One of those <headdesk> moments occurred today when a query was received at Red Sofa Literary. In short, the following mistakes were made:
- My representative categories were explicitly ignored
- Initially the person addressed me by name, eventually resorting to addressing me as “To Whom It May Concern” (no joke)
- The lack of a short bio
- The summary of the book was not a summary, it was stream of thought writing and very incoherent
- No reference to commercial viability for the book.
- A book proposal was attached
I can’t speak for everyone, but take my word that the majority of us will not open any unrequested attachments. Computer viruses aren’t fun, as anyone would confirm. Which is why those queries with email attachments usually never go far when sent to editors or agents. As for the other pitfalls, they happen more than most people would ever imagine.
Here’s my challenge: wouldn’t it be better to present a well-crafted query letter vs. receiving a plethora of generic rejections due to a bad one?
A basic example:
Dear [insert agent’s name]
Imagine a world where query letters are written correctly, resulting in more authors getting agents, more books getting published, and an easier time of navigating the publishing world. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than a good book being camouflaged by a bad query letter!
In my book AGENTS WILL CRY NO MORE – How to Write the Perfect Query Letter, I will present a series of exercises for authors on presenting the Who, What, Where, and Why of writing a query letter. In addition to the basics of writing a query letter, I’ll guide writers on best practices in avoiding the pitfalls of the query process. I can guarantee they’ll think twice before mass emailing those queries, or sending queries FedEx overnight!
My name is I. C. Anwright. For the last 15 years I have counseled writers through my writing consulting business, I Can Write. I am the brains behind the popular website http://www.icanhelpyouwrite.com, where I share this expertise with writers all over the world. I have been published in Writing is Good, The Writing Times, The Pencil Society, and multiple other online and print periodicals. Finally I have extensive connections throughout the publishing industry, which will be quite handy upon publication of AGENTS WILL CRY NO MORE.
Would it be possible to share my book proposal with you? As well as several sample chapters?
I. C. Anwright
See, was it that hard? Short, simple, sweet. It can be longer, it can be shorter, but in the end the recipient needs to actually have an idea what the book is about. Plus just enough information to determine if the idea is a good fit for the agency.
What lessons have you learned during the query process? What do you feel you still need to learn? Let’s discuss. I’ll be a doing a drawing (from those who comment) for a free query letter critique for three individuals in two weeks.