Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cardinal Query Sins

I am not an agent. I do not have an agent. I did once talk to an agent on the phone. I babbled. My cousin happened to be with me at the time (we were having lunch) and, afterward, said I hadn’t looked that nervous since I decided to ask Brent C to the eighth grade formal dance.

All of this is a roundabout way of telling you that I am completely unqualified to give query advice. That won’t, however, stop me from presenting you with my list of TOP TEN CARDINAL QUERY SINS (I figured it deserved capital letters).

Start off with a rhetorical question. I’m not saying they can never work but enough agents hate them that you’re probably better off steering clear.

Mention movie potential. Mentioning series potential is debatable (I think it’s fine for certain genres, others disagree) but mentioning movie potential is definitely the sign of an amateur. Concentrate on selling the agent on your book.

Mention that another agent passed
but said your character, plot, premise (insert item of choice) was great. You’d think this one would be common sense but, alas, not always.

Use the words “fiction novel” (science fiction novel, however, is fine). I’ve read this in more than one query and it sets my teeth on edge.

Tell the agent that this is your first book. Good agents are sharp (and , hopefully, you’re only querying good agents). When you don’t list your publishing credits, they’ll figure things out.

Quote your characters. Don’t. Just don’t.

Compare your novel to Twilight.

Waste space on irrelevant details. You don’t have to tell the agent that you love to write or that you have a blog about kittens (unless your book is about cats). The goal of your query is to interest an agent enough to read your pages. Always ask yourself if the details you are including work towards that goal.

Begin with “Dear Agent/Sir or Madame”.
You spent year(s) working on your manuscript. For the love of 12 point Times New Roman, take a few seconds to properly address the query letter. And, for the love of Courier, don’t Cc other agents when you send it. One agent. One letter. One email.

I leave up you, faithful commentators. What’s your cardinal query sin?

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Kathleen. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

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