What Not To Say (part 87)
I was watching American Idol last night (duh) and the judges were bringing contestants in one after the other and telling them either “You made it through” or “You’re out.” That’s how it feels when I’m going through my query box, reading them one after the other. You’re in, you’re out.
Just like contestants on Idol… some people who query are serious about it: they’ve got talent, they’ve worked their craft, they know what to do, and they bring it. Many others are passionate and sincere, and usually very nice, but they just aren’t ready (or talented enough) for a moment in the spotlight.
So here we go (again), the American Idol of the publishing world…
Things Not to Say in a Query Letter—A Cautionary Tale
These are real examples, slightly edited to protect the innocent (?). Snarky responses are for humor only. No writers were harmed in the making of this blog post.
“This book may well win the Nobel prize.”
(This agent may well win the No Bull prize. I’ll pass.)
“If you represent this book, your company will be known as the ones who helped bring about peace to our nation and the world.”
(Quit teasing me, Bono.)
“It reveals the most accurate knowledge ever recorded in human history.”
(We already have that resource. It’s called Wikipedia.)
“This book contains scripture and nothing else.”
(Um, I think they call that The Bible.)
“The market for my book is Christians, which is about 2 billion people around the world.”
(Please query me again when your personal mailing list is about 2 billion people around the world.)
“My book is brimming with cross-market appeal and overflowing with brazen commerciality.”
(My response is brimming with sarcasm and overflowing with cynicism.)
“God May Want You to Be My Agent! Please Read!”
(I’ve read! God doesn’t want me to be your agent!)
“Have you ever wondered…?”
(No, I haven’t. Does that mean I can stop reading now?)
“My book has the potential to be a literary blockbuster of epic proportions.”
(My pass letter has the potential to be a reality check of epic proportions.)
“I am open to suggestions and edits.”
(Well, good, because if you’re not open to suggestions and edits you aren’t going to be published.)
“I realize you require information about my platform and credentials, but Jesus’ disciples did not have impressive resumes, degrees, or extensive evangelical experience… my credential is that I am a disciple of Christ.”
(True, but the disciples could get an endorsement from Jesus…in his own handwriting. Bring me one of those and we’ll talk.)
“Here is my query. How soon can we schedule a meeting?”
(Um… I’ll have my people call your people.)
“I’ve recently completed my 195,000 word novel.”
(I’ve recently completed an anger management course because of my response to the last query for a 195,000 word novel. I really don’t want to go back there again.)
“Chip MacGregor referred me to you.”
(This would be fantastic… if it were true. I just got off the phone with Chip, who definitely didn’t refer you to me. Quickest way to a rejection is to fudge the truth in a query.)
That’s it for today. I wonder what tomorrow’s queries will bring?
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.