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Mistakes Authors Make When Writing a Query Letter
A query letter is a business letter that should be written professionally and thoroughly proofread for errors. It should introduce an author’s book and convince a literary agent why it is a good idea for him to agree to work with the author. It is not an autobiography or a synopsis. These are some mistakes that authors make when drafting query letters.
Length: A query letter should be very brief and should be a maximum of one page. The page should not be crammed with information from top to bottom, but it should have a short, well-spaced message in about three compact paragraphs.
Including a synopsis instead of snippets: Honestly, it is impossible to write a 50-something word synopsis of a novel-length book. Although you should describe your book in a query letter, you should only give a ‘snapshot’ of the novel using fascinating and dynamic language.
Saying too much about yourself: A query letter is supposed to have your writer bio. This bio should include information about yourself as well as some of the work you have published in the past. However, you should know that literary agents don’t really care about your hobbies, your hardships, your family, or any other aspect of your personal life unless it relates directly to your novel. Everything you write in the query letter should relate to the book you are pitching to an agent. Details in the letter should convince the agent that you are the right person to write the book. You won’t get any sympathy by including a sob-story to get an agent’s sympathy.
Saying how much your family and friends liked the book: Any literary agent likes to be the judge of whether the book is good or not. You should resist the urge to tell an agent how many people liked the book, even if it is the truth. An agent’s only concern is how confident he/she can feel when selling the book.
Stating opinions: You should never say what you think about the selling potential of your book. Sentences such as “This book is a guaranteed bestseller...” do not belong in a query letter.
Disguising writing experiences as credentials: If an author has published some articles at a local newspaper free of charge, such articles don’t count as credentials. Writing credits can only be gotten for work that you were paid to do. You can also get credentials from writing venues that are well known to the agent. If you are new and have no credentials, it is better to leave this part out of the query letter. Good literary agents rarely ignore an author’s query letter just because he doesn’t have as many publishing credits as his competition.
Introducing a book as part of a book series that is already at an advanced stage: When an author tells an agent that a book is just one of many to come, the agent thinks that the author is obsessive. Even if you plan to release subsequent books, you should concentrate on the one you are currently trying to sell.