Common Query Mistakes

At my new internship, I got to see what was in the bottom drawer: rejected book queries. For over an hour, I read query after query. I discussed them afterwards with the director as well.

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

  • Misspellings
    • I’m not kidding when I say that one query had “aknolegments” instead of “acknowledgements”. Spelling, especially in the writing career, is essential. If you misspell something on your query, who’s to say you won’t have grammar errors all over your manuscripts?
  • Full manuscripts
    • Some writers sent full length manuscripts without being asked, which is dangerous. Each publisher, literary agent, and editor have their own specifications. Some just 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 just ask for the word count in an email, but they would rather just 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 have published with the publisher before or used that same agent before, it doesn’t mean your next book idea will meet their requirements again.
  • Too many words
    • One author said his manuscript had 202,000 words. That’s a series, not a novel. Bigger novels are usually published with about 110,000 words and that’s still pushing it. Not everyone can publish a high word count either because it’s 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 incredibly difficult. Publishers usually 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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