How important is an email subject line?
What should be in one when you're querying, and what absolutely should not
If you type “successful query letters” into Google, you’ll get a lot of results:
“5 Agent-approved query letter examples!”
“100+ Query Letter examples that got authors an agent”
“Six successful query letters to get you an agent”
While most of these sites share the genre the writer was querying in, none showed the writer’s calling card: a.k.a., the email subject line they used.
Email subject line etiquette doesn’t get a lot of airtime. This is a shame because that subject line is the recipient’s first introduction to you and to your work. It’s the outfit that the email is wearing, if you will. It’s the electronic mail’s perfume.
So let’s look at a few do’s and don’ts around writing email subject lines, starting with the big picture strategy behind cold-emailing someone in the first place.
How your email subject line can get you through the door
As with everything publishing-related, it’s important to put yourself into the other person’s shoes. When you’re emailing an agent or editor, you want to imagine them opening their computer to a clogged inbox. They didn’t sleep well the night before. Their kid has a slight fever. That afternoon, they have to tell one of their clients that the publisher has decided to kill their paperback. Their day, which has barely started, has started kind of bad. And they power up to this: