Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Weather: A sunny Friday
We’ve talked about avoiding the too-clever query and giving too much information. We’re going to wind up this week by talking about those queries that fail because they are filled with hyperbole and cringeworthy braggadocio.
Here are some quotes from actual queries I’ve received:
Over the past nine years, I’ve been working on a project to bring world peace.
Hmm. World peace. It would be wonderful if it were to happen but too often those things are out of our control as authors. My advice to this writer would be not to over-promise.
We’re talking about a literary masterpiece spanning over 1,000 pages.
Try to avoid using words like “masterpiece” when describing your own work. I won’t even go into the impossibility of the book length.
I can assure you, if you pass this opportunity by, you will grieve the loss of millions of dollars. I must stress, however, that I must absolutely find the best book deal possible, and I will be contacting several literary agencies in order to find it.
I don’t even think I need comment on this one. Don’t dangle the commission you expect the agent to make from your work– it comes off as crass. The agent is the one who knows the business and has a good sense of the relative value of projects.
What must I do for you to take on my book and run with my idea? (When you get the full scope of my idea, you will be amazed, I promise you!)
Rather than be “amazed” in the future, it would have been nice to have been given the scope of the book in the query letter. Too many query letters talk about the book in superlatives but neglect to ever say what it is about. If you are afraid someone will steal your idea you’re not going to be able to find an agent or sell your book.
I think Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up best: “The mark of the man of the world is absence of pretension. He does not make a speech; he takes a low business-tone, avoids all brag, is nobody, dresses plainly, promises not at all, performs much. speaks in monosyllables, hugs his fact. He calls his employment by its lowest name and so takes from evil tongues their sharpest weapon. His conversation clings to the weather and news, yet he allows himself to be surprised into thought and the unlocking of his learning and philosophy.”