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.
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.