How to Get an Agent (NOT!)
13 Ways to Screw Up Your Query
1. Address your letter to Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Agent or To Whom It May Concern.
2. Write “I believe you are the perfect agent for me” even though it’s obvious the same email was sent to fifty agents.
3. Pitch a mainstream novel of 40,000 words… or 250,000 words. Most agents won’t look at it. Pay attention to appropriate word counts!
4. Start your query with a rhetorical question: “What if…?” or “Have you ever wondered…?” or “Why is it that…?” It’s cliché.
5. Say “I am a previously published author” and then list several self-pub companies as your publishers.
6. Pitch a non-fiction book without giving any of your credentials or platform information. (This doesn’t apply to memoirs.)
7. Write, “Please open my attachment” or “Please click on this link” or my favorite, “Please Google my name and see what you find.”
8. Write, “I have just completed my first novel…” It sounds like you’re sending a first draft, and we don’t want that. Especially, don’t send a query in December that says, “I just finished NaNoWriMo…”
9. “I am querying about my non-fiction novel” or “my fiction novel.” The first is non-sensical, the second is redundant.
10. “This story has everything a great movie needs.” Excellent! Except you’re pitching me a book.
11. “I’m writing to see if you would be interested in publishing my book.” Well, SURE I would! If I were a publisher.
12. “I’ve been querying other agents, but they keep rejecting me.” Not exactly getting things started on a positive note.
13. “I know you don’t accept (genre) but I’m confident when you read this, you’ll change your mind.”
What are some GOOD things to say in your query letter?
“I enjoy reading your blog and I particularly resonated with what you said about _______.”
“In reading your website, I saw that you’ve worked with two of my favorite authors, ____ and ____.”
If you’re having trouble being creative, just go with the basics: “I am seeking representation for my …” It’s simple, clear, and to the point. It allows you to introduce your book and get right into it.
Q4U: What is the hardest thing about writing a query letter?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent