I've been burrowing into my incoming queries, hoping to get most of them answered before the holiday shutdown.
Several recurring problems:
1. Not sending pages.
I've heard tell there are agents that don't want pages.
I'm not one of them.
Show me you can write.
Most of you can't write queries for shit. Give yourself a fighting chance with something you CAN write: pages from your novel.
2. Not telling me the start of the story/the precipitating event/anything about the plot
At some point you need a plot on the page.
The query is a good place to start.
3. Effusive compliments/ANY compliments really.
I don't want someone who talks like I walk on water.
I do want someone who wants to be on my team, not revere me.
It's brutally uncomfortable to read balderdash like "you're one of the greats." My new favorite though is "your agency has a world-wide reputation" which is hilarious cause JetReid Literary is about five minutes old.
4. Repeatedly sending what you think is a query (and isn't) in the misguided assumption that I haven't already read it and discarded it because you didn't fucking tell me about the book.
5. Telling me you're a previously published author as though that's a big plus.
Unless you've sold one million copies, it isn't.
Compounding this is when you don't include any info about the new book, leading me to think that you expect me to want you, not your book. #NopeNopeNope
6. Responding to a pass with "well, what about this" as though I am browsing in the Casablanca souk. Even if I just responded to your first one, queries go in the incoming query pile. I don't read it right that minute. And if you're just responding quickly, by the time I read it, I won't have any context.
7. Telling me you're referred by a "a friend". Querying isn't espionage. Also, my friends know better.
8. Leading off with the college you went to. If you want to come off as an asshat right away, that's a good strategy.
9. Making up a category for your book.
This generally means you haven't done enough (or any) research on where your book would belong in a bookstore. When you have a category I've never encountered, I don't assume you made it up, but I do dig around. If I can't find it, you're off to a bad start. Contemporary fiction works. A novel also works. I don't care if you have the wrong category (other agents DO) because I only really care about the story.