Is there anything you should avoid in a query that would lead to an automatic rejection?


Is there anything you should avoid in a query that would lead to an automatic rejection?

People ask me this question all the time, and I want to start by saying that every agent is different, and we probably have different things that make us immediately decline a query.

For many agents, failing to follow submission guidelines is one reason for a rejection. For example, most of us specify “no attachments” so if you include an attachment, it won’t be seen or worst-case scenario, your query will be deleted.

Of course, if your book is in a genre that the agent doesn’t rep and they clearly state this on their website, they’ll automatically delete it and may not send a pass letter.

But the more important things to avoid are probably things that you would never do. One of the biggest red flags for agents is when a writer makes grandiose or unrealistic claims. “There has never been a book like mine.” “This book is guaranteed to be a bestseller.”

If you’re writing a nonfiction book, especially in a popular category like parenting or self-help, and you don’t have any platform, that will be a pretty quick rejection. These are the ones that make us sad. We don’t want to say no just for the lack of a platform, but we can’t sell it to a publisher without one.

You can find practically unlimited advice online about how to write a query letter. I’ve got quite a few posts about queries on my own website, including in my submission guidelines because I want to set you up for success! Take your time with your query and good luck!

If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!