Two Things That Don’t Help a Query (Part 2)

“My mother [best friend, husband, Great Aunt Matilda] told me I needed to write my story.”

“For years, all my friends have been telling me I should try to get my work published.”

“God told me to write this book.”

Believe it or not, none of this is relevant in a query. It doesn’t help an agent make a decision. It doesn’t make your query any more attractive. Our experience tells us that there is rarely a correlation between how many people told you to write your story, and how good or publishable that story really is. And yes, this even includes God.

And since so many people say these things in their queries, once again you sound cliché if you say them.

Let’s talk about all those friends and relatives. They might truly love your work. But they most likely don’t know the publishing biz. They haven’t researched what books are already out there that would compete with yours. They don’t understand exactly how high the bar is to get published these days. So trust me, they may be giving you some valuable and much-needed encouragement, but they are not giving you informed advice.

What about God? Well, he works in mysterious ways, as we all know. I already wrote a whole post about that here. Most likely, if you are feeling strongly called by God to write your story, and even if you feel like he’s telling you in no uncertain terms to share the message with the world, it still doesn’t mean God has promised you a commercial publishing contract. Because in my humble opinion, if God truly intends for you to share your book through traditional publishing, he’ll also give you the talent and the persistence to become a good enough writer. If you’re writing non-fiction, he’ll give you the credentials and the platform to sell your particular book, or at least the drive and seriousness to make it happen.

Please, please, please: Don’t tell agents that others are telling you to get your work published. The only exception is if you have an honest-to-goodness, legitimate referral. That is, “Dear Agent, Your client Suzy Q suggested that I contact you for possible representation.” The agent can verify that Suzy Q does indeed believe your writing is ready for publication.

Q4U: So, have you done this? Played the “all my friends” or the “God” card? Even if you haven’t, go ahead and tell us here: What’s your experience with others telling you to seek publication?

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!


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  2. Lessie28Bowen on August 1, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    I think that to receive the mortgage loans from banks you must present a firm motivation. However, once I’ve got a credit loan, because I was willing to buy a bike.

  3. Lori on October 14, 2009 at 2:11 PM

    >I became acquainted with (now-deceased) author Virginia Lanier. Over the years, I did her website and news group… she published her first Bloodhound mystery in her 60s. One of the most precious things I have is a book she signed to me "To Lori, who writes as well as I." I have a completed manuscript now, and I wish she were still alive to see it.

  4. Anne Krause on August 21, 2009 at 11:12 PM

    >I barely even know what you're talking about and am scared to death to even think about anyone else reading what I've thought about writing. What in the world kind of hope is there for me? Not much – unless I trust my sister quite a lot and God more than anything….just sayin'…

  5. Jennifer Madsen on August 17, 2009 at 11:22 PM

    >I haven't played those cards in a query, but the "all the family" is exactly what prompted me to get a freelance editor.

    My family won't say anything but that my work is fabulous, which is great, but in large part, at that time, not true. So now I pay someone to tell me how much it sucks… and what to do about it.

    And I love her.

  6. Robert A Meacham on August 17, 2009 at 8:29 PM

    >I want to do three things; write a great novel,write a great query, and find the most lonesome agent that hasn't sold squat.
    I never listened to my parents and don't give a damn about a push or pat on the back. It is what it is.

  7. Dennis on August 17, 2009 at 3:30 PM

    >Just wondering. If someone said, "God told me not to write this book, but I did anyway," would that help or hurt, do you think?

  8. Glynis on August 14, 2009 at 3:24 AM

    >I have not gone down the road of a query letter yet. I am filing this for future reference, thanks.

  9. Don on August 14, 2009 at 2:47 AM

    >I have a great-uncle who was ordered by God Almighty to haul junk for a living.

    The Lord came to him in a dream and said, "Ivan, you've got a nice little pickup. You oughtta be hauling junk; you'll be rich in no time."
    My great uncle Ivan does not generally contradict or question his Lord, but in his dream, he said, "But God, it's just a little S-10."
    The Almighty looked at him with kind and knowing eyes and replied, "Ivan, make more trips."

    I think that proves whatever point I was trying to make, don't you? It's absolutely true, too . . . . that my great uncle tells that story.

  10. Robin Archibald on August 13, 2009 at 10:50 PM

    >God has never told me to write anything. He did rouse my brain sharply in the middle of the night once to tell me to send the sum of my last brake job to a pastoring couple I hadn’t seen in a year. Awed, I sent the money and found out later they hadn’t had enough for the rent. So I know God is ready to communicate exactly what he wants, and very pointedly, too.

    I once heard a writer say that at one point in her life she became repeatedly ill and her various plans repeatedly went awry . . . until she stopped pursuing other things and started writing her first novel. (It was eventually published.) In other words, God strong-armed her into it, showing that he not only works in mysterious ways, but communicates in them, too.

    Perhaps that’s my situation. Vision loss recently forced me out of teaching freshman composition, a job that took so much of my time and focus I rarely got around to my own writing. But now, in spite of low vision, I can write by using my computer’s high contrast setting (gold print on a black background). So in my seemingly grievous loss of vision, God has blessedly freed my time and focus to do the writing he gave me the compulsion to do. Now the discipline is up to me 🙂

  11. Dr. David and Lisa Frisbie on August 13, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    >Perhaps the question is: What would publishing do for you, that you can't otherwise accomplish?

    It's very simple to put good writing on the web, where it is quickly accessible worldwide. So if your burning desire is to "get the word out" there are faster and easier ways than being published.

    Publishing is, beneath its cuddly exterior, a cold-hearted business calculation as to whether or not something will sell.

  12. Sarah Reinhard on August 13, 2009 at 8:22 AM

    >Loved this post for the laugh factor (couldn't help it) and for the reality check. When others have told me (and continue to tell me) I should get published, I take it as a cue to get working and start researching. Maybe it is God using other people, but as you said, it's not relevant to many people beyond my little intimate circle.

    I also have this hesitation — those people who say I should be published…will they BUY the book when it's out there or are they expecting a free copy? Perhaps a little cynical of me, but…

  13. Kathryn Magendie on August 12, 2009 at 7:48 PM

    >Always good stuff here. I've never used the mom/friend/god/whatever thing in my queries…and my queries still suck *laugh!* Somehow bellebooks saw something in my pitiful query . . . bless their hearts.

  14. Heart2Heart on August 12, 2009 at 7:18 PM


    I can honestly say it wasn't family members and friends but people who read what I wrote and loved it. Those are the voices that have told me based on books that they have read, mine would fall into that category.

    Thanks once again for teaching us all, what not to do along with what exactly you should do.

    I thank you personally because I am learning so much.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  15. Anonymous on August 12, 2009 at 5:54 PM

    >I would never NEVER include this in a query, but: I have had college professors advise me to seek publication before. I take that for what it's worth; it's a nice compliment. The one that really inspired me, though, and still does, came from a university professor. This man had demonstrated a broad mind and balanced judgment on a number of other subjects, and advised me to stay out of graduate school, even though I was already applying and had the academic credentials to back it up. Instead, he said, "It (writing for a living) is not easy, but I think you could make it." No gushing praise there, just another calmly stated opinion, but it has bolstered me for the years since.

  16. gumbo writers on August 12, 2009 at 3:45 PM

    >haha great post. All that should matter and count for anything is if the writer himself believes he should get published and if you agree with him…

  17. Karen Coombs on August 12, 2009 at 3:44 PM

    >When a tenth-grade English teacher handed back a short story I had written, he told me I could make my living as a writer. If only he had told me to do it as a foreign correspondent, a television screenwriter, writer of advertising copy, or any other kind of writer that actually earns you a living… I ended up writing for children. I do it because I love it, not because it will make me wealthy, because without a second job and/or a successful husband, I would have starved by now. I'm not giving up though, just keeping the faith and keeping on with my writing. Eight published books so far and more on the way.

  18. Amy on August 12, 2009 at 2:59 PM

    >I've never written a query. In fact, the world of publishing, book editors and literary agents is all very new to me. Reading your blog has been eye-opening, to say the least.

    I'll be sure to remember this post if ever I do, in fact, write a query. 🙂


  19. Gwen Stewart--Singer-Scribe on August 12, 2009 at 2:46 PM

    >Anonymous…I agree that queries are pretty "boxy". But so are resumes. I think good advice eases the burden of crafting these no-fun, but necessary aspects of the business.

    One more thing to consider. Rachelle makes not one red cent unless and until her clients sell. So on top of giving free advice, she works for some clients for no income. There's no reimbursement from anywhere, except maybe "Well done, good and faithful servant". 🙂

    Publishing is a frustrating, discouraging business–and capricious to boot. I hear you there, Anonymous. There's an element of the unknown: things work out or they don't. It sounds to me like you love to write, and if you really love it–if in the writing you find who you are, and maybe who God is a little more fully– it's worth the hassle and frustration and tears.

    God bless, Anonymous. Keep on keepin' on.

  20. Katy McKenna on August 12, 2009 at 2:37 PM

    >I can also attest to the face that Rachelle overlooks rather enormous faux pas on the part of us wannabes.

    I was actually referred to Rachelle by a published author she respects, a mutual friend of ours. My friend said, "Katy, just email me your proposal and your chapters, and I will forward them to Rachelle with a note…"

    So I did exactly as she said, but with NO QUERY LETTER AT ALL. Hilarious to me now, since Rachelle has focused a lot of energy on helping her blog readers write a killer query.

    Rachelle called me by phone, and said, "So, are you looking for representation?" She needed to hear me say the words, since I had not written them in query form! And then, God bless her, once she heard the words and we talked some things through, she DID offer to be my agent.

    I don't know of any agents who require, demand, or expect perfection from novice writers. But some of them are generous enough to give us hints along the way to help us make the cut. And some–like Rachelle–overlook pretty goofy behaviors on the part of writers if they feel there's some potential there.

    I am so grateful for the guidance and instruction and encouragement found on this site, and for the generous person I know Rachelle to be.

    Hint: One way to not write a disastrous query letter is to not write one at all! Just kidding…. 🙂

  21. Regina Milton on August 12, 2009 at 2:11 PM

    >When tempted to rely solely on what my friends/mother/husband say to me about my writing, I am humbly reminded of this:

    American Idol (among other reality competitions) always show people who are clearly not called to sing or dance being encouraged by their mother of friend. These "loved ones" are telling them they are wonderful. Are they crazy people? Are they severely deceived?

    Two possible answers come to mind: either (A)the encourager knows the encouragee is horrible but is too afraid to tell them, or feels it is not their place or (B) the encourager does not really know what good music/dancing/writing is.

    I appreciate the praise of friends and family when it comes. Since I hang mostly with creative types I tend to think their opinions are somewhat educated, but hey, I'm not going to mention it in a query letter and thus become one of "those people".

  22. Rosslyn Elliott on August 12, 2009 at 1:48 PM

    >Anonymous 10:21 —

    I'm going to tell an embarrassing story on myself to give Rachelle credit for her real kindness.

    I've been a client of Rachelle's for about a year, since I finished my first novel. She was willing to overlook the fact that in my inexperience, I wrote the WORST, most amateurish query letter ever written. Not only was she able to look past it to evaluate my work, she was completely kind and only laughed gently with me when I later confessed my shame upon realizing the error of my ways. (I have saved this hilariously-embarrassing query letter for the time when I'm ever brave enough read it alound at a conference talk.)

    While she may use her sense of humor to give us advice in a more entertaining way, she is one of the most open-minded, supportive people I've met in the industry. I know it's easy to feel wounded, sometimes, in this very difficult business. But I hope one day you may meet Rachelle and have the privilege of seeing her sincere encouragement and care for all writers, whether new or veteran, famous or unpublished.

  23. Jeanne Ryan on August 12, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    >I joke and say one of the crit groups I belong to is my fan club. It's a nice weekly pick-me-up, but I try not to let it go to my head.

    In talking with various writers at writing conferences, when I give them the premise of the book, they are very encouraging, some even asking for my card so they can look for my book in the future. Still, they haven't seen the actual writing, so it's more good feelings.

    That's how I try to look at these things–good feelings and motivation. I've printed out things people have said and put them with a picture of my muse to keep me going.

    I wouldn't tell an agent or editor all the nice things people say.

    However, I do tell Hubby while bouncing up and down.

  24. Rachelle on August 12, 2009 at 1:06 PM

    >Donna Carrick: Brilliant! Thanks for the laugh.

    Anonymous 10:21: I'm so sorry that you perceive what I wrote as jaded, rude, or "poking fun." I have ONE reason for spending my time to post this blog everyday, and that's to help writers navigate the confusing world of publishing. Sometimes in order to avoid putting everyone to sleep out of boredom, I have a little fun with it. But taken in context of my entire blog, any astute reader would have to admit that I'm neither jaded nor rude (generally), and my love for writers and publishing in general comes through loud and clear.

    Also, please note that I've never said (as some agents do) that I would "automatically reject" any query that had a little faux pas such as the ones I've mentioned today and yesterday. My post title is very intentional: "Things that don't help a query." I purposely didn't say, "Things that will make me reject you and make fun of you." I don't require writers to be inside a box; I simply offer hints to help them understand the agent's perspective.

    I can see that you've become frustrated with the overall tone of snark that tends to permeate the agent/editor world, but I hope you also see that in my own little way, I'm trying to be an antidote to that.

  25. Auntie Flamingo on August 12, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    >This didn't seem to post the first time.

    Wow! That’s sort of like saying we shouldn’t pay the pastor isn’t it? — Timothy Fish

    Thanks for your comment Timothy. No, I didn't say a pastor shouldn't be paid.
    Of course the pastor should be paid. Are you suggesting if you are poor and cannot donate you shouldn't go to church? Of course you're not.

    If God sent me a message I would choose another method to relay it because I am not a pastor or a Christian writer. But that's just me. There are many wonderful Christian books out there which were obviously the correct method to relay the messages given. I am glad they're published.

  26. Donna Frank on August 12, 2009 at 12:46 PM

    >My third grade teacher, frustrated by more poor penmanship, told me she would be surprised if I EVER learn to write. I think of her often when I'm writing; it always makes me smile.

    I tell other writers that if there's a way for them to not write, then they should quit. I think that most true writers write from necessity…we write because we have to. Paid or not, published or not, writers write. It what we do; for better or for worse.

  27. Cookie on August 12, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    >I actually hate showing my writing to my close family. I can never get an honest opinion out of them. Mum loves anything her kids even just -breathe- on, my father has no clue about literature or writing (let alone publishing) and my brothers would probably laugh in my face. My friends are pretty much the same, so I take my crit and encouragement mostly from reader groups and writers' forums. Still don't see any point in mentioning it in my queries though. Isn't it more important that _I_ think my book should be published and I should show the agent why that is?

    Oh, and I'm an atheist. Although, if a God actually ever told me to write a book, I might write a book about -that- xD But you're probably tired of "finding the light" personal memoirs huh?

  28. Anonymous on August 12, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    >How right you are! Unless an editor or agent or industry pro or publisher thinks you should be published, you may have to keep reaching for the stars!
    As you know, it's hard work, not wishful thinking.

  29. Timothy Fish on August 12, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    >However, if God did tell me to write something I don't think He would want me publishing it as a book and profiting from it. — Auntie Flamingo

    Wow! That’s sort of like saying we shouldn’t pay the pastor isn’t it?

  30. David A. Todd on August 12, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    >No one in the world is interested in anything I write, except other writers. I wrote poems recently about Mom's death 40 years ago when we three kids were teenagers, and sent them to my siblings. No response, not even a "got them; too painful to remember." Wrote and self-published (thanks, Kinkos) a short book about a great-grandfather who went west as a 49er, and sent it to a number of cousins. No response, not even a "got it; will read it when my schedule lightens up." Have given my novel(s) to a dozen beta readers–family, church members, and other writers that I've already done beta reading for–and am lucky to get 50 percent of them to read even a portion of it, let alone finish it and comment.

    The world doesn't care if your books are published or not, including those closest to you. And writing is a very lonely profession indeed. At least, that's my cynical perspective on Cynical Wednesday.


  31. writer jim on August 12, 2009 at 11:21 AM

    >KRISTA PHILLIPS, I love your comment about wax in ears. Another problem is that people want to hear from GOD ALMIGHTY…and THEN decide if they want to APPROVE God's command.
    I have heard from God for decades. It happens when HE chooses to speak. It is our responsibility to OBEY.
    Once God TOLD me to sell ALL of a major investment I owned and give every penny away. The next morning I rushed and sold ALL, and gave $. Immediately thereafter the investment skyrocketed: in 2 months I would have been RICH.
    But I had zero instead. But I had OBEYED GOD.
    That is a reason I,ve had numerous amazing experiences of hearing God's voice, for example: As I witnessed to him, man laughed about our Savior's death on the cross. So GOD TOLD me to warn him HE would die quickly. So I did. He laughed a few more minutes, and then DROPPED DEAD.
    God told me to warn a man He would strike him with lightning out of a clear blue sky; and it happened 2 hrs later.
    I've had numerous such incredible experiences. God's voice is always 100% precisely accurrate.
    So if you think God is telling you to write a book; think whether you would obey God if He was telling you to do something you absolutely wouldn't want to do. If you wouldn't; it is my belief that GOD wouldn't speak to a person who CHOOSES what commands of GOD to obey. I'm generally speaking, I suppose there are exceptions.

  32. Anonymous on August 12, 2009 at 11:21 AM

    >Sorry to say but, for the most part, agents have become jaded and rude. Continually belittling new (and young) writers is disgraceful. In these times, it's great that young and beginning writers are still interested in putting thoughts and ideas into writing, instead wasting their days and nights texting off netlingo and webspeak.

    I'm sure there are thousands of poorly written ms. on every agent's slush pile, but requiring that everyone's efforts fit into a pre-defined box of which words/thoughts can be used and which can't is very sad.

    Our boring, predictable world might just welcom a fresh voice and writing style.

    Please, agents, try to be a little kinder and stop poking fun at people who are trying their best, whether you consider it a "best" or not.

  33. Donna Carrick on August 12, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    >Dear Agent/Publisher:

    This is Donna Carrick's Great Auntie Helen. I am writing to encourage you to represent/publish her latest mystery, which made me laugh and cry and shout out loud. It was so funny even my lazy husband Gill laughed, and he never laughs at anything!

    Also, the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat, and the ending was a complete surprise. I don't know how my great-niece did it, but she has produced a masterpiece!

    If you have any sense at all, you will snap her work up immediately, before anyone else sees it.
    Yours truly,
    Great-Aunt Helen.


  34. Auntie Flamingo on August 12, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    >I have not played either of these cards.

    However, if God did tell me to write something I don't think He would want me publishing it as a book and profiting from it.

    Auntie Flamingo

  35. Anonymous on August 12, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    >Well, my mum is in heaven; so she doesn't need to read anything I write!

    Roger Aubrey

  36. Lovebabz on August 12, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    >I do so appreciate your post on this. I do think when folks step out to "query" it is like asking for someone to like you and you do all you can to show that you are likeable. You start by saying look at all all the folks who believe I can write and hopefully their belief will come across to the receiver of the "query" as authentic, real and sincere.

    I appreciate cutting to the chase but there has to be room for allowing our village to send us out into the world with all their best intentions. And it is all the best intentions that folks share why they are called to write.

    At the end of the day our stories are personal and unique and tender. We want those that have the power to send our stories out into the universe to care as we do… or atleast as close to caring as possible.

    I do know that those that have the courage to write will take this information you shared in this post as a gift and will ponder it and live with and adhere to the message.

    Again, thank you. I daresay your post will be of great help to me as I continue to discern my writing life.

  37. Lea Ann McCombs on August 12, 2009 at 10:26 AM

    >I'm trying to think WHY so many people say that in a query. What's in their heads that prompts them to tell an agent they don't know that people the agent doesn't know want them to write a book?

    I guess it's the thinking that writing is for the public, and they have proof that at least eight people would buy the book. Or it may be an attempt to deflect any criticism, too. After all, it's not the writer's fault if they're submitting too soon. It's all those PEOPLE urging them on!

    Whatever the reason, I'm glad I never did that. (I don't think I did!)

  38. Anonymous on August 12, 2009 at 10:19 AM

    >The 'God Card' reminds me of a true story. I know a woman who, when in college, as a mature Believer, was dating a Christian. He announced to her that God had directed him to propose. She had to tell the santified suiter that she had not gotten the Word to accept.
    Good thing for me – she's now my wife of 24 years.

  39. Dara on August 12, 2009 at 10:10 AM

    >Even though I have been told I should be published, I would never even think to put that in a query!

    Saying "all my friends and family and God told me I should get my work published" in a query seems like you are relying too much on that rather than letting the writing show it. To me, it seems kind of like a get-out-of-jail free card, only it's get-out-of-writing-a-decent-query-and-novel card instead. 😛

  40. Anonymous on August 12, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    >A few years ago – in an empathy stretch moment – I imagined that my implication to an agent of steller style might beg the question, "Says Who?" After all, a lot of Published Books have 'Wow Blurbs' on the back from 'Who Would've Guessed' readers. But, alas, I had none of those names to drop. So I didn't.

  41. Tiffany on August 12, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    >Such great advice and so encouraging as I sometimes feel like my query is almost boring without the cliches!

  42. katieleigh on August 12, 2009 at 9:16 AM

    >Lots of friends have told me I should try to get published. My dad just keeps telling me I should be a college professor. (Pretty sure I shouldn't put that on my resume, though.)

    I agree with you, Rachelle – we all appreciate that encouragement from loved ones, but that's no reason to put it in the query. (And since a rather creepy experience in college, I'm leery of people who say "God told me to" do anything.)

  43. lynnrush on August 12, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    >Fun post!

    Well, I haven't put that in a query ("all my friends" card) but I started querying because some had told me to "take the next step" with my writing.

    But, I've taken the next step knowing it might not mean publication, only that it's in God's hands…so, I'll just keep taking the next step and see where it leads.

    You're right, though, family and friends are a great encouragement, but they don't know the business, that's for sure. Oh, but bless them for their support, right? **smile**

  44. Teri D. Smith on August 12, 2009 at 9:02 AM

    >I've never used any of those comments in my query.

    I did pitch my novel on a website recently and had a published author say it was "compelling, unusual, and different."

    Not enough to contact her agent though, I guess.

  45. Timothy Fish on August 12, 2009 at 8:37 AM

    >I’ve never felt what I thought was a calling to write. I’ve felt called to teach a Sunday school class before. I’ve felt called to work on our church website. There was a time I felt called as the editor of a newsletter put out by an organization I was in. There was even a time in my life when I was called to be the music director at a church I was in, but I can’t say that I’ve felt called to write books. I do that for the personal enjoyment of it. I believe it is pleasing to God, but I’ve never felt that if I were to put the quill down today and never add another word to a book that I would be outside the will of God. It might upset a few fans, but God would let me make that choice, if that’s what I wanted to do.

  46. Janna Qualman on August 12, 2009 at 8:21 AM

    >Yeah, my current WIP took root after that still, small voice said it should. And I've told a few friends as much. I don't think I'd have been so blunt in a query, but it's good to see it's a no-go. That clears it up for me. 🙂

  47. Marla Taviano on August 12, 2009 at 8:19 AM

    >I'm not an agent, but people come to me all the time wanting me to look over something they've written.

    And 85% of them say, "Everybody is telling me I should write a book."

    In my humble opinion, about 3% of the 85% have what it takes to write one.

  48. Kelly Combs on August 12, 2009 at 7:59 AM

    >I definitely don't do this in professional letters/queries/conversations, but the truth is I never considered trying to get published until others started suggesting it. And I have had some things published (even for pay), so I feel like I'm giving credit where credit is due.

    But I realize the fact that someone without writing credentials told me I should get published doesn't make me look good on a resume.

    Although Cecil Murphey once told me he loved one of my articles. Think I can work that into my cover letter?? LOL!

  49. CKHB on August 12, 2009 at 7:50 AM

    >With the exception of my crit groups (and husband), no one knew I'd written a book until AFTER I started querying, so anyone who says "you should get published" would get the response, "I'm working on it!"

    It would never occur to me to put such "recommendations" into a query letter. I mean, it's a professional cover letter! Would you apply for a job by saying that your mom thinks you'd be great at it? Either you have official references or you don't.

  50. Marybeth Poppins on August 12, 2009 at 7:30 AM

    >I can't say that I have thrown in other people's opinions into my query letter. And for these very reasons. My sisters think I MUST get published, but they also think it should happen over night and that once I get an agent the book will be out in the stores within a month. So um…although I love them, I'm gonna go ahead and take their encouragement, but I don't think I need to share it with perspective agents.

    I must say that friends and relatives are not quite as subjective as the agents/editors/publishers. So although they are confidence boosters and they keep the drive out there, unfortunately in the big picture, their opinions matter very little. (I say that with love…I swear!)

    Great Post!

  51. Richard Mabry on August 12, 2009 at 7:15 AM

    >It's nice to be able to read a "don't do this" post and feel totally innocent.
    You make a good point about referrals to agents from existing clients. Back in the days when the earth's crust was cooling and you could still approach editors without an agent, I did have an editor respond to a proposal with, "This is good. It's not for me, but you might submit it to Editor B at Pub House X. Tell him I said so." I did. Of course, Editor B passed, but it was nice to have a legitimate referral.
    These posts on queries are great. Your readers might also be interested that the current issue of Writers Digest has a great article on queries, including a number of good examples and comments on them by several agents.

  52. Scott on August 12, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    >I've only done this once, and that was for a 'send in your worst query' contest.

    Well, since I'm the favorite child (well, at least in my mind, my sisters beg to differ) . . .

    I rarely believed in my writing until college professors started talking to me about my essays and other projects. You see, I kind of hid in the shadows with my writing, never telling a soul, and just . . . writing. It was the encouragment of two specific professors that really helped me on the writing path.

    I guess when my 19th Century American Lit professor said she howled with laughter (in a good way) about my first essay in her class, I had a bit more faith in myself. So, yeah, some of my English Professors thought I was a great writer . . . but I'm not mentioning that in my query!

    Great and informative post. One more bookmark in an already crowded favorites folder. : )


  53. Katy McKenna on August 12, 2009 at 7:09 AM

    >"Dear Ms. Gardner,

    My mother insists that even though my self-esteem is very high, I've got no talent. My husband is pushing me toward greeting at Walmart. When I told my best friend I'm a writer now, she asked if I was working on my overdue wedding thank-you notes. (She is SO 17 years ago!)

    I could share God's opinion with you but you'd never believe it…or then again, maybe you would.

    Anyway, now that we've gotten the preliminaries sorted out, I'd like to tell you about my story…."

  54. Krista Phillips on August 12, 2009 at 6:57 AM

    >WOOHOO, a faux pas I haven't done!

    Now, I do have to say, God did impress upon my heart to write. And I do think this is a calling… but I agree with you as well. If this is truely from God, and he wants me to succeed, he'll give me the tools, connections, and whereforall to get it done if I'm obediant to him.

    I just don't think it's prudent to share my "calling" with an agent in a query letter. Because, um, if we're a Christian, and we wrote a book, and are querying it, we ALL should have been told by God to do it. Some of us might need to get the wax buildup out of our ears… but… 🙂

    Of course, my mother also tells me to go for it (although I gotta say, she is a tough critic, and tells me very vividly when she doesn't like a plot point) My writer's group is also a HUGE source of encouragement, both local and critique group online. I'm blessed to be in the company of some AWESOME authors and pray that their awesomeness rubs off on me just a little:-)

  55. Katie Ganshert on August 12, 2009 at 6:02 AM

    >I actually haven't done this! YAY!

  56. Jessica on August 12, 2009 at 5:50 AM

    >This is pretty funny! I think most writers have been told they should write something, I know I have. My literature teacher in college gave me this wild compliment. It was so wonderful that the first thing I did was go home and start working on my first "masterpiece." LOL! Two years later it still wasn't finished, nor will it ever be. But I hadn't thought of actually writing to be published until my editor said I should. And then I was like, why haven't I thought of this? LOL! And like all newbies, I thought it would be easy… Snort!

    Cute post and painfully true. *grimace*

    Don't think I've done this in my queries though, thank goodness!

  57. Charlie on August 12, 2009 at 5:46 AM

    >When I told my mother I was writing a book, her response was: "Yea, you and a million other people."

    My brother was more to the point. "You wrote a book? You can't even put a #%&@ sentence together!"

    My only wish is to be published so I can throw the book through the front window!
    (Well, not really)

  58. Sharon A. Lavy on August 12, 2009 at 5:41 AM

    >Writing is a slow painful process. I wish my brother never knew I was writing. It's like when you are in your tenth month of pregnancy and all your friends say. "Are you still around?"

    I was a closet writer for years. Came out a bit before I was ready.

  59. writer jim on August 12, 2009 at 3:18 AM

    >Best selling Christian author Betty Malz was the first person that ever told me I should write a book. After her suggestion, God gave me fantastic supernatural signs of confirmation that I should do it. After that, for many years powerful people have offered me promotion of my book. I have always said, It will be published in GOD'S time, not mine.

  60. Fay on August 12, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    >I ignore them 😉

    I know they're completely clueless about book sales and publishing. If I said the word 'literary agent', everyone I know would give me blank looks. Things like 'blog' and 'George R.R.Martin' also receive blank looks.

    So yeah. It's best to ignore, and people prefer to lecture me on how stupid I am and how writing is a complete waste of my time anyways. No harsh feelings about that…it just makes me more determined =)

    I don't see why people put these things in query letters though. Isn't a query meant to be about the STORY?

  61. Candee Fick on August 12, 2009 at 1:59 AM

    >I haven't played the "all my friends" card but I've thought about the "God told me to" line.

    Because, if God wasn't calling, telling, reminding, poking and prodding me to write … Well, I don't think I could keep writing through the lonely days at my computer agonizing over every word only to risk rejection.

    I don't think I'm a glutton for punishment. Therefore, God told me to do this. So, there. 🙂

    On a more serious note, I've had a few people lately tell me to seek publication. I've responded with "it still needs more work." If everything goes according to plan, I'll be ready to pitch at the ACFW conference in September.

    But, I promise not to start with "all my friends, including God, told me to …"

  62. Andrea Brokaw on August 12, 2009 at 1:43 AM

    >I've joked about telling people, "My mom says you should publish this and, trust me, you don't want to upset my mom!" But it's never entered my brain to really mention her. 🙂

    People in my life honestly have been pestering me to get published for years, like it's just something one gets up in the morning and does, but since they sigh at me for believing things like a novel should be finished _and_ revised and a writer should be certain she's done all she can… Well, it's pretty easy for me to sigh back at them and return to revising.

  63. Steph Bowe on August 12, 2009 at 1:41 AM

    >I went to a grant-writing seminar with my parents once.

    A woman there was going for an art grant so that she could publish her 30k word novel for kids and teens that all of her family urged her to write. Oh, and she's a teacher, and her whole class of kids loves it!

    And I cringed and cringed and cringed.