Chuck also writes a blog, the Guide to Literary Agents, in which he spells out exactly what agents are looking for.
This is one of those posts that every aspiring writer should read before contacting an agent.
Some of these "pet peeves" will make you laugh, others will make you cringe. (Hopefully, none will have appeared in your queries.)
Query Letter Pet Peeves – Agents Speak
By Chuck Sambuchino
Ready to send your book out and contact agents? The last thing you want to do is to rush that submission out the door and hurt your book’s chances.
When submitting your all-important query to agents or editors, it’s not just a question of what to write in the letter—it’s also a question of what not to write.
I asked 11 literary agents about their personal query letter pet peeves and compiled them below. Check out the list to learn all about what details to avoid in a query that could sink your submission—such as vague wording, too much personal information, grammatical mistakes, and much more.
“I think the biggest querying no-no I’ve ever seen was when an author tracked down some sensitive personal information and included it in their cover letter. Eeep! As agents we absolutely love when authors do their research and get to know our interests, but you want to always make sure what you include in your query letter is professional and that you don’t slip too far into the realm of the personal.
The biggest no-no I’ve seen recently probably would be authors whose query letters focus too much on their author bios and don’t tell me what their book is about! Make sure you put those essential story details up front.”
~ Shira Hoffman of McIntosh & Otis, Inc.
For more advice from Shira, click the link above.
“I’ve received queries for ‘Dear Editor,’ ‘Dear Agent,’ ‘Dear Publisher,’ as well as e-mail queries that are addressed to 10 different agents together.”
~ Jacquie Flynn of Joelle Delbourgo Associates
For more advice from Jacquie, click the link above.
“Spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. They just make me want to stop reading.”
~ Lisa Leshne of LJK Literary Management
For more advice from Lisa, click the link above.
“Unfocused queries and the term ‘fiction novel.’ ”
~ Melissa Flashman of Trident Media Group, LLC
For more advice from Melissa, click the link above.
“I’m sick of vagueness. I get so many queries every day that don’t tell me enough about the novel. If there’s no reason for me to say yes, then it’s going to be no.”
~ Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary, Inc.
For more advice from Bridget, click the link above.
“[Just recently], somebody queried me with a YA fantasy—and in the place where they should have put their professional bio or a few sentences about themselves, they had taken on the persona of their main character and said something about the character instead … Queries are business letters. Agenting is a business. Publishing is a business. I try to be nice and friendly and funny and all, but the bottom line is that I expect those with whom I work to be professional and take what they’re doing seriously.”
~ Linda Epstein of Jennifer De Chiara Literary
For more advice from Linda, click the link above.
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