Friday, March 14, 2008

Ten Quick Tips about that Query Letter

1. Don't tell me the name of your dog.

2. Don't tell me if you don't hear from me, I'll be hearing about you. (That doesn't mean exactly what you think it means)

3. Don't tell me about how hard it is to write a query letter. I don't care.

4. Don't tell me how hard it is to find an agent. I don't care.

5. Don't tell me you found my name on any of the myriad lists of agents. So did everyone else.

6. Don't tell me you've carefully researched what I like. I don't care. I'll read your query even if it's something you think I won't like.

7. Don't tell me about yourself instead of the book. At this stage I only care about the writing.

8. Don't tell me your book is like one of my author's books if you haven't read it. Chances are you'll sound as ill-informed as you are. That's not a persuasive sales technique.

9. Don't tell me you're an Amazon semi-finalist. I don't care.

10. Don't tell me you're published if the books are printed by a vanity, subsidy or POD-mill like authorhouse or iUniverse. You're not published. You're printed. If you don't know the difference, I do.


Margaret Yang said...

Is Five Star/Techno a publisher or an author mill? My friends say publisher because they offer a $1000 advance. I say author mill because the books are expensive and not really found in stores. Your thoughts?

Amy Hanek said...

Great advice! I am glad I haven't done ANY of that yet.

Josh Ryan said...

Since all of those start with "Don't tell", it helps to exemplify the very helpful technique/mantra in writing: Show, Don't tell. Even in query letters, show how strong your characters and stories are rather than saying it. Show you're a confident and creative professional rather than stating it.

It sounds like sticking to that idea would help in the query process too.

Dana said...

Margaret, Five Star/Tekno (correct spelling) is a legit publisher. The books aren't sold in stores because they aim for the library market, but the books can be ordered by stores.

Kristin said...

And this is why it is so hard to write the 'perfect' query letter. Another agent has mentioned that he *likes* to know where you found his listing and is flattered when you mention his interests because it shows you've done your research and haven't blanket queried.

I would love to be able to 'get to the point' and just write 'Dear So-and-So, my book is about..." and then list my publishing credits and be done with it.

But some agents want sales lingo, others want a high-concept blurb, etc. It seems almost impossible to please everyone.

Dr. Dume said...

It is impossible to please everyone. Sometimes it's impossible to please anyone. All you can do is keep trying.

It's all in the pages, I think. I hope. I'm lost when it comes to writing queries so if the agent doesn't want pages then my chances drop into depths even I haven't plumbed.

There is some hope. I don't have a dog. I have an assistant but the names I call him aren't repeatable so he won't get mentioned.

It's not hard to find an agent. There are loads of them. It's hard to get one interested. That's the difference.

That, I hope, depends more on writing ability than on query-letter skills, because I have almost none of the latter.

I like to pretend I have some of the former. I only have to fool one agent...and one publisher...and a few thousand of the public. Don't tell anyone.