How NOT to Query

I am so excited to participate in this blogfest!

It’s organized by the awesome DL Hammons, the mastermind behind the Blitz, and the idea for Deja Vu is to re-post a favorite blog from this past year, or just one you feel didn’t receive the exposure you would have liked.

I’ve always loved blogging, but I really feel as though I hit my blogging stride this year. I’m comfortable in my blog-skin. It was so fun to read through old posts, and I chose this one because I loved working on it so much! It’s filled with everything that sums up my blog-writing style: lightheartedness, fun, and gifs. I wrote it in February, and it’s one of my favorites. Hope you enjoy 🙂

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There are no two ways around it: querying sucks. But there are a few rules that, if you keep in mind, it makes the process that much easier for everyone involved.

Here is a list of things that I would have loved to have known before I began my querying journey:

1) NO QUESTIONS!

“What would you do if you lost everything? Your job, your boyfriend–your favorite purse?”–this forumla does not work.

Trust me, I tried it.

I’m sure every agent/editor is different, and if the idea/writing is good it could be overlooked, but overall, questions read very cheesy in queries.

2) Know your genre and its word count.

Don’t go querying a 20,000 word YA novel (that actually qualifies as a novella) or a 200,000+ word MG book (it’s just too, too much.)


3) Keep it short. 250 word queries are the norm.

This is probably a slightly more flexible rule, and it seems to be a newer thing. In my querying day, if you kept the pitch (including bio) to the equivalent of one printed page you were good. Now it seems shorter is best. But don’t forget to pack voice, plot, conflict/stakes, and romance (if applicable) into that concise 250 words. A lot to keep in mind, and it gets dizzying, I know, but if you feel overwhelmed, just remember: there are other forms of art that require a lot more precision than a query.

now tackling that letter doesn’t seem quite so difficult, does it?? You’re welcome.
4) Vague hooks don’t work.

In your author-y mind, an opening line like, “If Jimmy can’t find the one the thing he really needs to find, the world may never be the same” is intriguing to an agent.

Nope. This isn’t Grease, where vagueness became an awesome song.

Just cut to the chase and tell them the story.
5) Impressive bios mean nothing if you haven’t done a thing relevant to your story.

If you wrote a beautiful novel about a ballerina, but have no real dance training, that’s cool. No need to say “I’m a partner at a huge law firm and this novel is about the dancer I always dreamed I could be. I never took a ballet class in my life, but I can twerk, and I do twerk often.”

That’s great! Good for you. Congrats on all the twerking. We all strive to practice law and dance like Miley Cyrus. But what does it have to do with ballet? Let your story speak for itself, and leave out the unnecessary stuff.

6) You will make mistakes (and you’ll live to talk about them.)

After 20+ queries, your brain gets kind of fried, and no matter how much you proof read, or triple-check agency guidelines, there will be mistakes. You might typo the agent’s name. You might use Mr. when it should be Ms. Or maybe your finger slips and taps the letter adjacent to the ‘D’ when addressing your pitch to Ms. Dartman.

Trust me. You will never be more aware of what cruel, unforgiving, and demonic little entities computer keyboards can be until the moment you begin querying. You’ll cringe over your mistakes for weeks.

Just brush it off and move along. You’ll probably laugh about it one day (or not.)


7) You can’t pitch a series, no matter how bad you want to or how amazing your series is.

Even if you’re bursting to talk about what winds up happening in subsequent books, hold off.

One book at a time. You can say something like, “my novel is a YA thriller with series potential,” but that’s all.


8) Be realistic with comp titles.

There’s a very fine line between confidence and Kanye, and you don’t want to cross it.

It’s fine to compare your book to a known title, but keep your ego in check. Don’t be like, “My book is Harry Potter meets Twilight with Da Vinci Code-esque revelations written in rhymes that would make Dr. Seuss jealous, with illustrations that puts Curious George to shame.”

(although that sounds like it could be a pretty awesome book!)

If you’re unsure whether or not you’re overshooting or sounding a bit arrogant, check out these chilling words that have escaped Kanye West’s mouth at some time or another:

If you can relate in any way to the above words, maybe rethink your querying approach?

Did I miss anything? Got a juicy querying horror story? Tell me!