Hello to all my newbie and not so newbie writers. Your friendly neighborhood literary intern here. I have a few more Query No-No's to report and some old ones to hammer in!
Know that I love reading all of your awesome queries, but you are slowly killing me....
- NOT only QUERY in the subject line. Now I know what you are thinking, all of the agencies tell you to do this, but what they don't tell you to do is to add the title of your work. It should read QUERY: FLESH & BONE. If you only put QUERY, it makes it hard for us to find it when we want to email you back, request more, or just talk about your book in a meeting.
- NONE OF THE FOLLOWING--- EVER!: LOL :-) LMAO ;) or any other texting lingo. It looks sloppy. It looks unprofessional. And you will not be LYAO when your query gets deleted without a response.
- Please stop starting your 1st chapter the following ways: In a dream. Waking up from a dream. Waking up sweaty. Going to bed. Getting ready for bed. Waking up. In a nightmare. Waking up from a nightmare. Or anywhere near a bed in general. This is boring! I stop reading.
- Word count....COUNTS! Please know what the typical word count is for the genre you are writing. If you send in a YA at 225,000 words without explaining yourself, you get archived. If you are writing YA and do not know what the typical word count is - there is something amiss. Look it up!
- No gimmicky, fake paper, inked looking emails. It makes your query hard to read. It's not professional. We know you have personality, but we want to see it in your writing, not on the email fake paper you chose to send.
- If you say you have self-published and have good sales - INCLUDE your numbers. No one has the time to go searching for them. You're shooting yourself in the foot here if you don't include your numbers.
- DO NOT tell us to go to your website to see more. We do not go to websites - ever. There is no time to click - go find your story - figure out your website and then read. No one does it so you are wasting space in your query and if that's the only way you sent your manuscript, no one read it. Sorry.
- No different colors of ink. USE BLACK. No blue. No red. Especially no yellow. Again, it's not professional. It's not new, we've seen it before. It just makes it hard for us to read your query. We like black. Use black. Use black.
- STOP attaching stuff. We do not open attachments. We do not know you and do not want a computer virus. Again -- WE DO NOT OPEN ATTACHMENTS...ever.
- The use of the word WHEN is boring. We get tons of these starts.... When a young main character gets into trouble she... Please stop it. This is a script style sales pitch. We want you to talk to us, but not in this robotic way. Tell us about your story like you'd tell your friend. You wouldn't say to your best friend, "When my main character does ABC then..." You'd sound odd.
- No jokes. We are not friends with you yet, although, yes we want you to pitch to us like we are. But no jokes. The context is off in email. We don't know you or your personality. Stick to the plan. Your query letter is about your story, not your favorite joke.
- No sob stories. I don't mean no sob story manuscripts. If you've gone through some tough stuff, and you can write about it, then do. But don't tell us about your personal sob story in the query letter. It's not professional. Talk about your book, that's it. Not your dyslexia, anorexia, alcohol problems... All of these things might have contributed to you being a great writer about them, but we don't need to know that. Not yet.
- PLEASE check your email photo. Do you even know what is coming across the internet? If you don't know what your email photo is, check now! It might be linked to FACEBOOK and you might not want us to see that particular photo of you dressed like a clown holding a beer. We see a lot of odd photos - you are not checking! CHECK! Right now!!!! I mean it.
- TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN : No!
- Spelling errors: I am not a great speller. In fact in this blog you have probably found one or two spelling issues. I know this about myself, so I have an outside party check my queries. You should too. All of you. Your query should NOT have any spelling errors. NONE! ZIP! ZILCH!
- Again with the age thing. For some reason many of you - mostly the retired and the school aged writers - feel the need to tell us your age. DON'T! It immediately makes me think that this is either just a hobby for you, or that you haven't had enough experiences to be a great writer. Both are probably wrong, but that's where my head goes. Stop giving away your cards. Only tell us about your book. Let us have an open mind, not clouded by age for any reason.
- STOP telling us that this is your first book, your first submission, that other agent's have passed on it, that you've sent it out and not heard back from other agents. None of this helps your cause.
Okay - there you have it. Some old, some new, but all of them are NO-NO's. Pay attention and you will snag an agent if your writing is amazing. Just don't hurt yourself by your query letter.
And if any of you have been helped by these NO-NO's let me know. I'd love to see a before and after query from you.