t have to feel that way.

    We should have one good letter. We should be worried about our novels, not whether our i and t got dotted and crossed properly, so long as they were dotted and crossed.

  27. I have to say that, as the editor of a small literary journal, I’m much more concerned about writers following the mechanics of our submittal process. For example, providing a pitch line for long stories and – for pete’s sake – sending it in the formats we’ve specified so it can actually be read.

    I don’t mind being thanked for my time at the end of a submittal/query letter. And I certainly take a moment to thank the author that has sent in something wonderful for our publication. But I do have to say that submittal and query letters that come off as submissive and meek really are a bit of a turn off and give the impression that the author hasn’t been practicing their craft for very long.

  28. Jessica:

    Where were you when I needed you?

    Last year, on one of those writer forums where wannabes submit their query letters for critiques by other writers, most of whom are also wannabes, I closed one of my critiques with the following grafs:

    Lastly, say NOTHING about the agent himself in your letter, and thank him for nothing. You’ve nothing to thank him for. Your query is a business proposition from one professional to another.

    Or so it should appear.

    That immediately drew the following (public) response from the forum’s owner:

    You should ALWAYS thank an agent in your query. ALWAYS.

    If you choose not to, that’s your right. If you disagree, fine. But don’t tell other AQ members not to say thank you.

    The writers who use our website, and who belong to AQConnect are a reflection on us:

    Agents like our website because we send them smarter writers. And when rude writers query agents and harass them and say they found the agent’s name from our site. Yes, we hear about it too.

    So we expect ALL our AQ users to be professional. To be polite. And to say “thank you” in your query.

    Agents aren’t obligated to read your query. They know it, and you should know it too.

    Thank them for their time and consideration. Use whatever wording you want. But say thanks.


    I’ll spare you my, um, acerbic (public) reply to that fascist tripe. A day or so thereafter, I was asked privately by this same owner if I perhaps wouldn’t be happier proffering my advice elsewhere.


  29. In my opinion, a query letter is all about selling your book. I always started my queries with a hook, info about the book, info about me, info about why I chose the agent, and finished with my contact info. To me those always seemed like the most relevant items in terms of helping the agent make a decision. Anything else is just fluff.

  30. Interesting. Another agent blog (can’t recall which one) said that the phrase “I look forward to hearing from you” is annoying. The reason given was because duh, of course you’re looking forward to hearing back from the agent; you’ve worked very hard on this book, so obviously you’re excited about hearing the agent say yes or no. This person said that “I look forward to hearing from you” is just wasted words. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

    I do see the point you’re making here. You want to be seen as confident and professional in a query, and for some people, using thank you where it’s not really called for can damage that. I can see why one would think that. To me, it’s just courteous, but I also agree that it’s possible to write a courteous query which never once uses the words “thank you.”

  31. I just went back and looked at my initial query to Jessica, lo these many years ago. The last line? “Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.”

    Nine days after I put that letter in the mailbox, Jessica called me to offer representation. So obviously, folks, this one isn’t a dealbreaker 🙂

  32. Oy–

    I don’t think this post is implying that you should personalize the last line of your query letter differently for each agent. Jessica is trying to demonstrate how to write the strongest possible query letter — one that is engaging and confident.

    Her thought on to-thank-or-not-to-thank is a suggestion to help you get in that confident mindset while you’re writing the letter. She clearly says herself that she’s not going around rejecting people because of it. If you write an engaging query letter and thank her at the end, she’s certainly not going to say “well, forget it!”

    If you want to keep thanking, then go right ahead. Will changing the last line of your query letter make a difference as to whether your work is requested by me, Jessica or any other agent? No. But I think what this post should really make you think about is your overall pitch. Is it strong, confident and persuasive? If so, then thank away. If you’re writing your pitch with the mindset that the publishing world would be doing YOU a favor for printing your book, then you should probably start over.

    The last thing we’re trying to convey here is that you should obsess over two little words. It’s the overall tone you really need to sit back and think about.

  33. I think the impulse to thank an agent for even looking at a query is strong only because we were raised with good manners. However I do understand that you get a lot of mail/email and don’t need to muddle through a bunch of thank yous to get to that outstanding Query.
    So we get our rejection. Okay, no biggy we move forward. But the urge to end things on a good note so you’ll still like us next time around is strong; hence the thank you.
    Bottom line? I don’t want you muddling through thank yous when my wonderfully perfect query sits only a few emails down the list…
    So just know we are thankful you look at our stuff even if we don’t say it.

  34. The comments on this post are faaaaantaaaaaastic. Elissa M’s plea for folks to stop obsessing and have a margarita already (I vote for 2 or 3…) is excellent advice.

    I have a feeling that more than a few people following this would have a heart attack if they knew Miss Manners’ advice about writing thank you notes: Never, ever, EVER start the thank you note with “Thank you for the….”

    Even requisite “thank yous” require more than a little creativity.

    (Um, THANK YOU for creating this virtual [insert swearword beginning with ‘s’] storm. Very enjoyable.)

  35. Well, I used to thank agents for their time as well, but at the end of the query and definitely not in the first line. Why? Because I had done my research, and many agents talk about writers being polite and nice, which to me, implies being thankful.

    Like you, Jessica, I’m a thank you note gal, and truthfully, I am thankful for an agent’s time because you’re the gatekeeper. I’ve learned two things though in this process, and I hope that I’m right: 1) to do my research and personalize my queries and 2) as Miss Snark used to say, “good writing trumps all.” I guess what I’m saying is that if you don’t want me to start off by thanking you, I won’t. If the next agent on my dream list does, then I will. I’m learning that each agent is different and although there are many similarities across the board about what they want to see in the query/submission process, there is definitely a lot of advice out there that differs from agent to agent.

    Still, every agent has said that in the end, if the writing is spectacular, a writer won’t get turned away because they put “looking forward to hearing from you soon” at the end of the query, even if that particular phrase annoys that particular agent. That said, I’m going to do my best to personalize my queries and follow each agent’s individual wishes, but my main focus will be the writing itself.

  36. Nelson Literary Agency state in their advice about writing a winning query letter, ‘always thank an agent for their time.’ So who is right, then?

  37. One of my favourite books is P.J O’Neil’s Reader of Handwritten Japanese, a collection of Japanese letters with translation and comment. In Japan, apparently, it’s polite when writing to someone you don’t know to begin with: Dear X, Please excuse me for writing to you unexpectedly.

    Which I find impossible not to love.

  38. I’ll bet I’ve done exactly what Jessica said not to do at one time or another. However, it’s not my fault. It was ingrained in me by my Alabamian mother and grandmother always saying…”Now what do you say?” or “What’s the
    magic word?”

    However, I do understand what Jessica is saying. I critique a lot of new author queries and some of them go as far to say, “I’ve never published anything before.” Or “I hope this is good enough to publish, it’s my first

    And frankly, it’s kind of funny that Jessica is taking the side of the writer by saying, “Hey, you guys are doing us a favor by submitting” and she seems
    to be getting flack from writers for saying it. I also think it’s easy for something like this to get blown out of proportion. As seen on this blog.

    Margaritas sound good. Where are we meeting?


  39. Jessica, you say that you tend not to thank editors. This implies that sometimes/occasionally you do. What would those circumstances be?

  40. Some suggestions for those unsure of how to close their query letter:

    “Love your body”
    “Love you lots”
    “See you soon”
    “Expect a personal visit if I don’t hear back”
    “Don’t reject me”
    “Visit my website for more”


  41. Elissa M: Come on people! Stop OBSESSING! Write a good book. Write an intriguing query that tells a stranger what the book is about. Make sure all your contact information is correct. End the query ANY WAY YOU WANT.


    There was a time many years ago when I was desperate for work, any work — desperate enough to go to one of those management-headhunter firms which prevailed in those days. In the interview, the guy asked me, “What if I said you’ll have to shave that beard before I’ll recommend you to an employer?”

    I told him if THAT was so important to Employer A, then Employer A probably wasn’t an employer I’d want to work for, anyhow.

    Okay, so I was an arrogant jerk in my 20s. (I would have hated me then. 🙂 But the sense was right. If you put a fine product before a potential purchaser, and they are honestly going to turn it away because of some window-dressing violation which you yourself don’t care about, then you definitely do not want a long-term business relationship with that purchaser.

    Relax. Watch a sunset. Pour a margarita (or two or three) or eat a bowl of ice cream. Life’s too short and your work is too important.

  42. I tend to say “thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you” at the end of things like letters to editors. Okay, so I don’t do those anymore much since I don’t write short stories and my agent handles the rest, but there’s my two cents anyhow.


  43. Good post. I think you are right. I didn’t agree with you originally, but you make a great point. I always use thank you as my closing, but mostly because I don’t know what else to use. I don’t like to say “I look forward to hearing from you” because it sounds a bit presumptuous – both that the agent is obligated in some way to reply, and that the reply will be positive. Really, who looks forward to rejection? (Of course I would rather hear no than hear nothing at all). Anyway, I guess I need to figure out what to use as a good, strong, closing.

  44. I’m surprised by how many people have commented on the preciousness of an agent’s time, which is why you need to thank them for using a few moments of it to read your query. Do you really think that an agent’s time is any more valuable than your own time? I’m not saying that agent’s aren’t busy people. They have a lot of work. BUT time is valuable to every single person. Once a minute is gong – it is gone forever. How many people really have hours of free time each day with nothing to do? Most people I know have work, and errands, and other chores all piling up around them. Everyone is busy. I’m not advocating that you shouldn’t be aware of the type of work schedule people in publishing have. I’m not even advocating not thanking them for their time…I’m saying if you thank them for their time, it is because time is a precious commodity – not because an agent’s time is more important than your own.

  45. The explanation that it is a weak intro makes a lot of sense to me. So, on that point I agree. I see this “behavior” all the time, people going up to higher ups at work and subserviantly thanking them for their time before getting to the point… in the hopes of being heard or gaining special attention from their bosses, and I think that’s where this is coming from. It’s a schmoozing technique often used in the workplace… and it’s being dragged into queries… too bad.

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