Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Would-be authors - 25 sentences NOT to include in your query letter

  1. ‘Dear Sir and/or Madam’

  1. ‘What’s that smell coming off the ms you’re holding? - that’s the smell of serious money.’

  1. ‘Friends who I have shown my book to all say things like: ‘the best story I ever read’, ‘definite best seller’, ‘it’ll make a great movie’ etc.’

  1. ‘Move over, Harry Potter.’

  1. ‘You’re gonna love it.’

  1. ‘This book is bound to fly off the shelves.’

  1. ‘This book will change the face of publishing forever.’

  1. ‘I didn’t see any other fantasy books on your list, so this is a great opportunity for you to publish in a popular genre.’

  1. ‘Your listing said no short stories, but you’ll find my short stories are very different.’

  1. ‘I have not included a synopsis as that would spoil the surprise at the end of the story.’

  1. ‘The story speaks for itself.’

  1. ‘I have not included the first three chapters as things don’t really get interesting until Chapter 4 - please find enclosed Chapters 4-10.’

  1. ‘I know you asked for only three chapters, but my book is finished and anyway I’m confident you’ll want to read on after the first three chapters so I’ve enclosed the whole thing.’

  1. ‘The single spacing and two-sided printing are not exactly according to your guidelines, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the savings in postage.’

  1. ‘Excuse the handwritten ms - my typewriter is on the blink.’

  1. ‘You asked for submissions by post, but these days people find that email is quicker, cheaper, and gets right to your computer - please click the attachment above and start reading straightaway.’

  1. ‘Don’t take the risk of losing this in the slush pile - read it today.’

  1. ‘I’m not sure if it’s any good, but I suppose you’ll be the judge of that.’

  1.  ‘Please ignore the spelling mistaks - never my strong point at school.’

  1. ‘I noticed a few factual errors after I printed it out - but your proofreader will pick these up easily enough.’

  1. ‘As you’ll see from my pic enclosed, I have all the attributes your publicity people need for setting up celebrity interviews etc.’

  1. ‘Rather than taking up space here with my cv, here are the links to my website and Facebook page.’

  1. ‘More than twenty agents and publishers have rejected this already - please do not add your name to the list of the stupid.’

  1. ‘Please get back to me not later than the 17th - I have given the same deadline to everyone I’ve sent to so I can assess all offers and make a decision.’

  1. ‘Call me, but you’d better make it quick.’


  1. These are hilarious! Now I better go revise my query....

  2. One of the sentences I included in my list 'Excuse the handwritten ms - my typewriter is on the blink' comes from my experience many years ago working for an arts organisation that was also a publisher in a small way. Every six months or so I would get a package of scrawled 'poems' from an address in Cumbria, and always with a covering note from the woman who sent them with the note 'Excuse the handwritten ms - my typewriter is on the blink', or sometimes with the variation 'my typewriter is still on the blink'. For about four years the woman kept on coming, apparently undaunted by our regular rejections. I wonder if we were the only publisher on her list, or whether she circulated her efforts around others too. Who knows? Perhaps she's still doing it - I am.

  3. The sad thing is, there are so many writers who have made these mistakes. Fortunately not all of them at the same time. :)

  4. That would make some letter, Stina!

  5. Whew, my query passes! Funny stuff.

  6. Glad you passed the test, Jen :-))

  7. Those are hysterical! It's amazing how delusional people can be.

  8. Delusion is my default condition.

  9. Great list! What about submissions on neon pink paper? Or the ones that go "my mother/aunt/third neighbour on the left" loved this...
    #21 is hilarious!

  10. Hmm, I must remember to bin that pink neon paper.

  11. Another one to add: 'I hadn't heard of you till now, but sign me up and soon everyone will know who you are too.'

  12. And another: 'I note that you are not taking on new authors, but I'm sure you'll make an exception in my case.'

  13. How about this one:

    We all know that the standard synopsis and 3 chapters goes straight into the bin, which is why I have submitted my entire historical novel as an illuminated manuscript on imitation parchment paper. Got your attention, didn't it?

  14. Thanks, Justin. The scary thing is I believe that really happens.

    1. I know. I based it on some chap who did his MS with flowing script in maroon ink, or something like that. His justification is that he wanted to stand out in the slush pile. He didn't realise that if you can't get the lit agent / publisher's attention in a unique way BEFORE your MS reaches their reader you probably don't stand a chance anyway.

      I submitted my novel to a publisher who had been recommended by a local heavyweight in the Catholic US literary field, dropping his name in my query letter. I also threw caution to the winds and sent the whole MS with the letter. Maybe not smart, but that was after 18 months of doing it by the book and getting nowhere.