Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ten Most Useless Things You Mail In A Query Letter

1. Business cards.
Honest to god, if you have a rolodex on your desk, you're the only person I know who does. I keep all my contacts on an electronic data base. That means if I want you IN the data base, I cut and paste the info from your query.  Your business cards I just throw away.

2. Folders
I don't file your queries. I answer them. I keep the folders if they're pretty. I throw them out if they're not.

3. Copies of your self-published book.
I throw them away. Unread.

4. Photographs of yourself.
I shred them for your own protection.

5. Food.
Thrown away.

6. Money. 
I work in publishing. What the hell do I need money for.

7. International Reply Coupons. 
Set on fire and used to heat the cauldron for the hex I'm about
to cast on  you for sending them.

8. Binders. 

9. Protective sheet covers enclosing your query. 
Tossed. With the query unread. This is just blindingly ill-prepared.

10. Your resume, or worse,  your CV.
I don't care that you graduated summa cum loud from the Happy Hooker School of Pole Dancing. Or Harvard.

This is what your query should contain:

1. Your query letter of 250 words or fewer.
2. The first 5-10 pages of your novel. Not an "excerpt" and not pages from later chapters.

Don't think you're the exception. You're not.
The only thing that should be an exception from the norm is your writing.

Any questions?


Cindy C said...

I couldn't help wondering about how useful these items might be:

1. A note from my mom saying my book is really good.

2. A note from my doctor saying I'm not delusional

3. Original handwritten notes on napkins to prove the idea was mine

Annette T. Dodd said... many pretty folders have you kept? :o)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Wuff, on #6 and laughing all the way to the Gravy Train.

Alice Gabathuler said...

Gosh, I love the way the dogs look at me :-)

Joyce Tremel said...

I'm just amazed that anyone even sends a paper query anymore, let alone with extra stuff included.

Best line: "I don't care that you graduated summa cum loud from the Happy Hooker School of Pole Dancing." Almost made me spit out my coffee. And that would have been tragic.

Alexandria said...

Feel free to send the money on to me. I'm a writer, I need it. :)

Marian Perera said...

I wonder. The people who send food--if they found a cake in their mailbox, courtesy of an anonymous sender, would they chow down?

DK said...

I notice Scotch isn't on the list of no-nos...

Kitty said...

DK, I noticed the same thing. I guess that means hold the Macallans.

LynnRodz said...

Sometimes I think you have to be exaggerating, people can't be that clueless. So, after reading your post, I went over to another agent's blog that I read on a daily basis and what do I see? The topic was about editing. One commenter asked if agents recommend editors, and if they do should she let the agent see her ms before or after the editing. After that comment, I told myself, "Nope! No exaggeration necessary!"

Picks by Pat said...

No coffee? Figures.

P.S. Could I have the food?

Anonymous said...

Expensive alcohol???

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

I spoke once with a Random House editor who said at a conference, where she was taking pitches, the guy who was pitching urged her to take a sample from a plastic bag of feathers and scraps that he carried. She started to do so, gingerly, as he explained that when driving, if he saw a road-killed animal, he would stop and save a feather or scrap of fur to honor the spirit of the animal. She took her hand out of the bag. So I'm guessing you don't want a slightly soiled feather?

Colin Smith said...

#6 FTW. :)

Anonymous said...

@ John ( Ol Chumbucket) Bauer - you made me giggle!

This list made me realize there's a whole lot people who believe you will be impressed by their extra thoroughness... a.k.a. troublesome writers at large.

Dean K Miller said...

I guess if I cut most of this out, it will save me a bunch on mailing costs. But treats for your pets...that's still good?

Thanks for this. (photo attached.)

Anonymous said...

Things change. I still have old agency instructions from British agents with detailed instructions on how to include International Reply Coupons.

Things are still changing. I am finding agents that refused e-mail submissions only a year ago and are now demanding them. I avoided falling into this trap just yesterday, but fortunately I always double-check the current agency website before I printed and mailed a submission.

I have found that including a standard 400 oz. gold bar in your submission always gets a positive result, but the postage is a bitch.

ashland said... can go ahead and skip opening the letter I just sent. I swear there were no roadkill feathers in it....

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Some things I saw on agent websites cracked me up:

1. Do not bubblewrap your submission.

2. Do not tie your submission with ribbons.

3. Do not send photos.

I saw the bubblewrap note more than once. Because your paper submission might break.


Lance said...

How about a video of the elevator pitch -- in an actual elevator.

Michael Seese said...

11. A first page which states "This work is copyrighted material."

12. A Post-It which points old that I am a first-time author who is rather old, lives abroad, and speak English as a second language. (OK, I think I've beaten that horse and his friends to death.)

Michael Seese said...

@Marian Perera...

I once knew someone who found a cup of french fries sitting atop a urinal in a public restroom, and CONSIDERED IT. From what I hear, his hygenic friends talked him out of it.

Heck, I wouldn't touch a summa cum laude graduate of the Happy Hooker School of Pole Dancing, if I found her in a restroom.

DLM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DLM said...

Soooo ... I'm starting a new band, Roadkill Feathers. I'll be the drummer, beating my head on my desk to the beat of this list, which makes an excellent set of lyrics. Who's in? We can send out our demo tape on 8-track, with boxes of cupcakes ...

Also - seriously ribbons. That's beyond cute, all the way to precious.

Susan Bonifant said...

I would never consider doing any of these things because I am a professional. But what about a list of actors who could play my characters when the movie comes out? That's okay, right?

CA Clark said...

Thank you.

The Relentless Reader said...

Ha! These are great :D My book blogger friends would love this list as well. We receive some CRAZY pitches.