Last week I shared some information about how to write a query letter and covered some definite dos that any writer who has a manuscript must accomplish when introducing their work to an agent or publisher. This week, I’m going to cover the second part of the topic: things you definitely should avoid if you ever hope to woo the powers that be and inspire any sort of interest in your book.
When Writing a Query Letter, Absolutely Avoid the Following…
- Coming across as arrogant. Don’t ever make claims that your manuscript is a “definite bestseller” or tell the agent or publisher that they would be “dumb to miss this opportunity.” It might sound farfetched, but really, people do this. I can personally attest to writers who have called me on the phone only to tell me that people like Margaret Mitchell of Gone With the Wind fame were complete hacks and that they are more imaginative than J.K. Rowling. Now, love either of those authors or hate them, it doesn’t matter, you can’t discount their accomplishments when you are unproven as a writer. If you are going to brag about your book in the query, save it for the end of the letter and then provide details that are meaningful or attest to your credentials.
- Detailing your age. No matter if you are young, middle aged or old, if you offer up your age it can create bias and count against you, making it more difficult to sell your manuscript.
- Tell an agent how much you value their time. I have actually had agents tell me that when you do this, you risk wasting valuable space in your query letter; space that could be used selling your book or discussing its marketability. Agents and publishers know how busy they are and don’t need you to tell them this.
- Include writing credits that don’t mean anything or that don’t serve a purpose. This means that unless you have been published by a traditional publisher, have had work appear in some great literary review or have written work highlighted in some other esteemed publication, it’s best not to grasp at straws here and fill up space with credits that do not impress. Stick to the concept of your story and sell it. On the flip side of this, if you do have non-literary credentials that you want to highlight, here is your chance to do it. For instance, maybe you are a family lawyer who has 20 years in your respective field and you are writing a self-help book on how to handle a divorce—that is something worth highlighting. Anything that makes you look like a pro, an authority in your field, should be outlined as you close your query letter.
Query letter writing might seem intimidating, but really, if you stick to basics, focus on what you are looking to achieve (selling your manuscript) and keep a bit of humility, you’ll be alright. The team at Grammar Chic knows the perfect formula for query letter writing and would be excited to learn more about your manuscript! Contact Grammar Chic today by calling 803-831-7444 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for more writing tips and tricks by following us on Twitter @GrammarChicInc or giving us a “Like” on Facebook.