Query Letter Sample – What NOT to Do Part 1

I believe in teaching with examples, so I’m starting a series to SHOW you how NOT to query an agent. The samples will be based off queries I’ve seen online and some that have landed in my e-mail box. None of the query samples are real query letters. I’ve created them for the sole purpose of teaching you what NOT to do.

Why not play along? Tell us what you think is wrong with or doesn’t work in the following query. And, if you see something that works, point that out too.

Dear Mr. Jenny Jones,

I’ve been working on a fictional novel for over ten years now. I’m not finished, but I wanted to see if I should bother writing it or if I’m wasting my time. I figured what the heck? Why not query agents and see if they like my idea? If they do, I’ll finish it and send it to them.


Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Jolene. She was ten and hated life. Her mom was mean. Her dad was nasty. And her dog liked to bite her. When she was six, her dog bit her finger right off, but her dad kept it. Said it would teach her a lesson. Like what? To stay away from that particular dog? Yeah. Lesson learned all right. But that wasn’t the only time she’d suffered because of her parents. They used to lock her in the closet for days, leaving only moldy bread and water for her. That only lasted until the neighbors found out and threatened to tell the cops and social services.

Now, Jolene is sixteen and out on her own. She’d had enough crap with her parents and left. Couldn’t be any worse, right? Wrong. She’d found that out the hard way.

HARD TIMES is 50,000 words right now, but I estimate it’ll end up somewhere around 70,000 words when I’ve finished.

Please give this story a chance. I know a lot of young girls can learn from it.


Pretend Author 1

I repeat, do NOT send out a query letter like this. I wrote this sample to show you what NOT to do. I’ll let you comment on it or at least think about what’s off in this sample, and I’ll dissect it next week.

If you would like an editor to go through your story for plot and character issues, unrealistic dialogue, poor pacing, and more, I have an opening July 28 for developmental/substantive editing. Let’s talk.

Lynnette Labelle

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