Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
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In the comments yesterday I mentioned how important it is for me to know something about the author in the query. When I agree to represent a new client I am representing that writer for a whole career, not just one book. I need to know who you are and what you’ve done. That said, however, it is important not to give TMI (too much information). Keep it succinct. Again, pique my interest. If you’ve been referred by one of my clients be sure to mention it.
What is TMI? Let me give you a few real-life examples– carefully redacted so as not to identify the writer.
Besides the book I have published (not a good publisher I ended up getting, I was young in the industry without much knowledge or business experience) . . .
Don’t denigrate another agent or publisher in your query letter. There’s enough time later to do a post-mortem of a failed book or a troubled agent/author relationship, but when you are just meeting someone it comes off as judgmental, blaming, and whiny. Your assessment may very well be true but you need a deeper relationship to risk the way it sounds.
As you can see from the following material, my wife and I are desperate. Our bankruptcy is in Federal Appeals Court (headed for the Supreme Court?), and our attorney, [name of attorney] aware of my intellectual property [name of manuscript] has advised me to offer it on the open market. Perhaps you can help.
Mentioning your financial need could well be the death knell for a query, no matter how wonderful the book. This industry moves slowly and a potential agent knows that, like any new business, it will take a number of years for an author to break even. A client who is financially strapped tends to write too fast out of desperation and make terrible decisions out of need that harm a long term career plan.
My name is [Jane Doe], I am a 41 year old divorced mom, (former victim of emotional and verbal abuse) dental hygienist, lecturer, home sex toy party sales person and author. My X husband lost his job 1 week after our “D” was final. After years of hearing you’re nothing, how wrong he was.
Ignoring the sex toy sales job (way, way TMI), an agent is looking for a professional. It’s sad, but too much drama tends to get in the way of a writing career. Yes, we all have stuff in our past, but we need to have worked through that before we take up pen to share universal truths through story. Even if you haven’t quite worked through your personal angst, don’t share it in a query. If you are writing a book in which your personal experiences form the basis of your expertise then that’s a different issue. Just be sure to be professional and emotionally detached in a query.
I am a new writer and have never, ever submitted any work to any agent or publisher. But I had prayed about writing a worthwhile book and an idea just popped into my head one day. I have been working on that idea for 2 months now and am planning on completing it by the fall. It is an excellent idea…straight from the mind of God Himself and I am humbled He gave it to me, of all people!
Anyone who knows me knows I believe God sometimes does inspire us but do not put it in a query. It’s one of those things you should silently ponder in your heart. As soon as you claim it in order to sell a book it makes it seem trite. A couple of other things from this query: a writer of only two months should not be querying agents. It’s time to begin studying the market, learning the craft and getting to know other writers. And do not denigrate yourself in your query like saying “me, of all people.” Writing a query letter is like applying for a job. You have to believe in yourself or you will never make it in this crazy industry.
As for marketing the story, I was hoping that would be your expertise; otherwise, if I had enough money, I would publish it myself. I would make it a paperback, so it would be more affordable to parents with young children. It would have glossy pages, so their sticky fingers wouldn’t ruin the book. The book should be at least an 8-1/2 by 11 or larger, so it is visually appealing to the boys and girls and with large type so they can read along to some extent. To add interactive play with the book, you could sell it with a stuffed toy that is accompanied with outfits.
If an agent asks for marketing ideas for a query do your homework. (Most agents do not want this in a query. Save it for the proposal.) Though most agents do help some with marketing ideas that is not our expertise. Also, by saying that if she had money she’d self-publish, it makes it appear that traditional publishing is this author’s last choice. And, above all, do not give directions for designing the book. That would even be presumptuous of an agent to say to a publisher.
I read only one book, when I was 6 years old, and it was 12 pages long. I went to the kindergarten, and read them my first and last book. Sure, I had to read when I went to school, and at work, but I would skim through everything and look for the most important things in the book, or in any manual. I have paid the consequences in my life, by not reading anyone’s books in my life. I am telling you the truth; I haven’t even read an entire magazine before!
This one was too sad. I think we can all read between the lines and see that this potential author must have a learning disability which does not in itself disqualify someone from being a writer. I represent a bestselling author who suffered from dyslexia in school. What does disqualify someone is if they don’t read. Even if one is reading-challenged, there are tried-and-true methods that can be employed to overcome it. It is imperative to read widely in your category or your genre. If you are not a reader, you cannot be a writer.
These are just a few examples. Have you ever wondered if you might be giving too much information?