I see a lot of the same things on these letters and it goes like this:
My current project, the novel [insert title here] (x + words – ‘narrative fiction’), is
completed, and I am seeking mainstream publication/representation. [Title] is a novel with tremendous market potential, as its characters and components are
representative of today’s [insert issues here]. This novel addresses several key themes: [insert themes here]. The provocative dynamic of the characters reveal the narrator’s inner strength. Despite [title] general focus upon one [feature here], it contains a fictional narrative that will appeal to, and resound with, [insert societal feature]. As a [man/woman] [enter present life situation here], I have a unique perspective on the message contained in [title].
Okay, everyone is Unique but just because you think this story is, doesn’t mean it is! I think the most irritating aspect of this letter is the fact that the author had to mention his/her background which doesn’t add to the writing of the piece unless it was a memoir. It’s great that folks like to dramatize their life stories into fictional pieces; I commend that. What doesn’t help the query letter is any kind of background information like, “I have two dogs, I’m happily married.” We don’t need to know any of that information. If the query and the sample is solid, we might care about it then. Additionally, the talk of what the author thinks the story can do. Don’t do that! K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Brevity is key.
I know I keep using the “we” as if I’m a literary agent, which I’m not, but I am reading over thirty query letters a day that don’t stand out. It sucks because as a reader, I want to give the author a chance but then he/she messes it up with something stupid like over ten typos in their letter and sample. Or not realizing that when writing dialogue that the period or comma Always goes inside the quotation marks. Is that really so hard to understand? I think the fact that I read so many queries (email and physical) with typos makes me think two things: they are doing this on their own with no support and they just don’t proofread their stuff as closely as they should. Talk about ruining a first impression! When there are so many typos, it drives me crazy but maybe that’s just me.
I think I mentioned this before, but please, frakking proofread your stuff! Don’t send it out like you don’t even care; we know you care! Do it for your own sake. And stop writing about your life story! Get to the point and don’t drag it out. Sometimes, giving less is more. Be succinct.