Query Letter Do’s and Don’ts

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Your query letter could be the key to unlocking your publishing dreams. 😉 See what I did there?

So you’re ready to start querying…or are you? How do you know? Here is a handy list of querying dos and don’ts:

If you aren’t so tired of your manuscript that you hate it to death, hate all your characters and feel general disdain for the entire thing, you aren’t done. If you haven’t gotten at least two people to beta read or critique your book, it isn’t ready. If you haven’t been through it with a fine tooth comb, it isn’t ready. If someone other than you hasn’t proofread it, it isn’t ready.

One day, you will realize that you’ve done all you can do. If you decide to self-publish, here is where the paths to publication diverge. See ya later! If you decide to submit to agents and/or publishers (NOT at the same time), here are a list of things to avoid doing.

~Don’t bash other books in your genre. Your book may be better than a certain sparkly vampire book but don’t ever say that in your query, it’s just bad form.

~If you are going to offer comparisons, be sure they make sense. “Readers who enjoy the Bible, The Da Vinci Code, and Black Beauty will LOVE my book!” That doesn’t make any sense. If you are trying to publish a YA romance, you could say something like, “My books (insert title here) will appeal to fans of Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen.”

~Don’t assure the agent you are contacting that your book will make her millions of dollars. It won’t.

~Don’t offer casting suggestions for the movie based on your book. “Brad Pitt would be the perfect choice to play Rudy Bernoulli.” The chances that your book will make it into a movie are a about like your chances of contracting Ebola.

~Don’t query an unfinished book. Don’t query an untitled book. Please don’t think (here comes your reality check) that your book is done when you’ve finished the rough draft.

~Do not tell a potential agent that your book is perfect and you will not be revising a single word. Nobody wants to work with someone like that.

~Do research agents. Be sure you are submitting to an agent who represents the genre you are writing.

~Do revise your query letter. If you get ten rejections and not a single nibble, revise revise revise.

~Research successful query letters. There are some good ones out there.

~Do realize that if your query sucks, no one will read beyond it. Rookie mistake: My book is amazing. I’ll slap together a query letter real quick and send that sucker to one hundred agents all at once.

~Do query in small batches. Query between six and eight agents and then wait. No nibbles? Revise your query letter and it wouldn’t hurt to take another look at your manuscript.

~Do not stalk an agents (or an author, blogger, or anyone at all). Do check out their twitter or blog and get familiar with their wish list. If they are looking for a sci-fi western romance and you have one? Query away!

This is the most important don’t…ready?

DON’T GIVE UP. Really. Don’t ever give up. A thousand rejections might fill up your inbox, but it only takes one yes.

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