I read a lot of queries for my internship. I shift through the slush pile, and I read some really good queries…I also read some really bad ones.
Querying is a nerve-wracking, long experience. However, you still want to put your best foot forward. So, in the vein of What Not to Wear, here is How Not to Query.
Don’t Assume You’re Above the Rules
While your family and friends may think you’re the next Mark Twain, the agent doesn’t know who you are. If you start your query by saying you’re purposefully disregarding the submission guidelines, it’s an instant rejection.
Don’t Show Your Insecurities
While you don’t want to sound arrogant, you also don’t want to sound anxious. I get it. I’m also a writer, and we are a desperate insecure bunch. But when querying, you want to sell yourself. If you have to preface your sample pages with excuses as to why they may not be up to standard, it makes me question your writing ability as a whole.
Don’t Make Your Font Too Small
At the agency I work for, authors are asked to send the first five pages with their query. However, every once in a while, someone will try and get past that by making the font super small in order to turn five pages into ten. First, I can tell when you do it. Second, you’re hurting my eyes.
Don’t Talk About Past Rejections
While they may have stung, an agent doesn’t need to know that agents have already rejected you. Putting that hundreds of agents have overlooked your work, makes me wonder why, and also sounds a bit bitter.
Don’t Make it too Long
A query should be a short, concise page. Tell me who you are and what your book is about in as little words as possible. If your bio alone is longer than two paragraphs, I’ll most likely stop reading it and move onto the sample pages.
Don’t Insult the Genre You’re Writing In
Sometimes I cannot believe the things people say in queries, but one thing I find completely disrespectful is when an author insults other writers in their queries. Sure, you may have hated Twilight, but a query is neither the time nor place to voice that.
No “To Whom it May Concern”
You don’t have to go all out explaining in a five paragraph essay why you chose this particular agent. However, you should at least get the name right. Putting “to whom it may concern” shows minimal research and effort.
And Last But Certainly Not Least….