The Five Most Common Mistakes on Query Letters

1)   The person you are querying doesn’t edit/agent/publish your genre of book.  When I was publisher of Egmont USA , which specializes in fiction for ages 7 up, fifty percent of the queries I received were for picture books and nonfiction.  Do your research!

2)   You compare your work to a very hot title of the moment.  Don’t call your book “the next Harry Potter,” “the next Twilight” “the next Wimpy Kid,” or “the next Hunger Games.”  That’s just not meaningful to a publisher. Give us a more realistic title to compare it to, perhaps even a book you admire that we publish.

3)   Your letter is longer than a page. This is a query letter, and if you can’t tell us about your book succinctly, it makes us think your book won’t be succinct either.

4)   You say readers will love your book because you’ve given to your children/students and they loved it.  If you are a teacher and know why your book is needed (it fills a hole in the curriculum, it helps children learn to count by tens, etc.) that’s useful for an editor to know.  If it’s simply a hit when you read it aloud to children around you, well, we’ve found that actually doesn’t tell us much about the book’s potential success.

5)   You try to be really clever or dazzling with your opening sentence. Those “I was walking down the street when a man riding an elephant shouted ‘get this manuscript to Elizabeth Law!’” openers just get in the way of us reading what your book is about and for whom it’s intended—which is a lot of what we do want from a query letter.