Thursday, January 13, 2011

Intern Tips: Query Edition

As some of you know, I got the chance to head back to D.C. over winter break! I made sure to stop by my internship to say hello, and was given the opportunity to spend a few days reading queries. I thought I'd spend today imparting some general query wisdom with y'all. Hope this helps!

1. Don’t start your query with a rhetorical question (ie: Have you ever felt the nagging urge to lop off your arm, tie it to a rock, and throw it in the ocean as a way to get over your ex?). It isn’t just a personal pet peeve – most agents will tell you they despise the rhetorical question as well.

2. Don’t use a quote before your query. Especially if it’s unrelated to your book. Even if it is related, it isn’t necessary.

3. Don’t send unsolicited attachments. Especially if your query is IN the attachment. It will never see the light of day.

4. I’d generally advise against using smiley faces.

5. Never, ever, ever address a query as follows: Dear Agent, To Whom It May Concern, Dear Sir/Ma’am, etc. Use their name. And be sure to spell it correctly.

6. If you send a hasty query and later realize there’s a typo, don’t send the query again, apologizing. (I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this one.)

7. This is just a suggestion, but you should probably take it to heart: don’t send queries using your email address from 1995 (you know the one – Go to and set up an account using your actual name. Much more professional.

8. Don’t you dare send out a mass query! [Waves finger] That is a major no-no.

9. A synopsis is not a query. Ex-agent superhero, Nathan Bransford, has a great article on how to write a good query.

10. Don’t send a letter that’s all about your qualifications (or lack thereof) for writing your book, but never actually saying what said book is about.

11. It’s fine if this is your first book. Everyone has to start somewhere! But don’t give the entire history of how long it took you to write it.

12. Inserting random sentences from your manuscript isn’t the best way to sell it.

13. Do NOT just send a list of characters and how they relate to each other.

14. Do not send a marketing proposal.

15. Please don’t compare your books to the Bible, Harry Potter, Twilight, or anything by Nicholas Sparks.

16. Make sure you send everything the submission guidelines ask for. If an agent asks to see the first five pages pasted beneath your query, do it. Similarly, don’t send pages if an agent doesn’t ask to see them.

17. If you’re rejected, don’t respond to ask for the names of other agents you could send your query to.

18. Don’t send queries for three different books within the span of five minutes. Query one at a time.

19. Always check for typos. Sometimes we make mistakes, but if your query is riddled with them, no one is going to request to see more because they’ll assume the same of the manuscript.

20. Always wait at least six weeks before checking in to see if an agent has read your query. (Unless their submission guidelines say they don’t respond to those they aren’t interested in. Then you shouldn’t bother.)


  1. I was talking to my agent about his slush pile recently and harboring a secret fantasy of sitting on the floor, latte in hand, reading queries.

  2. Found this post through "Just the Facts, Ma'am" blog. Great stuff. And you have so much to be proud of. So many great accomplishments at such a young age. You will go far.

    One question, what exactly is considered a mass query? Five? Ten? or more like 20-30+? If I send out a query to nine publishers (not agents) and I say, "I have queried eight other houses," would that be okay?

  3. Christie: Thanks for stopping by! And for giving me a new blog to add to my 'follow' list ;-)

    A mass query is essentially where you send out a query addressed as 'Dear Sir/Ma'am,' and CC a bunch of people. Always send out individual queries with the agent's name. They know you're querying more than just them, but it's nice to single them out nonetheless.

    Does that answer your question?

  4. Hi - I have seen many querys in my time.. this is the first to advise against the use of smiley faces, and so gently put. I smiled like a smiley face. Terrific post!