Does this query letter make my ass look fat?

I was talking to some writerly/publishing-type friends the other night and I mentioned that I’m teaching a workshop in Hofstra University’s Continuing Ed program in the spring about Query Letters: why you need them; who they are sent to; what they should and shouldn’t include; how to write one. And then we got into a discussion about how quickly or slowly I can tell whether I’m going to read someone’s manuscript, based on their query. It kind of goes like this: if the query sucks in any of the myriad usual ways it can suck, I don’t bother with the manuscript. Sorry! I only have oh so much time. If the query comes to my e-mail address but is addressed to anybody but me, I don’t read the manuscript (I made an exception to this rule only once). If the query is too weird or too personal or sucks in  myriad UNusual ways, I don’t bother with the manuscript. Folks, queries are business letters, after all. Writers, please take heed! Your query letter is a reflection of you and your work. It is my first introduction to what you’ve written. If you’re too weird, too familiar, too flip, too anything, well I just say “no” and move on to the next one.

So what’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made sending an e-mail or text? How much did you regret hitting that send button?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Does this query letter make my ass look fat?

  1. My middle grade book has puns. I use a pun name. Puns are part of my business. But my worst mistake in a query letter was ending with the sentence “Hope you didn’t consider this punishment.” I didn’t consider the fact that either the italics on “pun” might disappear or the agent wouln’t get that it was a reference to the puns I had included in the paragraphs above until I put my query on my blog for public ridicule. One commenter said I shouldn’t put myself down, so that joke was on me. I can’t log on twitter as @SherAHart because it’s overcapacity. My FB long-on log-on goes to my personal page but you can put she and me together from there.

  2. Before the advent of easily accessible information via Google, my mistake was in asking my husband (who doubles as my assistant) to call a particular publishing house to get the correct spelling of a certain editor I wanted to query. Instead, he gets hold of this editor’s voice mail and leaves a message something like: “My wife has a book she wants to send to you. Would you please call her at this number and talk to her about it?” Then he leaves my name and phone number. Needless to say, I marked that editor’s name off my list, and he probably did the same. Dear hubs also received an education in what and what not to say when you’re merely calling for a spelling verification.

  3. Eppy

    Makes very good business sense. After all, writing is the authors BUSINESS. The Query should be a good, to the point business letter. After all is said and done it boils down to a very simple maxim, “You do not get a second chance to make a good first impression”.

  4. Since the beginning of time there was always a being who had a lot to say and before that a grunt. No, not because they had more brain material, just loose vocal cords and pent up energy. They, later in civilization, turned into politicians and such. Yes, I have sinned verily in sounds that I have made and I regret lots of it. But we can only move forward and pray that the people we hurt get Alzheimers before we do!