Perfecting the Query Letter Part 3

Two weeks ago, I started a series on what not to do when writing a query letter. Let’s look at some more things to avoid.

-DON’T omit the genre and word count. For some agents, this is seen as deceptive. Maybe you don’t know the word count, because you haven’t completed the book. Perhaps you realize your 200,000 word romance is too long, and if you mentioned it on the query, the agent wouldn’t even glance at it. You’re probably right there. However, being dishonest about it isn’t the way to go. Eventually, the agent will learn how insanely long the story is and then what? How do you think she’ll feel about you then? I’m not saying that if you don’t include the word count that all agents will think you’re trying to deceive them. But some will feel that way. Do you want to take that risk? As far as genres go, it helps the agent to situation herself and know what to expect from the query if she knows what genre you wrote. Plus, if she doesn’t represent that genre, she won’t have to waste her time or yours. If you’re unsure where to place your story, take a stab at it. If you’re wrong, or the agent feels it would fit better under another genre, she’ll tell you.

-DON’T forget to check the agent’s submission guidelines. Some agents REQUIRE the first 3-5 pages of the manuscript. Some don’t want anything more than the query. And others are open to a few sample pages but don’t require them.

-DON’T send attachments. If you want to include sample pages, include them in the e-mail after the query letter. Most agents won’t open attachments they don’t request for fear of receiving a virus.

-DON’T tell the agent to click on a link to your website or blog for more information. It’s a good idea to include the links in your bio or signature, but make sure everything the agent needs to know about your story is in the query letter.

-DON’T begin with a rhetorical question, especially the ever-so-popular, “Have you ever wondered…”

-DON’T talk about how your book would make an awesome movie. Sell the book first, then worry about the movie rights.

-DON’T focus on other books in the series. If this is book one of a series, the agent will want to know if the novel can stand alone or if it needs the series. It’s a lot riskier for an agent to take on a book that can only be sold as a series, so even if it means you’d have to rework some of the book, be open to the possibility that this could be the only book in the series that you’ll sell. In any case, the query letter is for this book, so don’t go into details about the other books in the series.

You’ll see the last post on this subject on Tuesday.

If you need help with your query letter or synopsis, I’m a freelance editor/writing coach and can help. Check out my query and synopsis critique packages.

Lynnette Labelle
www.labelleseditorialservices.com

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