Pub Rants

Kristin’s Top 10 List

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STATUS: Busy. I had two things that absolutely needed to get done today. Good thing I still have until midnight…

What song is playing on the ipod right now? WONDER by Natalie Merchant

As y’all know, I receive a lot of queries in a single day. I have to read fast to get through them all in a reasonable fashion.

So, if a query doesn’t grab me in the first 10 lines or so (I didn’t want to say paragraph because often writers start with an introduction and the real meat is in the second paragraph—but you guys get the picture), I hit reply and send the standard rejection letter.

However, here are the top 10 things that will guarantee that I won’t even read past your first line of your query if you open with:

10. I’m delighted to introduce you to my psychological thriller novel.

Well, I don’t rep thrillers and the only ones I will entertain need the word “romantic” in front of it.

9. My novel is a gripping murder mystery.

See above.

8. My screenplay is…

See my previous rant that explains book-to-film and the fact that I wouldn’t know a good screenplay if it hit me in the head so you definitely don’t want me looking at yours. Besides, I don’t rep them.

7. I really don’t know how to go about writing a query and since this is my first try… and then the writer rambles on in this vein.

This might be a ploy for sympathy but honestly, it won’t work. There is SO much information available on a myriad of great websites; there is no reason for an aspiring author to not learn how to write a good query letter. I personally don’t want to take on any writer who isn’t savvy. Now, they can still have a lot of questions about publishing but they need to be professionally savvy. Research and writing of a great query is just the first step in being so.

6. My novel (insert title here) would make an excellent Hollywood film.

See my previous rant on Hollywood. Every writer thinks his/her novel would make a great film. Hollywood rarely agrees.

5. I have written this query a zillion times. There is no way I can describe my novel because it defies description.

Hum… if you can’t describe it, I’m pretty darn sure I can’t sell it. As a writer, you need to know your novel’s place in the market.

4. I would like to submit my manuscript to you. It fits many categories that you represent: literary fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit, fantasy, romantic suspense, and young adult.

Melting pot is not a term to describe your novel. Your work can only be one genre. Now it can have elements of others. There is certainly literary fiction with a complex romance, Fantasy for young adult, chick lit with a mystery but it’s not ALL things. Pick the dominant genre—where it would be shelved in a bookstore and leave it at that!

3. Thank you for reviewing the attached query.

And the odds are that I will open said attachment? Folks, I have two spam blockers and one mean virus protection program. Still, I’m not going to open attachments. If I did, I’d be asking for trouble and would deserve whatever came my way.

2. I recently realized that I was scammed by my previous agent/agency …

I definitely feel for writers who have been hoodwinked. I’ve got links on my website to Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors. I’m invested in educating authors. So, don’t beat yourself up. Move on and for goodness sake, don’t start you query with how you had a moment of idiocy (which can happen to anyone). Would you begin a job interview with how much you screwed up the last one? No. Use some common sense.

And the number one starter that will get an instant NO reply:

1. My novel will be the next DA VINCI CODE, HARRY POTTER, or WAITING TO EXHALE (or insert other title that fits your genre).

Right. Like any of these weren’t a product of all the stars aligning, Besides, why would I want what has already been done?

I want something terrific and original.

14 Responses

  1. Lady M said:

    “Would you begin a job interview with how much you screwed up the last one? No. Use some common sense.”

    Very good information Kristin.

  2. Eileen said:

    Oooh this could be a fun contest- how to write the worst query letter. Let’s be sure to add:
    – When I am released from prison later this month I would be available to meet….

    – My therapist says writing is a great way for me to cope with my issues….

    – Consider yourself to have won the agent lotto. Agreeing to represent me will make you rich!

  3. Dana Y. T. Lin said:

    “- Consider yourself to have won the agent lotto. Agreeing to represent me will make you rich! “

    HAHAHA! Oh my. I’m laughing so hard I. Can’t. Breathe.

  4. Bruno said:

    Oh. Oh. Here’s two more.

    “Dear Agent…”

    Let’s not get too personal,now.

    and “I arm semding yuo this queery looter…”

    Maybe you should put a disclaimer out on your website that any query letters sent may be posted as an example of what not to do. Might sober a few people up before they hit ‘send’.



  5. yossarian said:

    Further entry in worst-query contest…

    “All the kids in my dorm think I’m the best righter ever and that my fictional novel is better than any the other crap getting published, and my mom says it’s really good, too, and she’s a really tough critic.”

  6. srchamberlain said:


    “My book is the next Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code, and Waiting to Exhale COMBINED. Seriously. In fact, I named my characters after the characters in those books so you could see which characters were which.”

  7. Anonymous said:

    I have to wonder, with all the comments about ‘bad’ querys. How many in the query letter pile actually do ‘fit’ the rules. They still may not catch your attention, but once the bad ones have been weeded out, what percentage is left?


  8. Candice Gilmer said:

    Worst Query Letter:

    Sticky paper that opens with:

    Hi Agent, I am Joe. (written in crayon) I have the next great franchise here, it’ll be bigger than Star Wars!

  9. Adam Selzer said:

    This sounds fun! My entry for worst query:

    Dear sir/madam,
    I have been rejected by countless agents who fail to realize just what I’ve accomplished with my book, “Guns in Cybertopia: A Novel of Love, Lust, and Personal Liberties That The Government is Slowly Stripping Away – The Story of Lance “Rex” Malone on Xzygnor 9″ Here’s hoping you will break the mold!

    The novel takes place on Xzygnor 9, a planet very similar to Earth today, only all of the humans are white, and most of the government is run by the Snaibara (read it backwards!), a tribe of alien beings who long ago succeeded in taking over the humans. While I cannot hope to describe the comlex threads of the novel in one flimsy paragrah (would they have asked Dickens to do this? I think not!), I think that, as an agent with that rare reputation, that of a REPUTABLE agent, not a lousy scammer like my last three agents and publishers, you will realize, once you read the book from front to end, exactly what an epic has been achieved. I am not out to get rich; I realize that the market for the book is limited. But many great words went unappreciated in their own time, and are now considered literary classics. This is the status that we can achieve together.

    A bit about myself, you ask? I received my MFA in mathematics from the Scranton Institute of Technology in 1979, and, between my well-regarded work in cognitive harmonic number theory (an expertise I put to use in chapters 3, 7, and 46) and my work as secretary of the local astrological society, I have long been admired for my Star Trek fanfic – a recent 9000 word story, “Spock in Fallujah,” received over four comments, one of which noted that it was far better than the crap published by so-called mass-market publishers today – so I have at least one fan eagerly awaiting my book!

    Guns in Cyberland is 245,000 words on 1012 pages, spread across three major parts: “Beginnings,” “Lila Melts Like the Dew,” and “Last Beginnings: the Eternal Death of Tyranny Forever.” (“Lila Melts Like the Dew,” which contains the main romantic plot, is probably the most “commercial” portion, but won’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t read the first part). Shall I go ahead and send you the manuscript? If I don’t hear from you in a week or so, I’ll give you a call. Thank you for your time, and may you be blessed by the spirit of L. Ron Hubbard.

    Lance “Rex” Malone

  10. Heidi said:

    The Rare Bird makes notes to herself:

    How To Improve My Odds with Kristin

    1. Send her something she reps.

    2. Put my makeup on (figuratively): IOW, spelling and grammar have to be spot-on. I’m a writer, for goodness’ sake, so if I can’t get this wri, er, right for one page, what hope will I have for a whole novel?

    3. Pull a Dolly Levi: write a query letter that sounds like I’m confident in the product (novel) I’m offering. Pitch it in a way that would make not just Kristin but anyone standing in a bookstore wanna read it.

    4. Send her something she reps.

    5. No need to mention filmography. Just stick with the book, the whole book, and nuthin’ but the book. (Okay, and maybe mention the other books if she asks later.)

    6. No need to mention that my last two agents died, and a third suffered a heart attack–completely unrelated to anything I’ve sent them. (Seeing that the third was a screenplay agent, she doesn’t need to know that either.)

    7. My novel will not be the next HARRY POTTER. I will be perfectly content to have it be the first INSERT TITLE HERE by HW Kneale and it only has to sell half as well as HP.

    8. It’s gotta be something she reps. Seeing that she seems to rep most the genres in which I write, this shouldn’t be too tough.

    9. Kristin is not a scammer. I’ve never been scammed by an agent, and this time won’t be any different. Confidence in an agent is a good thing.

    10. Email subs okay. This is cool for us writers Down Under. If she’s gonna be nice enough to accept esubs, I’m gonna be smart enough to format it the way she wants.

  11. Anonymous said:

    Without the Snaibara’s knowledge , your kcis srotsecna ( read it backward 🙂 wouldn’t have the strength to destroy their lives and occupy their lands.