3 Common Flaws that Sink Query Letters

In the twenty years I’ve been connecting authors with agents and publishers, I’ve rewritten a lot of query letters. The most common flaws that keep writers from capturing an agent or publisher’s attention are:
–Lack of a tagline. This is a single sentence that encapsulates the protagonist’s journey, the story’s universal appeal, the audience, and the category. Although queries can succeed if they don’t have taglines, the agent/publisher will have to read the entire first paragraph (or more) before their interest is sparked. That’s too long. Taglines captivate in ten words.
–Descriptions that confuse and/or fail to evoke an emotional response. The one or two paragraphs that describe the story need to relay the protagonist’s journey and the universal aspects of the story. In order to do this, these paragraphs must be clear, concise, and evoke the emotional tone of the story. Too much detail, inclusion of details that aren’t important at this initial review stage, and the wrong details are just some of the ways the description fails to open the door.
–Skipping any information about the author. Writer’s don’t have to be celebrities to get book deals. They do have to make a connection with the agent or publisher, however. This works two ways. First, it makes the agent or acquisitions editor a champion for the manuscript. Second, it proves that the author can find ways to connect with readers.
Avoid these three common flaws and improve your chances of being offered a contract.

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2 thoughts on “3 Common Flaws that Sink Query Letters

  1. Catherine Burr

    Reblogged this on Catherine Burr and commented:
    Good query tips here. I’ll add that I used to receive queries that were so generic, they wouldn’t even mention a person’s name or title. I think if you’re going to the trouble to send a query, a person should do their homework and find out to whom they are submitting.

    Also, I was always surprised by the number of queries I received for books that I clearly did not publish.

    Like

    Reply

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