Heard of Query Shark?
No? You don’t know what you’re missing.
Query Shark is a website, run by literary agent Janet Reid, who critiques real-life query letters written by wannabe authors.
If you’re writing a book and hope to get an agent, you’ll need to write and perfect a query letter. Query Shark will be your best friend through the process.
On another of her websites, Reid offers a query checklist and 6 reasons for instant rejection.
In spite of her warnings, the vast majority of queries received are still unacceptable.
In addition to those reasons for instant rejection, I’ve compiled a list of 25 things Reid hates to see in queries.
If you want to be bitten by the Query Shark:
- Don’t follow explicitly stated submission guidelines
- Ignore previously rejected queries to avoid similar mistakes
- Leave your common sense at home
- Begin your query with a rhetorical question
- Invent an uninteresting, cliched, insubstantial or illogical plot
- Put your contact details at the top of an e-query
- Speak in generalizations instead of specifics
- Be wordy. Take twice the number of required words to make your point
- Write a query that lacks focus, and include completely irrelevant information
- Write a book with an unacceptably high or low word count
- Make your query too long or too short
- Don’t address the plot action early in the letter
- Use awkward or unskilled writing, possibly foreshadowing more of the same in your manuscript
- Incorrectly categorize the genre of your book
- Write your query in the voice of one of your characters
- Don’t break up the text of your query into manageable chunks for easy reading
- Use poor grammar
- Forget to proofread
- Try to put a full synopsis of the book in your query
- Forget to treat your query like a business letter
- Use passive voice
- Cite self-published books as one of your writing credits
- Begin your query with a quotation from your book
- Use redundant language
- Use language that tells instead of shows
Here are some examples of queries that worked (after considerable revision).
What do you think?
- Are any of these reasons for rejection are unfair?
- Are any of these mistakes completely unforgivable?
- Have you had any personal learning experiences with the querying process?
- Can you recommend other resources on how to write an effective query?
Thanks to Janet Reid of Query Shark for providing a valuable service to writers, and for her no-nonsense advice on how to craft the perfect query letter.
So, are you game enough to submit yours?
Join the discussion
Diar A. says
This is so handy, Suzannah, thanks for posting this. I am used to be in a hurry in writing query letters. I don’t know, I just feel, the lower I write, the more nervous I get *silly, I know*.
Thanks again, goin’ to practice this soon 🙂
.-= Read Diar A.´s last article ..For the Fun of It! =-.
I’m so glad this is helpful to you. Best of luck with those future queries!