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Bob Nailor




Query Letter No-No

You've followed all the proper steps of protocol wrote the story, polished to your best ability, had it professionally edited and submitted it with a query letter, as requested OR, submitted a query letter, in hopes the response will be a request for the story.

You received a thank you, no thank you AKA a reject.

What went wrong?

Perhaps it was your query letter. Let's look at some of the possibilities to garner that reject.

To Whom It May Concern
Attached please find my story "XYZ ABC" which is an exciting mix of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" with a touch of J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" to tie it all together. Since those three are very successful stories, it is a natural a combination would be an international seller. I am sure you will enjoy it since three of my family members, two friends and three beta readers have read it and think it is one of the best things they've read this year. All are willing to give it 5-star reviews on Amazon when released.
Anxiously awaiting your contract.
Sincerely,
John Doe

Okay, first mistake: To Whom It May Concern. Beginning a query with an impersonal salutation to anyone who happens to pick it up will NOT bring a warm fuzzy to the reader. If you don't know to whom to address the query letter then do the research and find out. Even a "Dear Sir:" to Ms. Miller is going to get your start off on the wrong foot. If need be, call the establishment and ask to whom the letter should be addressed as a last step. The internet is a great resource and if that doesn't reveal what you need, check out the library for current versions the Writer's Digest "Writer's Market" or a copy of the magazine with editor information listed. Do your research!

Secondly Comparing your novel to a best seller or a group of best sellers is completely off the chart. Trust me on this, the publisher will decide if your grand piece of work will be the next blockbuster or world-wide seller. Instead, define your work in such a way as to ascribe possible similarities to those best sellers more subtly.

My novel has recurring overtones of secret religious sects, similar to Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" in a dystopian world much like Suzanne Collin's "The Hunger Games." Add to it a little magical whimsy much like "Harry Potter" by J. K. Rowlings. My novel, "XYZ ABC" is a young adult novel where the main character, Harris, must find his future by learning the truth of his past.

Thirdly You didn't. Never EVER tell the potential publisher that your mother loved your tale. Of course she did, she is your mother. This is the sign of an amateur. Let the publisher decide if the story is that great. You could have two thousand people waiting to give it a 5-star review on Amazon but it doesn't mean the story is good. It means you have two thousand friends willing to help you. Just like never have your family and/or friends edit the story - never use them as endorsements - unless of course they happen to be somebody with clout to ensure the endorsement will carry weight. In other words, unless your parent, relative or close friend is Martha Stewart, Steven Spielberg, President (past or present) of the United States or Neil Armstrong, don't bother mentioning them, they don't count.

Finally Don't be pretentious or pushy. Let them decide if they want to offer a contract. Otherwise you've set yourself up for a horrible let-down because more than likely, there won't be a contract forthcoming - if they even read the submission.

So what DOES go into a proper query letter? Read the guidelines. The place in question may have particular guidelines for submitting including style, font, information wanted. Some may request a simple paragraph defining your work, another perhaps only a single line. To help you with your query letter, before you start, take the time to describe your story, even if it is a three-hundred page novel, in one succinct sentence. Find the essence in one sentence, you can always expand/expound on it to make a paragraph. Follow the guidelines, if available, and always, ALWAYS be professional. You are an author and this is a business, not a hobby.




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~ COMMENTS ~

Elyse Salpeter
2014-07-28
I once found an agent looking for "strong female leads, series potential, spiritual angles and taking place all or part in China." I sent her THE HUNT FOR XANADU - Book #1 with girl extraordinairre Kelsey Porter, steeped in buddhist spiritual mysteries and much of the book takes place in Tibet. Her reply? "Not what I'm looking for." Um. WHAT?
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Onisa Ellis
2014-07-28
I dream of a time when publishers are pacing the floor waiting on the mail to arrive and hoping there will be some query letters.
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Bob Nailor
2014-07-28
Onisha: Wouldn't that be wonderful? Especially the Big Six.
Elyse: I found an agent looking for several "particular" points and I was sure my book was a shoo-in. I addressed each point of her wish list, nothing where I matched for "extra points" when I could. She said she wanted something set in South American, Brazil would get extra points. I made sure she realized my book was not only set in SA, but in the Brazilian Amazon jungle. I sent the query and waited anxiously - a whole 3 minutes. The wonder of the internet. Not what she was looking for. I matched 8 points of 8 points of what she was looking for. Although she didn't mention it, I think she was looking for a "new" "Harry Potter" type tale. C'est la vie.
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Lisa Jey Davis
2014-07-28
this is ONE area I am pretty good at... THANKFULLY!!! Sheesh! Thanks for the tips!
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Rebkeha Lyn
2014-07-28
Query letters, blurb, synopsis, anything that isn't story is ridiculously hard for me.
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Tara Fairfield
2014-07-28
Writers should always be professional and remember their letter is one of thousands being reviewed. Good advice as usual!
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