Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Dumb Thing I've Done in Queries

Reading a back-post of Janet Reid's today, I was reminded of the ever-growing list of dumb things I've done in a query letter. (All of which, I'm sure, landed me in rejection hell.) Okay, so out of her list of three things you should never do, I only did one, but it only takes one thing to cause a rejection.

My recent batch of query letters went out with the blurb paragraph in... gasp... italics. In my defense, it looked better to me in italics, but my preferences don't really matter here. I really stepped in it there.

Do you hear that flushing sound? Well, that was me.

It's not the first dumb thing. It probably won't be the last. (But hey! I'm trying to make it work here.) So, here's a list of the bone-head plays I've made in writing a query. (Please understand. I'm not a lunatic. I'm just a little scatter-brained sometimes.)

- I talked about how important my topic was to the free world. (Okay, not in those exact words, but that was the gist.)

- I compared my work to Ayn Rand's and then said something along the lines of 'while I don't expect to garner her acclaim, I believe a large portion of her readers will buy my book'. Or some such nonsense.

- I sent a query letter to one agent and forgot to change the 'Dear So and So' from the previous letter. I changed the address on the letter, I adapted the letter to the specific agent, and then I forgot that one little thing. D'oh!

- I was so excited about my new query letter, I sent it out to an agent, and then while re-reading it afterwards, I found three typos. I swear I proofed the damn thing a million times, but I must've been in lala-land.

- I dropped a query packet in the mail, got home and saw the SASE laying on my desk.

- I went with the minimalist approach. One short sentence introducing my book, one short paragraph of a blurb, one sentence listing the enclosures, and a signature with my contact info. Less is more right? Ummm, not always.

- Once I threw caution and good sense to the wind, and basically told an agent (thank goodness I only did this once) that my book was awesome and if he couldn't see how awesome it was, then it was probably better if we didn't work together. If, however, he did see my awesome-osity, then I was sure we'd make millions together. In my defense, I was a wee bit frustrated and figured if people were going to reject me anyway, we might as well be up front with each other. Needless to say, I never heard back from that one.

Why am I admitting all this, you ask? Maybe coming out of the closet with my stupidity will stop another poor soul from making the same total blunders I did.

In other words: Learn from my mistakes. Lord knows, I certainly have.

If you're brave enough, or foolish enough, drop a comment and tell me about the stupidest thing you've ever done while you were querying. We can laugh and learn together.


Tempest Knight said...

OMG! I feel for you. I've not send out query letters, as Cobblestone Press doesn't require them when submitting. *wg* However, I've had similar experiences when sending out resumes.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Eh. Most of that was done before I knew what the hell I was doing. Live and learn. =o)

Anonymous said...


I think we've all done most of these.

Granted, I've never gone the route of telling an agent my book is the best thing since sliced bread. . . but i've sure wanted to. lol

Now I did mail a requested full one time with ONLY the manuscript inside the bex. No cover letter or contact info.

OMG-- when I got home from the Post Office I about smacked myself and had to send the contact info and cover letter seperately.

I'm sure that's why she rejected the full. (grin)


KayJay said...

What's so bad about italics? I'm sure I've done that. (I would have written that in last sentence italics but I don't know the html)

I also said I was prolific, which I now think sounds both pompous and meaningless...I mean, compared to who? Barbara Cartland? JD Salinger?

Alex Adams said...

LOL! I'm so glad I'm not alone. I've definitely sent out a query or two with a typo. One, on my very first ms, was the dreaded public/pubic typo. And I still managed to get requests for more material.

Edie said...

This isn't something I've done in a query, but it's close. When I was a newbie, a request for the first three chapters of a story led to a request for the full. I mailed chapter four to the end, assuming they'd kept the first three chapters. lol

The agent sent me back a nice letter, gently letting me know I should have sent the whole thing, but of course it was a rejection.

Jill Monroe said...

Oh, man - I feel for you. I've done some doozies in my time, too!

But hey, you're getting your work out there!