Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Write a Bad Query: Part Two

Welcome to the second installment of How to Write a Bad Query. At this point in time, I have a total of three posts in this series. (Part three will go live in early February.) However, I plan to keep this as an ongoing series, adding new parts when I have more wisdom to share.

If you missed part one, you can take a moment and go read it HERE before we get started.

The Arrogant Query

Authors have to have two things (1) confidence and unfaltering belief in the book they've written, and (2) the ability to take rejection. However, it's important to have these two things in moderation. When you have item #1 in excess, it leads to queries like this:

Dear Editor,
     Have I got a book for you. GLUCOSE INTOLERANT VAMPIRES & THE HUMAN WOMEN THEY LOVE is going to be bigger than Twilight, The Hunger Games, and The Vampire Diaries combined. I'm so excited for this book and cannot wait for you to share in my joy.
     And it's your lucky day, too! I've queried forty-seven agents and publishers alike. Once the bidding war is over, I will choose the best possible person to represent my book. Please note that I have already picked the cast for the movie adaptation.
Amy Author

Okay, so this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have seen queries where an author will talk about selling all their subsidiary rights when they haven't even sold the actual book yet. We get that you're excited about your book and all the possibilities, but the ratio of books in publication compared to books in publication that are turned into movies is skewed very heavily against you. I'm not saying it won't happen, but be realistic when you query. Sell the book first. Everything else will come later.

The No Query at all Query

I know, it's hard to believe, but it's true. There have been queries just like this one:

Dear Editor,
     My book is attached for your review. Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Amy Author

Anyone want to take a guess as to what's wrong with this one? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Right. So, moving on...

The Telling Query

Authors are constantly being told to show don't tell. Well, the same advice applies to your query.

Dear Editor,
     Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world where there was no milk? That is the life that sixteen year old Bertha must endure. BERTHA WANTS MILK is the story of a young girl who is tasked with the daunting chore of locating a cow and repopulating her town with milk. She will face heartache, setbacks, and hopelessness as she is faced with one obstacle after another. Complete at 82,000 words, this is a young adult fantasy about learning how to grow up and persevere.
     Thank you for your consideration.
Amy Author

*Yawn* Oh, sorry, did I doze off? The only thing you should be telling us in your query is the title, word count, genre, and all that other identifying information we discussed during part one. As an editor, this type of query makes me think only one thing: the book will be as boring and dry as this query. Honestly, ask yourself, would you want to read 82,000 words that were written exactly like this letter? Probably not.

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