I recently had the opportunity to attend a query letter boot camp. Thanks to Caffeinated Press for hosting, it was extremely insightful.
I did bring a query letter with me, and I ignorantly thought it was perfect. I now know better.
I’d like to share some of the feedback I got with you. Hopefully, you can avoid some of the blunders I ran into. The lead editor advised they would not want to see my manuscript based on my query letter alone (internal sobbing). Here are a few of my biggest mistakes.
- I didn’t use standard business letter format. This shows you are a professional person to work with. Here is an example if you need one.
- I didn’t have a date at the top. Regardless of email or mail the sent date is important for quick reference for those reading, especially when they are behind on things.
- I had several grammatical errors. Anything more than two errors and agents/editors assume your manuscript will need extra work from them. Pay attention to websites because some prefer MLA format and others APA. The difference is more than two.
- My address line didn’t contain the proper suffix. I was trying to be personal but it came off as unprofessional. Mr. Mrs. Ms. Dr.-take the time to figure it out.
- I wasn’t personal enough. Book references and information about the query reader needs to be personal and real. This is a tightrope walk. You want your query to show you have done your homework, but you do not want to come across as creepy. Hard to do in this format (similar to text messages just longer).
- I didn’t have a clear idea of my book. Neither personally nor on paper, I admit. The editors said my letter came across as frightened and unsure. Dang, they’re good at this. It took me some serious thinking to really distill my book without bleeding into my sequels. If you do have a sequel, and are working on it, mention it but don’t use up too much space on it.
- I didn’t have a personal signature on the letter. Even digitally you can do this. It takes a few extra seconds but shows you are willing to put time into making things perfect.
Agents and editors read hundreds and thousands of queries. They can and do read between the lines.
You must make sure what’s between those lines projects a professional, hardworking writer. Someone they love to read and want to work with. Don’t whine. Don’t talk trash. Don’t oversell. It only hurts your chances. They see through the bull crap, and those that can’t aren’t worth working with.
I am a couple weeks away from finishing my final draft revisions and I’ll be sending out my query’s, significantly revised of course. I am scared out of my mind. But it’s part of the process. Lets get thick skin and keep at it together.