TELLING US YOU REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING
We fully get that you are likely a new author. Everyone has to start somewhere. However, if you spend time in that query letter talking about all of your flaws, this is all we hear. Think about it this way. Do you go into a job interview telling that employer that you really are not sure what you are doing? I doubt it. Now, if you really are not really sure about the industry, your writing or the process, then you have no business pitching.
GIVING US A BLURB THAT TELLS US NOTHING
This mistake stems from the guidance many give new authors about using back cover blurbs as a model. Yes, we do recommend that you look at those blurbs, but there needs to be more than just that blurb. Remember that back cover blurbs on "PUBLISHED" books are designed to tease you and make you want to read more. Obviously, we would not want to give away the ending. For query letters, we need to have the beginning, middle AND the end. We need the goal, motivation and conflict. We need the setting. We need to know who the characters are.
GIVING US COMPARABLE BOOKS THAT ARE TOO ABSTRACT OR TOO DIFFERENT
Again, this is something we also push when working with new authors. Giving us something comparable DOES help. However, too often writers give us comparable books (or what they think are comparable titles) that are just so obscure, no one would really know these. This is not the time to show off of how literate you are. You want to show us how your book is similar to things the common person would no. The other problem here is that authors tend to have book titles that are really in no way common. For example, "My novel can easily be compared to James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey." Huh????
Don't dump your life story. We don't want to know about you and your cat. We don't need to know of how much laundry you did. Keep the discussion 100% relevant to your novel.
NOT KNOWING YOUR GENRE
If you are pitching your book as a particular genre because someone told you they thought it was that, you are likely making a mistake. If you are giving us a genre just to get us to read your book, but it isn't that genre, you are also making a mistake. In simple terms, if you don't read that genre, the odds are you don't know what that genre is.
LEAVING OUT CRITICAL INFORMATION
I'm just going to list this one:
- Leave off the fact that you were caught embezzling money
- Telling us you are previously published but leave off the fact that you were published 20 years ago.
- Not telling us the book is not finished
- Not telling us you were fired from the last publisher.
PROCLAIMING FALSE STATEMENTS
Telling us Oprah is considering your book, you have multiple movie deals already, or you have major authors already endorsing your book is definitely getting you a rejection. Oh, and that whole bit about how you are a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize nominee also falls into this category.
THE BIG TAKE AWAY here is to be professional. Unless you really like getting rejection letters.