Common query mistakes

At my new internship, I got to see what was in the bottom drawer: rejected queries. For over an hour, I read query after query.

The rejected queries all had repeated mistakes. Here’s some of the most common ones:


One writer wrote “aknolegments” instead of “acknowledgements.” Spelling, especially in the writing career, is essential. If you misspell something in your query, who’s to say you won’t have grammar errors all over your manuscript?

Full manuscripts

Some writers sent full length manuscripts up front, which is dangerous. Each publisher, literary agent, and editor have their own specifications. Some want the first chapter or the first few chapters. But none usually ask for a full-length manuscripts.

Word count missing

Having a word count is important. If you forget it, some professionals will ask for the word count in an email. But they would rather have the word count up front. Now, a word count is not “55 pages and a bibliography.” Write down a rounded number of words. “100,000 words” or “75,000 words.”

Wrong reasons/genre

Some writers believe anyone will publish them, which is not true. Each editor, literary agent, and publisher have their own specifications. Even if you published with them before, it doesn’t mean your next book will meet their requirements.

Too many words

One author said his manuscript had 202,000 words. That’s a series, not a novel. Bigger novels publish with about 100,000 words and that’s still pushing it. Not everyone can publish a high word count. They’re hard to sell and could cost the publisher too much money to print. It also depends on your genre. Some have a higher word count ranges than others.

Downgrade self

Another author wrote: “I am not a professional writer” in the query. Even if you don’t think you’re worthy, you have to sell yourself. Fake it until you make it. Don’t write something that will make the agent, editor, or publisher think less of you.

Wrong background

One engineer wrote a history book. Now, is that possible? Yes, but it’s difficult. Publishers prefer a writer to write in their own field, especially if it’s a historical novel. They want to know that you’re a person who can do research and write about the topic correctly.

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