Thursday, May 29, 2014

Query Letters - Day 3 (The No No List)

I thought I would throw in a few of the things that you probably should not consider doing in the query letters today. Yes, I know some of these things are you either being painfully honest with us, or doing these things to stand out in a crowd, but it is probably working against you.

Let's start with the painfully honest group.

  • Telling us to forgive you if you make a mistake because it is your first book. This also goes for your pitches you make to us at conferences. Starting off with an apology because you are scared or you want to tell us you don't know what you do simply brings down your credibility. We understand this might be your first query but show us confidence.
  • Telling us the number of queries you are having to write is forcing you to take this approach. I see this one a lot. Authors who send out the mass mail query letter that is amazingly vague but openly telling us that they have so much work to get this out to people that we will just have to accept what they send. Often we get people who will say things such as: "I have a couple of projects of fiction so if you want to see them, call me." Um, probably not happening.
  • Telling us your entire rejection history. O.K. we get that you have gotten rejection letters for your work, and potentially the project you have just sent to us. But, you should simply not tell us that everyone else has rejected the project already. This simply says, "Hey Scott, I'm down to you now since all of the real people, or the people I really want to be with have said no."
  • Telling us how your self-published book has failed horribly This one is connected to that rejection history approach. We get your self-published book might not have done well. Tell us that you did try to self-publish it and it wasn't for you. We can consider that. Telling us no one liked it or bought it tells us the book isn't good.
Now let's look at the just wrong moves.

  • Submitting what you want and not what we request I have talked about this one in the past. Each editor and agent has a reason for how they want the material sent and what material they want to see. Sometimes it is because of how it is processed within house. Sometimes it is because they know what will tell them if the project is strong or not. Follow those rules. "Doing your own thing" simply tells us that when it comes to revision notes, you will probably be a pain in the you know what!
  • Telling us to go and look at your website instead of telling us in the query Again, send us what we ask for. Sure, you can give us your website as well and if we are interested, we will probably look. But... if this is the only approach you take, we will probably not look. 
  • Talking about yourself in third person Look, George Costanza could talk like this but when you do it, you just come across sounding kind of weird. Yes, we might use this when we submit a bio for a conference or a presentation because, in this case we are making it sound like the other organization
    wrote it. This query letter is coming from you so first person is the approach you should take. 
  • Not telling us all of the information about the book This one is a tough one for editors and agents. It is not fun when we fall in love with a project and then you start telling us things such as "I have already submitted it to every editor out there and they said no, or, it isn't finished. Telling us it is really a non-fiction book even though you marketed it as fiction. The list goes on and on. I tell my kids this all of the time. Tell us the truth from the beginning. If you try to hide it, we will find out and then things get ugly. the same thing goes here.
I think you get the idea of what we are talking about here. This is all about being professional with the query letter. Scott likes to see great query letters that don't do these silly things.

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