Mistake 50: Writing a Bad Query Letter

Publish date:

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer's Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: Query letters are sales tools. Plain and simple. To hook an agent or editor into taking a look at your manuscript or article, you have to write a great query letter. If your topic or storyline is muddled and ambiguous, then the acquiring agent or editor is going to assume that your manuscript will be as well.

The solution:
The first line of your one-page query letter must grab the reader, because it is the first (and maybe the last) line the person opening your submission will read. Next, grab the agent’s or editor’s interest with a paragraph on your book or article. Remember to include some factual information like: “This is an 85,000-word sci-fi novel,” or “‘Ten Tips for Off-Roading’ is a 2,000-word article.”

Image placeholder title

In addition to a sales pitch for your manuscript, you need to include a sales pitch for yourself. The manuscript is an extension of you. What special background do you have that would make the editor want to see what you have done? This means not only any writing background you have, but also your background as far as the story goes. This does not mean you won’t get looked at it if your background doesn’t have much direct application to your subject matter and you have little writing experience, but editors and agents also remember what Mark Twain said: “Write what you know.” If your job or background in any way applies to what you’ve written, make sure you mention that.

John B. Thompson | Book Wars

John B. Thompson: On Researching Changes in the Book Publishing Industry

John B. Thompson, author of the new book Book Wars, shares the research that went into his account of how the digital revolution changed publishing for readers and writers.

From Script

Supporting AAPI Storytellers and Tapping into Mythical World Building (From Script)

In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, meet South-East-Asian-American filmmakers and screenwriters, plus interviews with screenwriter Emma Needell and comic book writer/artist Matt Kindt, TV medical advisor Dr. Oren Gottfried, and more!

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a personal essay (also known as the narrative essay) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing, examples of effective personal essays, and more.

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

If your character isn't a trained fighter but the scene calls for a fight, how can you make the scene realistic? Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch has the answers for writers here.

April PAD Challenge

30 Poetry Prompts for the 2021 April PAD Challenge

Find all 30 poetry prompts for the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge in this post.

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic & Adobo, explains how writers can help their main character solve a mystery when they're the prime suspect.

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is not using your spare 15 minutes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, invite an unexpected visitor into your story.

7 Tips for Writing a Near Future Dystopian Novel

7 Tips for Writing a Near-Future Dystopian Novel

In this article, debut author Christina Sweeney-Baird explains how writers can expertly craft a near-future dystopian novel.