Public Service Warning: things to avoid putting in your query letter

From a query letter:

… what will sell it is that it’s fun to read

This is not a selling point and won’t impress any agent or editor. Remember, you’re trying to sell yourself, so think about the specific aspects that you believe will attract readers


I believe readers will enjoy East Fifth Bliss for its lighthearted, hands-over-the-eyes look at procrastination gone wild.

This gives us a starting point; a frame of reference.

From a query letter:

I have completed my fiction novel entitled…

A novel is fiction. Always. “Fiction novel” is a redundancy. And it reveals you to be a newbie.

“Ah c’mon, Price, picky, picky, picky.”

Yeah, I know, it is picky. But the idea is to present yourself and your work in the most professional, savvy manner as possible because the competition is fierce. I know many agents and editors who will stop reading at both these examples. Don’t give an agent or editor any reason to reject you other than the work simply isn’t right for them.

9 Responses to Public Service Warning: things to avoid putting in your query letter

  1. R.J. Keller says:

    I believe readers will enjoy East Fifth Bliss. I know I did.

  2. Kelley says:

    “things to avoid putting in your query”-I note that you didn’t include cash or Twinkies on your list. *snort*

    a joke. it was a joke. 🙂

  3. Marian says:

    Other things I’d avoid in a query:

    “I just completed this novel.”

    “I completed this novel three years ago.”

    Any comparison to the Harry Potter books.

    “The first in a seven-book series…”

    “My novel was AuthorHouse’s Book of the Week.”

    It’s a potentially unending list, isn’t it?

  4. Lynn Price says:

    Actually, Marian, I don’t mind if they tell me they completed it years ago. Nor do I mind if they tell me it’s a series – they better be completely stand alone, tho.

    Your recommendation of “I just completed thie novel” is a good one because I see that one all the time. It gives the impression the author barely waited for the cyber ink to dry before shooting it out the door. in short, no one cares when a work was finished, only that it’s good.

    Kelley, the reason I didn’t put cash or Twinkies on the list is because I accept both. joking…

  5. Marian says:

    Lynn – that’s interesting, because many of the query letter crits on AW dissuade people from saying that their book is the first in a series. “A standalone with series potential” is offered as an alternative way to phrase that. Which seems to be what you’re saying too – that it’s important the book stand alone.

    I read somewhere that it’s not a good idea to say that the book is some years old, because then it might appear as though you’ve been collecting rejection letters for all that time. Good to hear that we don’t need to be that cautious/paranoid when querying you. 🙂

  6. Lynn Price says:

    Hi Marian,
    I probably should have made myself more clear; I don’t care about these things. There are all sorts of do’s and don’ts floating around but in the end, there are many things many agents and editors don’t really care about.

    Personally, I see no reason to give a manuscript’s history anyway since it makes zero impact on whether I’ll read it. Just give me the facts, a brief line about the audience, why you were the best person to have written the book, and its importance in the reading world. I know writers will never go wrong with that information.

  7. Jane Smith says:

    I’ve got a few to add to the list:

    “My mum thinks it’s great.”

    “You’d have to be stupid to reject this.”

    “I’ve stopped promoting it so it won’t sell any more copies through Publish America.”

    “I really, really, REALLY love you and want to be your very bestest friend.”

    (I know that last one won’t work on Lynn, I’ve already tried it.)

  8. Marian says:

    I just read about a writer who responded to a rejection by saying that the editor would be sorry, due to the writer’s “connections” on the street. Imagine that kind of thing in the query letter.

  9. Julie Weathers says:

    “The first in a seven-book series…”

    I think it really depends on the agent or editor. I’ve found things vary so much it’s just best to find out what the individual wants and send out accordingly.

    One agent doesn’t want to hear series and the other wants you to tell her up front if it is or at least has series potential.

    As far as the other warnings, common sense is always a good thing.

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