Friday, September 12, 2008

Query Letters - what to do and not to do

On one of my millions of loops, I found a gem - an editor's idea of a great query letter format. This reminds me of a time years ago when my dad suggested (serious!) that I submit resumes and queries on colored paper with pretty watermark pictures. He thought it would make my submissions stand out. Usually, Dad's extra bright and his ideas are dead on or even ahead of their time. This time, it was pretty bone head. But then, Dad's not a writer and never wanted to be. I hope he never did that with a resume, though. Oi! Unlike in my blog, don't use colored, fancy, italicized, and bold-faced fonts or pics for query letters. Not unless you want the recipient to laugh his or her ass off or use it for basketball practice into file 13. Also, I would forgo bragging how you're the best writer ever born or how your book makes Shakespeare's plays look like trash or how you're both going to be billionaires as soon as your book hits the shelves. Somehow, I don't think the people getting the queries are too impressed Check out one that whet an agent's appetite at

Wow! I love blogging! Now we can check out individual agents and editors and find out exactly what they like. This is so much easier than it was in the Stone Age when we had to guess or look at the writers' publishing guides. At least we can hope all or most agents and publishers give us such wonderful help. If not yet, we hope they soon will. (hint hint) By the way, this particular agent does not like to receive queries asking if it's okay to send him a query. That does sound like a rather asinine thing to do... I can see why he might be a bit torqued at that. I also found another gem as I researched this. It's a link to a free internet book about good query writing: I've always kept my queries short and to the point. Even when I've worked with the same editor for years, even if we interact in other places as friends, I follow a professional format. Remember to attach the synopsis - usually about two pages where you get into more detail about the book. Now, if I were an editor or agent and accepting queries, I MIGHT be impressed if you snail mailed your submission with my favorite home made cookies. Of course you'd have to do your homework by reading through my many blog posts to find out what type I like. But make sure your story didn't totally suck. I'd have a rep to protect. (deleted per my mistake on demand) Okay, I can't leave you guys in suspense any longer. I love big gooey chocolate chip cookies and I'm also pretty fond of macadamia nut cookies. If I ever become an editor or agent, be sure you memorize this very important fact. Okay, so now I'm being snarky. Don't ever ever ever do stuff like this, not if you want a chance to impress the editor/agent.

Also NEVER use emotional black mail. Don't write that your children will starve and die in the streets if you don't make a sale soon. It doesn't work.

Nor does bribery.

Editors want only books that will sell.

My apologies to the anonymous poster who wouldn't leave their name - I thought by providing the link and putting the text in quotes that I referred to, I was being proper and respectful. Sorry if I wasn't. I obviously can't apologize to you privately as you didn't leave any way to do so.

You'll also want to see what Amarinda Jones, Anika Hamilton, Anny Cook, Barbara Huffert, Brynn Paulin, Bronwyn Green, Dakota Rebel, Kelly Kirch, Molly Daniels, Sandra Cox, Regina Carlysle, and Cindy Spencer Pape are up to, so make sure to visit them also. :)


Joe said...

Note to self: Learn to bake cookies just in case Ashley becomes and editor or agent.

I initially read the first sample query as "My name is your name..." and I thought, "Well, that's a unique way to introduce yourself, but what are the odds of finding an editor or agent who shares my name?"

Clearly I haven't had my coffee yet.

Joe said...

BTW - I see you also know Giggle (Rat Girl). Small world.

Molly Daniels said...

Great advice Ash:)

Anonymous said...

Found you via Black Box! Really enjoyed this post, great advice and tips.

Crystal Jigsaw xx

Phoenix said...

LOL, I broke a lot of rules I guess, but they still panned out. Though... colored paper wasn't one of the ones I did. Yikes.

Regina Carlysle said...

Colored paper? Hm. Might get their attention but not in a good way. Writing queries, synopsis and blurbs just suck canal water. I hate them. Recently, I've gotten much better at queries. I try to think of them almost as a backcover blurb. Short and snappy. Just keep things professional. None of that...damn, I'm so frickin' fabulous...stuff. LOL

Unknown said...

Interesting. I haven't done any query letters but I guess it's all trial and error

Anonymous said...

Rather than copying all the text directly from the blogs you're referencing, it would be better to link to them. It's all good information, but it's not your information, it's Nathan's, and giving him traffic to his site is only fair.

And no, I am not Nathan. I AM the writer of that query, though, and I'd rather it not be here. Nathan had permission to post it. You, not so much. Please don't delete the entire post, since it's useful, but revise it so it's not a direct copy from Nathan's site.

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