Publish date:

Anatomy of a Bad Query Letter: When a Good Idea Gets Buried and Good Intentions Go Wrong

Agent Nathan Bransford has his "Anatomy of a Great Query Letter" posts. So, on my blog, for educational purposes only, I present "Anatomy of a Bad Query Letter" (Part 1).

Agent Nathan Bransford has his "Anatomy of a Great Query Letter" posts. So, on my blog, for educational purposes only, I present "Anatomy of a Bad Query Letter" (Part 1).

Obviously, I've changed names and places to protect this writer.

Check out the original letter and then I'll dissect it below...

-----------------

Awesome Writer
123 Main St.
Address

Date, Year

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation to market a collection of my original short stories, entitled XXXX. My goal is publication to a mass audience, not only to English-speaking readers, but globally, to have translations of my work available in several languages.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from the University of XXXX. I wrote my first story in January 2006, and I have since begun to also write a body of poetry. My short stories are science-fiction adventures with an ecological angle. Teenagers and young adults comprise my target audience. In a perfect world, I feel I could best get my message across in a television series adapted from the stories. That would be my long-range goal. However, unlike current popular TV programs and films of intergalactic warfare, my work stresses the interconnectedness of all life and the sacredness of Earth’s wilderness.

Publication in New Age and ecological magazines would be a logical first step for me. With the collection of I am submitting here, I welcome your input. What follows here is what I could see as possible back cover endorsements/promotions of the collection:

- "Awesome Writer’s collection of stories has a more than sufficient number of surprises and compelling plot twists to engage the 12-25 set, with a skillful juxtaposition of science- fiction and spirituality."

- "XXXX demonstrates the discerning and thoughtful intelligence of an author who personally survived a traumatic childhood event, and then spent nearly ten years as a teen and young adult on a spiritual healing quest. Write rshares this learning and experience in an authentic way, through his delightful characters, both human and alien."

- "XXXX crosses a frontier familiar to many teen and young adults in the science- fiction/magic adventure genre, but differentiates itself in a message of hope for humanity and the planet, without preaching. The stories evoke the Arthurian legends in their mysticism and magic, but instead of knights, wizards and kings, benevolent aliens team up with humans. These stories could possibly become as loved by the new generation of youth as the film E.T. was thirty years ago."

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Awesome Writer
E-mail: awesomewriter@yahoo.net

----------------

OK, here we go...

I am seeking representation to market a collection of my original short stories, entitled XXXX. I like the straightforward approach to begin, but note how your collection is "titled," not "entitled." My goal is publication to a mass audience, not only to English-speaking readers, but globally, to have translations of my work available in several languages. This is what another blogged called "Thinking Too Far Ahead Syndrome" (TTFAS). Stick to pitching your work.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from the University of XXXX. I wrote my first story in January 2006, and I have since begun to also write a body of poetry. Awesome!! Wait - why does this matter? My short stories are science-fiction adventures with an ecological angle. Teenagers and young adults comprise my target audience. Kind of cool. Will voracious YA readers gobble up a short story collection? They just might, but this cool note is not expounded and buried in mistakes. Pity. In a perfect world, I feel I could best get my message across in a television series adapted from the stories. That would be my long-range goal. Way too much TTFAS! However, unlike current popular TV programs and films of intergalactic warfare, my work stresses the interconnectedness of all life and the sacredness of Earth’s wilderness.

Publication in New Age and ecological magazines would be a logical first step for me. Probably - so go do it! With the collection of I am submitting here, I welcome your input. Input as to what? How to begin? An agent wants to sell your work and make money, not give you career advice for free. What follows here is what I could see as possible back cover endorsements/promotions of the collection:  This doesn't bode well...

- "Awesome Writer’s collection of stories has a more than sufficient number of surprises and compelling plot twists to engage the 12-25 set, with a skillful juxtaposition of science- fiction and spirituality."

- "XXXX demonstrates the discerning and thoughtful intelligence of an author who personally survived a traumatic childhood event, and then spent nearly ten years as a teen and young adult on a spiritual healing quest. Writer shares this learning and experience in an authentic way, through his delightful characters, both human and alien."

- "XXXX crosses a frontier familiar to many teen and young adults in the science- fiction/magic adventure genre, but differentiates itself in a message of hope for humanity and the planet, without preaching. The stories evoke the Arthurian legends in their mysticism and magic, but instead of knights, wizards and kings, benevolent aliens team up with humans. These stories could possibly become as loved by the new generation of youth as the film E.T. was thirty years ago."

Ohhh-kay. I get the gist. Maybe this is a unique take on the pitch, as you want to "pitch through blurbs," but it doesn't work. Conjuring up fake praise comes off as not only amateurish, but a bit egotistical. Meanwhile, the cool idea of sci-fi short stories for teenagers is never explained well, even to the point where the interconnecting themes are not identified.

Furthermore, agents will usually not pick up a short story collection from a new writer. The best way to get such a collection published is to write novels, gather a readership, and then publish it. If you are an amateur and want to get them sold, I highly suggest getting some awards and honors for a few of them.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,

What about just "sincerely"? Isn't that good enough anymore? I've seen "sincerely yours" a lot recently. This sounds kinda flirty ... maybe it's just me.

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Dispel vs. Expel (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between dispel and expel with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Laura Davis: On the Story That Begged To Be Told

Laura Davis: On the Story That Begged To Be Told

Author and writing instructor Laura Davis discusses the process of starting, stopping, and starting again with her new memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars.

From Our Readers

Which Writer or Work Made You Think About Point of View in a Different Way and Why?: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers question: Which writer or work made you think about point of view in a different way and why? Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

4 Tips on Research for Writing Novels and Stories Beyond Getting the Facts Right

4 Tips on Research for Writing Novels and Stories Beyond Getting the Facts Right

The kind of research you do can make or break your story's authenticity. Author Blake Sanz offers 4 tips on research for your novels and stories beyond getting the facts right.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Annual Writing Competition Early-Bird Deadline, Seven WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce the Annual Writing Competition early-bird deadline, seven WDU courses starting this week, and more!

3 Big Tips for Writing a Children’s Picture Book Like a Pro

3 Big Tips for Writing a Children’s Picture Book Like a Pro

Small but mighty, picture books help raise children into lifelong readers. Children's book author Diana Murray offers 3 big tips for writing a picture book like a pro.

5 Things I Learned About Writing From Watching Soap Operas

5 Things I Learned About Writing From Watching Soap Operas

Lessons in writing can come from various forms of art or entertainment. Author Alverne Ball shares 5 things he learned about writing from watching soap operas.

From Script

Writing from an Intimate Point of View and Adding Essential Elements to Solidify Your Screenplay (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, TV writer Kate Sargeant shares a first-hand look on her new digital series that was a life-changing experience. Plus an interview with filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve, a new installment from ‘Ask the Coach’ and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Collecting Advice but Never Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Collecting Advice (but Never Writing)

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is to collect writing advice at the expense of actually writing.