Pub Rants

Query Madness (Cont.)

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As you guys know, I have A LOT of email queries in my inbox. How can I not rant about this?

So, some things that I’m noticing that turn me off. Maybe another agent would dig it but I doubt it.

1. Starting your query with a complaint. I don’t know about you but that certainly gets me in a jovial mood. I love complaints (and yes, I’m being nicely sarcastic here).

Why in the world would you start any letter by complaining—but especially a query letter? The complaints usually revolve around how hard this business is (if it were easy, everyone would do it). Or writers complain about their bad self-publishing experience.

Not a way to win an agent.

I don’t mind queries for self-published or POD books. I’m an optimist. You never know what might show up (although the odds are against you). Go check out POD-DY Mouth. She listed some great statistics (very revealing). In order to find 50 books worth reading, she read over 1300 last year. You can see why agents aren’t super excited about adding those to our slush pile.

2. Starting your query letter with the odd sentences. I think this one is my favorite: “I recently finished reading my first novel. Having read one, I decided to write one.”

Go get ‘em tiger. This is not a ringing endorsement for you.

3. Having another person (like someone you have hired, your secretary, or business manager) write your query letter on your behalf.

Maybe I’m being too picky but if you want me to represent you, shouldn’t you write to me yourself?

Call me silly but…

15 Responses

  1. Renee said:

    Dear Agent Kristin:

    What would you think of a query letter that opens up with a great line from the manuscript?


  2. Dee said:

    ROFL, I know you don’t really want questions and the like, so I won’t go there. But I have to say, oh sweet lord! At least they’re a good howl for you (hopefully!)


  3. Eileen said:

    Be honest- it must be tempting to do an American Idol spoof query style- when all you agent types gather together. Between the portals, the toilet discussion and opening lines you could do a whole one woman show. The Agent Monologues.

  4. December Quinn said:

    “I recently finished reading my first novel. Having read one, I decided to write one.”


    Having ridden in a plane, I decided to fly one!

    Opening with a complaint, too. Boy, I feel so much better about my workmanlike queries when I read posts like these!

  5. Anonymous said:

    Wow. I just started woking on my query letter as I finish up my first novel. I must say that I’m feeling a wee bit better about myself after reading this post.


  6. MissWrite said:

    I guess I should wait for your ‘not for me’ letter. I started with, ‘hey’s it’s a tough business’ type of line. Oops. Sorry. Slinking away into the night.

    Love your blog though. It sure helps to know what things do turn agents off, so we can correct ourselves for the next time ’round.

  7. cin said:

    I wish I could get someone to write a query on my behalf. That would be brilliant.

    The more I read things like this, the more confident I become. Thanks!

  8. makoiyi said:

    Writing a good query letter (for me) is more difficult than writing the novel. I just go into complete meltdown mode. I just can’t seem to sell myself or my work. Yes, I’ve read all the how tos and the advice, but, as soon as I put fingers to the keys my mind goes completely blank.

    Three paragraphs to sell my soul, and the devil won’t help me.

  9. Lady M said:

    I think… if you really peruse the internet (and sometimes the agent’s site) you can find excellent examples of query letters that are more than adequate.

    Think professional. Think Business. Think honesty. Think that the person on the other end has probably read hundreds of query letters, so give yours just a little twist of individuality.

    You can’t go wrong if you just try.

    I believe an agent will look through the letters and see who has researched them and who has not. They will also appreciate any time you’ve spent looking up information in order to “dazzle” them.

    You have to remember, agents are not deities and like you, they have good days, bad days and days when they are so busy, they cannot think straight.

    Treat them appropriately and I believe they will do the same with you.

    So if you want an agent to work with you – at least do your half of the homework.

    On Ms. Nelson’s site – you will note a fabulous query letter example.

    Study it.

    She gave you the opportunity, use it.

    I wish each of you much luck now and in the future.

    Lady M

  10. Bruno said:

    Couldn’t agree more with Lady M, Keep in mind, though, that it is also a question of perseverence, even if your query is solid. I too, used Ms. Nelson’s model query to help format my own for the fantasy novel I just finished polishing. I started emailing queries two weeks ago (thirteen queries in total) and have gotten nine replies; two of which are for partials. Nice to know the model works.

    Now, onto the synopsis. Merde. You think queries are annoying? Sigh. Over one hurdle…

  11. Anonymous said:

    I think you need to stop whining about your overloaded in-box. You’re the one who wanted to be a literary agent. You had to know what would come with the job. Doing so, and then ranting about a few hundred backed-up queries, is like joining the Army and then complaining about the bad food! N.B. — maybe if you didn’t burn so much time blogging, your life wouldn’t seen so overburdened!