You spent precious years on your novel. Sometimes it feels like your child. At other times it's your enemy. Your story is a part of you in every sense of the word.
Then you had to edit the damn thing so much you considered printing it out to burn it.
Having a billion edits under your belt, you're certain your novel is ready for scrutiny.
You're so confident you envision an agent opening your manuscript and crying tears of joy because you presented them with the book they've waited their entire life to find.
Slow your roll ... As the kids say.
Your job is far from done. Now you get to fumble through the art of selling, which includes getting very familiar with the sting of rejection (probably over and over again). And it all begins with the query letter.
After sitting through several agent panels (and happy hours) and listening to their cautionary tales, I developed a list of the top ways to shoot yourself in the foot.
Ignore the Fine Print
An agent or editor who takes the time to give you detailed instructions for submission on their website does this for two reasons:
Think of a query as an interview. Put your best foot forward by showing you can follow simple instructions.
Details like “only send the first 10 pages” and “be sure the sample is double-spaced” are the first things agents look for. If you decide your story is more well-rounded at twenty pages, the agent has every right to reject your query before they read the first line.
Don't give them a reason to think you're difficult to work with.
Use the Same Query Letter for Every Submission
Your query letter is your first, and sometimes only, introduction to the agent.
Don’t waste your chance.
Writer's Digest provides exceptional examples of successful query letters. There are also coaches and editors out there who can help you make a great first impression. Learn from the best, and sweat the details.
Putting the wrong person’s name in the intro line is more than embarrassing. It’s a query killer.
Query Multiple Agents at the Same Agency
Coworkers talk, which means if one agent at the agency isn’t looking for your kind of story, but knows someone down the hall is, they’ll pass your query along.
It also means they’ll know you queried multiple agents at the agency. Trust me. It irritates them. A lot.
Use a Non-Traditional Font
It may seem like an opportunity to flaunt your uniqueness, but using an unusual font will get you as far as dressing up in cosplay for your in-person pitch session (in case you’re wondering, that’s almost as bad as following an agent into a bathroom to pitch your novel).
Using uncommon fonts also makes your submission harder to read.
Periwinkle blue may be the color of your character’s hair, but it’s not legible against a white background.
Tell me this color is a good idea. I dare you.
The whole point of a query is to make the agent or editor want to read your book. Do your research, use common sense, and don't forget to treat this like an interview.
These faux pas were tailored for a cold query submission, but apply to warm submissions after an in-person pitch.
Are there lessons you learned while enduring the query process?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.