I’ll confess, I stole this idea from Janet Reid, but it’s a brilliant post and one that I think might be a little different for every agent. So what about a query letter results in an instant, or near instant, rejection? Here we go....
1. Every single agent on earth is included in the “to” section of the email. I know you’re querying widely, heck, I tell you to query widely, but at least make us all think you’re querying us individually or that you care who might become your agent. I don’t bother to even respond to these emails, they just get deleted.
2. You query Jacky, Kim, and me simultaneously. I delete, figuring one of the others will answer (can’t guarantee they do, though).
3. A query letter is beneath you and instead you send a rambling email about how hard you worked to write this next great piece of literature and you’ve attached your synopsis and sample chapters. My guidelines say query letter and I want a query letter. I don’t bother reading the attachments unless they’re requested. I make my decision based on your query letter, therefore I make my decision based on what you tell me in that email, whether it has anything to do with your book or not. Most likely this is an instant reject.
4. Attaching the query letter instead of cutting and pasting it into the email. I’ll admit I’ll read the query in most cases, but asking me to take this extra step doesn’t help your case. By the time Microsoft Word opens and the letter opens I could have gotten through three other queries. Now you’re wasting my time. Ultimately I’m reading as a courtesy at this point.
5. Disparaging all other books published or yourself or your book. I am insulted by those who think that everything published is nothing but a load of crap and I don’t want to work with anyone who has an attitude like that. I also can’t figure out why you’d want to be published. Instant reject. I have no patience for people who can’t believe in themselves or their books. My thought is that I’ll be spending all my time as your agent trying to convince you that you are good enough, and frankly, if you can’t believe in yourself or your work I can’t either. Instant reject.
6. The query is sent through a query service, your husband, your grandmother, your daughter, your lawyer, your doctor, or your dog (and yes, it has happened). Nearly instant reject. I’ll read the query, but I go in skeptically and you darn well will have to knock my socks off and throw them across the room before I can be convinced you can actually do the rest of the work on your own.
7. The query is addressed to my dog. Sure he’s on the web site and yes he’s adorable and smart. No, he can’t read. Instant reject.
8. Your book or proposal is incomplete or you are pitching nothing but an idea. Self-help nonfiction writers can submit a proposal, but that proposal better be complete before you query me, and don’t even think of querying until your fiction or narrative nonfiction (for unpublished authors) is fully written, edited, and revised. And you have an idea and want to know whether or not it’s viable before wasting your time writing? Write it and find out then. Instant reject.
9. Lack of knowledge of the English language, proper sentence structure, or word usage. And yes, I can tell the difference between a typo and knowledge of the English language. Instant reject.
At least once a day I get queries addressed to Jennifer, to whom it may concern, or another agent entirely. I can live with that. Mistakes happen. I regularly see typos, formatting and editing errors, and I can live with that. I can live with the fact that you might occasionally misuse a word or use the wrong word. In other words, I can accept the fact that you’re human (if you can accept the fact that I am too).