Query Letters: Don’t Do This

Query Letters: Don’t Do This

Several don’t exist for query letters, and entire books have been dedicating to perfecting the art of querying agents and editors. That being said, as I am a literary agent writing this blog post, I have several examples of things that would fit in that don’t category that I see most often.

We’ve already covered a post on what to DO. Let’s dive into those DON’T categories.

DON’T: Be Demanding

I was in the querying trenches a few years back, I understand. You’ve sent hundreds of submissions, and you want:

  • Answers as to why people have turned you down
  • Referrals to other agents if this one will turn you down
  • And most important: an agent or a book deal

But you do have to keep in mind that we get literally thousands of submissions each year. If we provide any feedback or referrals, it’s on our own unpaid time.

Don’t ask for referrals or extensive feedback. The agent or editor will provide it if they see promise in your manuscript.

(You can put Ms. Bolinger if you want, but really make sure to research someone’s preferred pronouns before putting a Mr. or Ms. It’s often simpler just to do their name).

DON’T: Be Unrealistic

Who wouldn’t love for their book to be picked up by Netflix or Disney+. But we have to be realistic. Unless you have to have connections someone who already secured a Netflix deal for you don’t say, “This is going to be the next Netflix hit.”

Be realistic with social media numbers too. I may have 30,000 followers, but let me tell you, I did not have 30,000 of my followers buy my book when I released in June 2019. Talk about platform, but don’t say that that alone will get you sales.

It won’t.

DON’T: Be Rude

This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how poorly people take rejections. As someone who has been rejected literally hundreds (if not thousands at this point) of times, I know how to take a punch.

Don’t ask them to reconsider. Don’t say, “Well, J.K. Rowling got rejected XYZ times, and those publishers sure were sorry.” Don’t insult their agency, their position, or their publishing house.

Simply say, “Thank you for your time,” when they reject you. Believe me, you don’t want to burn bridges in this industry. And industry members do talk.

I have rejected people previously because I’ve heard from others that they were too hard to work with or badgered them constantly on social media for updates. While we’re at it …

DON’T: Pitch Them on Social Media

There is one exception: If they are participating in a Twitter Pitch Party. But even then, they require you to submit via email or Submittable if they like your pitch.

I have a rule of thumb (especially on LinkedIn). If I connect or friend someone and they message me a pitch, I immediately unconnected or unfriend them.

When you pitch someone on social media you not only invade their personal DMs, but you tell them that you only see them as someone you can get something from.

No one likes to feel used.

What other tips have you heard when it comes to queries? We’d love to hear them in the comments.


39 Queries that Worked | Writer’s Digest

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Writing Queries like a Professional Resume Writer | Serious Writer Academy

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Query Letter to Submit a Novel to a Publisher | Almost an Author