Skip to main content

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.

Buy Now:
Your First Novel

Image placeholder title

WD Online Course:
Improve your query letter in just 4-weeks:

Writing The Query Letter

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to Alyssa Rickert, Grand Prize winner of the 2nd Annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's her winning essay, "In Between."

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

From maintaining subtlety to visiting haunted places, author J. Fremont shares everything to consider when writing about ghosts and the supernatural in fiction.

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

Social media is a daunting albeit important aspect of promoting our work. Here, author Aileen Weintraub offers six steps to promote your book on social media authentically.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 609

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a world-building poem.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: World-Building (Podcast, Episode 5)

In the fifth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we talk about world-building in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including interviews with authors Whitney Hill (fiction) and Jeannine Hall Gailey (poetry).

Heirloom

Heirloom

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, someone's shown up demanding your narrator's family heirloom.

May Cobb: On Stolen Moments

May Cobb: On Stolen Moments

Author May Cobb discusses offering readers a summer of mayhem with her new novel, My Summer Darlings.

The Time Is Now: Securing First-Hand Accounts of History for Writing Projects

The Time Is Now: Securing First-Hand Accounts of History for Writing Projects

Writer Stephen L. Moore discusses the benefits of having first-hand accounts for historical writing and offers advice on best practices in securing interviews while there’s still time.

From Script

Character Exploration and Development in Television (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with writers, showrunners and more who share a common thread of character exploration and development!