Last week, we looked at nine reasons agents reject query letters. Let’s take a look at eight more reasons for these rejections.
- Not following guidelines. Most agents want you to paste the query into the email instead of sending it as an attachment. They’re trying to save time by not having to open every attachment and preventing a virus from entering their system. Please respect this. Also, if an agent says she doesn’t want sample pages, just the query, don’t send her anything more. However, if she doesn’t specifically state “no sample pages” or anything along those lines, it’s usually okay to send the first 3-5 pages. Make sure to end on a hook though. If the agent doesn’t want to read the pages, she won’t, but they’ll be there for those who want to read more after the query. If you don’t think your first few pages showcase your story, don’t send them. In that case, it’ll be better to wait for a request for more pages. Although, you really should hook your reader from the very beginning. Just saying…
- Multiple recipients. This is when you have the names of all the agents you’re contacting in the “to” section of your email. Agents know you’re sending queries to other agents, but they don’t like to be reminded of this. Keep it professional and take the time to send out individual emails. If you can show why you specifically chose this agent, even better. Another possible problem with multiple recipients may occur if you send the same email to more than one agent in the agency. Some agencies are okay with this and others aren’t. However, if you name all three agents in the address section, you risk not having your query read at all. Why? Julie might assume Kate is going to read the query, so Julie won’t bother. Kate might think Lisa will read it, and Lisa thinks Julie will take it. In the end, none of them have read the query, and you’re stuck waiting for a rejection that will never come.
- Poor English language skills. Don’t worry. I’m not talking about typos or a few grammar issues. Most agents will overlook a few errors. The rejection would come because of something that’s so poorly written, it’s hard to read. If it takes too much effort to read the query, imagine how much time and energy it would require to read the full manuscript.
- Lack of focus. If the agent can’t tell what your story is about, she won’t want to read it. Be specific and focus on your protagonist’s GMCs (goals, motivations, conflicts). But don’t give away the ending. Instead, end with a hook. Make them ask for more.
- Seen it before. If you can’t show the agent, through your query letter, how your story is different from others like it, she’ll pass.
- No conflict. You need to show what’s keeping the main character from achieving his goal or it’ll seem like he just walks around and exists until the story is over. Not exactly interesting.
- Too short or too long. Agents expect a query letter to be one page single-spaced, including addresses, salutation, hook, blurb, bio, and closing. ONE PAGE. Too short and you haven’t done yourself or your story justice. Too long and you’ll look unprofessional.
- Too much focus on the bio and not enough focus on the book. While you might find it interesting that you’ve won ten contests, even if they aren’t commonly known contests, or that you’ve juggled all kinds of jobs in your life, which lead up to your book, that’s not going to sell your novel. The only thing that will sell your novel is the novel. Make sure you use as much space as you can in that one page to showcase your characters and their story. Add voice to your query so the agent can get a feel for how you write.
Bottom line? Know the craft or technique for writing queries. Understand what each agent expects by reading her guidelines and follow them. Write the best query you can so you can hook the agent of your dreams.
If you need help with your query or synopsis, check out these query letter and synopsis critique packages.
What has your experience been with querying agents?