Friday, January 28, 2011

Bad Query Revised Edition!

Someone suggested to me that since I posted a bad query I should also post a good query, and while I will probably do that at some point (I need to get into a queries mindset again, since I'm going to start querying another novel in Feb, but I digress...) I don't have one on hand. I did decide, however, to revise the bad one. Just in case anyone wanted a breakdown of all the wrong stuff in it.


Dear Sir/Madam: Please don't ever do this. Agents (I love you, agents everywhere, by the way. See, I almost spelled it "angels" by mistake.) are people like you and me and I imagine seeing impersonal greetings over and over gets annoying. Even worse? Spelling the agent's name wrong, or calling Miss Alex So-and-So MR instead. Lesson? Be careful to get the name right. Start off on a good foot. Do your homework. 

Greetings, agent! See above. 
 I have written a fiction novel, No. Novels are, by definition, fiction. "Fiction novel" is redundant. It's like saying "I have a boy brother."
EAT, PRAY, VAMPIRES, FAIRIES. Obviously derivative... Also I thought it would be funny. But to be honest, I don't know how much title matters, since a lot of titles get changed later if/when you sell the book. I wouldn't stress about a title, but definitely have one!
This 1,233 page, Don't list page numbers. Use word counts. Once you get used to doing it you can guesstimate the length of a book by the word count. Pages come in all shapes and sizes, so they aren't a good way of judging length when it comes to manuscripts. YA novels are generally around 75,000 to 90,000 words.
teen MG These are two different markets, Young Adult and Middle Grade. This fictitious book is probably YA (teen).
contemporary/fantasy/cozy mystery /thriller Try to pick one category, maaaybe two. This book should be categorized as urban fantasy. I was just being as ridiculous as possible.
has many morality lessons for today’s youngsters. Don't be condescending! Also, does this sound like someone who would write a book "today's youngsters" would find appealing? Didn't think so.
There are so many horrible books out there right now I can hardly believe the trash that is being published. In fact, you’ve represented so many terrible books lately that I thought I would give you something good to represent. Insulting an agent isn't the best way to make friends with them ... Have some respect for other writers, too. You're trying to be a part of their industry.
No need to thank me! I’m sure the millions of dollars in revenue that my book will undoubtedly generate will be thanks enough for us both. HA.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like have a dad who hated you because you looked just like your mom, who he also hates, and hasn’t seen in nearly sixteen years, therefore making you a constant and painful reminder of his past mistakes? Rhetorical questions are generally no-nos, based on every agent blog I've ever read. Also, this sentence is a complete disaster.
Meet Raevynn McKaliesteryn, Pet peeve of mine--WHY are there so many books in which every character has a bizarrely-spelled name?
the gorgeous, black-haired, blue-eyed daughter of Jakkob McKaliesteryn and this girl he met at a party named Jaymiee. Too many details. Completely irrelevant to the query. Focus on the main character. Keep it simple. Give a straightforward hook. Grab interest right away. Don't ramble about back story. Don't tell us her eye color. It doesn't matter!
So Raevynn lives in Louisiana with her dad Jakkob, her brothers Jonathyn, Prestyn, and Roman, and sisters Ashlyee, Luceigh, and Aimyee, and her Aunt Katherynne. This isn't interesting, and it has nothing to do with the story. Keep the naming limited to a few major characters. Don't list everyone who appears in the book.

Anyway, Raevynn meets a handsome boy in her gym class, Riyan, who has a mysterious secret. Riyan runs fast and he is always staring at her. Raevynn cannot help but be mesmerized. But then Greggory, who I forgot to introduce earlier, he’s her vengeful ex-boyfriend who’s secretly a fairy prince, kidnaps her. This paragraph's confusing and haphazard style suggests that the book still needs a LOT of editing. Show your skill in the query. Don't just sling words onto a page like you're rambling to your best friend. Be professional. Even if your query is emailed, treat it like a letter.
Chaos ensues.  This doesn't tell the agent why they should want to read your book. Be concrete. What kind of chaos? It's important that the query is clear and specific (and gives a sense of your book's voice). At this point the agent has no idea what this book is really about, and they have a good idea of the quality of the writing (terrible).
I think my literary genius will appeal mainly to fans of Twilight, The DaVinci Code, No Country for Old Men, and The Secret. I got a chuckle out of lumping fans of Twilight and No Country for Old Men together. Not that there aren't or can't be people out there like that, mind you! But seriously, humility goes a long way. Claiming your book will be the next bestseller is only going to earn you an eye roll.

I wrote this book because my friends dared me. Don't say this.
My mother, sister, and neighbor’s six-year-old daughter all loved this book and said it would undoubtedly be a bestseller. It's harsh ... but nobody cares. Of course your Mom loves your book. Don't say it.

I sent you the entire book as an attachment so you can read it right away. This is a great way to get your query deleted unread. Most agents' websites explicitly say NO ATTACHMENTS.
 I had a virus on my computer, but don’t worry, I downloaded some stuff from a popup and I think that’s taken care of it. Um, yeah.
 I am also planning to call and stop by your agency tomorrow just to make sure you got this email. NEVER call or visit in person. Just say no.

I’ve attached a picture of myself wearing a “dominatrix vampire” costume so you can see what I look like, and I am also fed-exing you a mug that says “World’s Best Agent” as a small enticement. Some agents have hilarious, oddly specific lists of what NOT to send. Like glitter, photos of yourself, trinkets, sand, candy, cookies, etc.
Please excuse the name on the handle of the mug—I was planning on sending it to another agent, but the idiot rejected my book last week. Don't talk bad about other agents. * whispers * They all know each other ... 
I hope you’ll like it anyway since you like coffee. At least I think you do, because you go to Starbucks every morning and I saw you drinking coffee in your living room last week. I'm going out on a limb here, but I don't think stalking is a good idea. Just saying.

PS I feel I should let you know that I’m just looking for a “starter agent,” and I will probably find a better agent who represents lots of blockbusters once EAT, PRAY, VAMPIRES, FAIRIES becomes a runaway bestseller. People really say this kind of thing to agents!

Anxiously waiting to hear from you ASAP! This is a major pet peeve. I guess it makes them feel pressured. It's not something I would personally even notice or think about, but I've read repeatedly that you shouldn't say you are "anxiously waiting." A simple "Thank you for your consideration" or such will suffice.

XOXO, Be professional. Although I admit I always want to put "Best wishes!" It's the nerdfighter in me :-)

~ ** ~Katie~ ** ~ Again, be professional.

Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen!

Have a great Friday!


  1. You're certainly welcome for your award, Katie! and this is a great run-down of what NOT to do in a query letter. Nice!

  2. Hm... so 'Hugs & Kisses' doesn't work??? Who knew :)


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