Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Query Letters

By on June 18, 2020

Writing query letters can be challenging, but getting this right is crucial if you want to ensure that you give your manuscript the best chance of success.

Here are some of the top mistakes that people make when writing query letters:

Being too cheesy or making jokes.

We’re not saying that query letters need to be utterly devoid of personality. However, making too many jokes, being too cheesy in the way you present your plot, or just going over the top thinking that this will make you ‘stand out’ can massively backfire. 

Blurbs with too much confusion detail or only describes the theme, not the plot.

When publishers ask for the synopsis, it’s because they want to know what happens in your story. Don’t write too much about themes or write in a way that leaves them guessing. It would help if you wrote well and engagingly while also delivering the main plot points, so they have a clear idea of what happens in your story. 

Poor formatting

Silly images, colors, odd capitalization, lousy formatting, and documents that can’t be opened are all extraordinarily frustrating and a waste of time for agents and publishers. Most will tell you how to type and space your doc, so look for that and if they don’t, stick to a simple format and send your manuscript to yourself first to check it delivers in the way you intended.

Mentioning unimpressive accolades

While it’s great that you wrote another three novels before this book, only mention these if they have been highly reviewed by more people than just your mum and a handful of friends. If you’ve had any press, if you have thousands of social media followers and if you have previously published work, this is all of interest. However, if you mention those self-published works that have clearly not don’t very well, this could work against you so best to leave them out of your submission.

Changing of tenses and points of view

Many writers start writing in the present tense then switch to the past, or they write their author bio in the first person and then switch to the third. This all indicates a lack of care and attention, which won't go unnoticed by the recipient. 

Over/under confidence

You should be able to clearly and matter of factly explain why you think your novel will sell and who it will sell too. However, randomly claiming that you are the next [insert famous author here] is not a great idea. Similarly, sounding too much like a novice with no confidence, begging for a publishing deal, groveling, and so on will also be a huge turn-off. 

Overdoing the info in your author bio

While your author bio is the place where you can reveal a little about yourself, there is definitely such a thing as oversharing here. Stick to information that’s generally relevant to your writing and keep it short and sweet. Remember, it’s your manuscript that’s the main point of interest, so you don’t need to tell your potential publisher about that time you ran a half marathon or how you love to bake cookies at the weekend.

By avoiding these common query letter mistakes, you’ll be doing yourself and your novel a considerable favor. Agents and publishers are often particular in how they would like a query letter to arrive with them i.e., what information to include and how long it should be - don’t ignore this. Keep your query letters professional, friendly, and to the point, and you can’t go too far wrong!

Bethany Cadman

www.bethanycadmancreates.co.uk

About Beth Cadman

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