Last time we talked about good query letters (https://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2010/03/08/writing-nowadays-querying-and-submitting/) and were going to talk about bad query letters next time. But I attended a writers retreat the weekend before, and rather ironically, the writers blog slipped my mind.
Ahem. My apologies. But I’m now qualified to do a post on My First Writers Retreat later.
Moving on then.
Today we have Five Things To Avoid in Query Letters.
1. The wrong name. Last time, I mentioned how query letters should be personalized to the agent or editor, even when you’re mass-blasting them out by email. It’s really, really easy to put the wrong name into a query letter when you rev up the ol’ cut and paste. Triple check. The fastest route to rejection by Ms. Smith is to send her a query addressed to Mr. Brown.
2. Biographical information. At the query stage, the agent only cares about your writing. Once she agrees to take you on as a client, she’ll be fascinated to know that you grew up in Borneo or that you have forty-six cats. Until then, keep your mouth shut about anything that doesn’t involve the book.
3. How much research you did. No one–and I mean NO ONE–cares about this. Agents and editors assume you’ve done proper research or you wouldn’t have written the book. Telling them you did research is like telling them you learned to type.
4. What rights you want to sell. The query letter stage–or any part of the submission stage–is not the negotiation stage. Once the agent calls to say she wants to represent you or the editor calls to say he wants to buy the book, you can talk numbers and percentages. Any earlier than that sounds pretentious.
5. How cool a movie this would make. Sure, it’s fun to create the movie in your head. I do it all the time. But it’s not a selling point for a book. Movies aren’t books. Once the book is published, you can talk to Hollywood (or, more realistically, hope that Hollywood talks to you).
Internet searches are de rigueur these days. Any editor or agent who thinks your book is worth checking out will turn to the Internet and run your name through Google before asking to see your book. If you’re shopping a book around, check your Facebook page, your blog, your LiveJournal, your Twitter feed, and whatever other web presence you have. Are your posts something you’d want an agent or editor to see?
“Okay, sent out fifty-five query letters this week after getting twenty-six rejections last week. Stupid agents wouldn’t know a good book if it leaped off the shelf and sank its fangs into their ugly throats.”
“I hate my life. Everything is horrible for me all the time. All I see is darkness and despair closing in on me like a lobster trap of doom. Sigh.”
Stuff like the first entry tells the agent you can’t act professionally in public. Stuff like the second entry tells the agent you won’t be any fun to work with. Rejection!
A number of editor types read this blog and/or are members of Book View Cafe, so feel free to add to the list. What goes into a bad query?
–Steven Harper Piziks
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Full selection available at http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Steven-Piziks/Steven-Piziks-Novels/