Do not, under any circumstances, ever ever tell a literary agent that your novel is half-finished! This is the best way to receive a rejection letter in the mail. Seriously, folks – I don’t understand this. Even if you are trying to be honest, LIE. The agency wouldn’t know the difference anyway because sample chapters are requested first and if the samples are great, then the manuscript. This is the stupidest mistake I’ve seen by far.
International folks – if you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade, email the damn query. Why waste postage on a SASE when you can just save time sending an email instead? Plus, here’s a little secret – if you don’t send a SASE or there isn’t an email anywhere on your letter, you might as well be rejected. Agencies don’t call folks to get contact information. In this case, no answer is your answer.
My favorite is the query letter that doesn’t provide any indication or even title of the author’s work. Good job. When you make the intern or agent work to read your query, this will ultimately land you a rejection letter, easy.
For non-fiction queries, provide a proposal and a synopsis of your work. Don’t provide a practically five page essay or in some cases, the home page of your blog, as your query. The point is to be succinct, my friends, because brevity will work out in your favor. It’s happened because I’ve seen it happen! I read a query that provided an “in” for a writer in which I asked to read a sample of his work. Unfortunately, the sample wasn’t a-mazing, but the process took him that far. Therefore, lesson learned here: even if your work is panned, then you know you should revise your piece but your query letter was your access!
I can tell you that I’ve read badly written query letters with five typos (or more) in the first paragraph alone and I’ve already mentally rejected the author. I do have the courtesy to read the query from beginning to end but I know that I’ll be crafting a rejection letter soon after. Plus, there are so many rejection letters to send and queries to read so why waste the time on a terribly written query?
One last piece of advice: if you email a query in January and have not heard from anyone in April, take it easy. Email inboxes are backed up and you’ll receive word eventually. Plus, don’t wait on the one literary agency for your work. If you’ve submitted to a bunch of places, keep submitting or work on something else. Be occupied. I understand it’s easier said than done but don’t pester literary agencies. They are busy and you are not the only one who has sent an email query or physical query that hasn’t been answered. Chill!
Since I don’t want to sound redundant (even though I keep seeing the same mistakes out there), I’ll end it here until next time.