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10 Query Letter No-Nos

Here are 10 common query letter mistakes that could get your idea rejected. by Ann Rittenberg

10. Letters that have typos in the first sentence.

9. Letters that start with a nugget of wisdom: “Every step we take in life moves us in a direction.”

8. Letters with faint or very small type. You can assume that just about everyone in publishing suffers from eyestrain.

7. Letters longer than one page.

6. Letters with overcomplicated directions for replying: “I’m going to Tortola for the next three weeks. If you need to reach me, please call my cell number. Don’t leave a message at my home number because I won’t get it until I return.” A simple street or e-mail address will do.

5. Photocopied letters with no salutation.

4. Letters that start, “I know how busy you are, so I’ll get straight to the point and not take up too much of your valuable time.” By writing this, you’ve already taken up a full sentence of my valuable time.

3. Letters with grandiose claims: “My novel will appeal to women, and because there are 150 million women in the United States, it will sell 150 million copies.”

2. Letters that say, “I’ve worked very hard on this novel.” Does that fact alone make it a good novel?

1. And the No. 1 query letter no-no: “I have written a fiction novel.” When an agent sees this sentence in a query letter, he quickly draws the conclusion that a writer who doesn’t know that a novel is, by definition, a work of fiction is a writer who isn’t ready to be published.

Excerpted from Your First Novel © 2006 by ANN RITTENBERG AND LAURA WHITCOMB, with permission from Writer’s Digest Books.

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