Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Don't Do These Things In A Query. Please Don't.

So Friday, I did a very tongue-in-cheek April Fool’s Day post with an absolutely outlandish sample query letter. If you need to refresh your memory, click here.

Today, I would like to rip apart said query letter and address some of the cardinal sins committed therein.

Here are some of the biggies:

1. Address the query personally to the agent. As in “Dear Ms. (name)” or “Dear Mr. (name).” Do not say “Dear Agent,” Dear Agency,” “Hey you,” or “Yo.” Don’t do it.

2. Do not simultaneously send the query to every agent in the industry. There are several reasons why you should not do this, but I am going to address just one of them. If the query you sent was not very strong, you have just exhausted your list of agents. You have “burned your bridges.” Query in small batches of perhaps 5-10 and see what the response is. This will give you the opportunity to tweak your query (and manuscript) as needed.

3. Do not claim that you will be the next bestseller. That is presumptuous, and it makes you sound arrogant. Do not come across as ‘entitled.’

4. Do NOT slam published authors. Published authors are amazing people. They have perfected their craft to the point that it is now ready to be enjoyed and loved by the public. Learn from them. Don’t mock or put them down.

5. Keep your summary to 250 words or less. Be short and to the point. This summary is simply a teaser to get an agent interested in your work. Do not tell how the novel ends. Focus on the main plot line - the protagonist, what the protagonist wants, the stakes, the choice, etc.

6. Do not refer to your novel as a “fiction novel.” Every novel is a work of fiction. You are being redundant and immediately making yourself look bad.

7. Watch your word count. No agent is going to be interested in a 300,000-word novel especially if said novel was written by a debut writer who has not proven himself/herself in the writing community or in the eyes of the public.

8. Do not send attachments. In fact, do not send anything besides the query unless otherwise specified in the individual agent’s submission guidelines. If an agent requests sample pages, they will most likely want those pages pasted in the body of the email along with the query.

9. Do not ever tell an agent when you “expect to hear from them.” If an agent is interested, he/she will contact you within the time period specified in the submission guidelines.

10. Finally, this line is just wrong on every level: “It would be in your interest to work for me.” Never ever say this. Don’t even think it.

We could tear this query apart even more, but I will stop with these ten. Now it’s your turn. What are some other things that you should NOT do in a query?


  1. Do not misspell the agent's name!

    Do not requery unless it's been at least six months and the novel has gone through a major rewrite. (not sure where I read that--maybe somewhere on Nathan's blog).

  2. Michelle - Both of those are great! Thanks for the comment! :)

  3. Kristin,
    LOL--I cringed but realized people actually do some of these things. Oh, and I love top ten lits (hehehe).

    Great post...

  4. Thanks, Rebekah!

    Yes, people actually do these things. *covers eyes*

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

  5. LOL! So funny - oh yes, the query process - it's a journey alright!

  6. Hehe... so, SO true. I saw an agent post on twitter the other day that at the end of the query it said, "I'll be calling you momentarily to discuss."

    ... um, no.

  7. D U - It sure is, isn't it? :) Thanks for stopping by!

    Jenn - Are you serious? Wow. That is just not right. It is amazing what some people will put in a query. Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog! :)