Five Things to Avoid for a Pristine Query Letter

portrait of Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

We are selling our work when we approach any gatekeeper, an editor, an agent, a contest judge. Here are five little things to avoid so you’ll look like the professional you are.

  • Don’t tell the gatekeeper you always wanted to write. You can think of something more pertinent to your cause (and something more original!) than that.
  • Don’t use the verb “quote” when you want the noun “quotation.” Some stylebooks will tell you that it’s OK, but agents can be a picky lot. Use zero-tolerance grammar rules for your queries.
  • Don’t pitch more than one book at time. You want to give just one your best shot.
  • Don’t call your novel a “fictional novel.” By definition, a novel is fiction.
  • Don’t overdo exclamation marks, question marks, or the use of sentence fragments. (Yes, fragments are acceptable when they’re used for a good reason.).

Here’s one last suggestion for fiction writers ’cause they’re so often neglected when it comes to marketing. Avoid using italics for internal thought in the synopses sections of your marketing tools or in the sample chapters you must include. Italics are being used more and more these days, but using them often becomes a crutch that enables writers to avoid writing great transitions and point-of-view. The best agents and publishers will recognize it as such.

 

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