Don’t forget the query critique giveaway HERE. Spread the word! Comments close Friday at 10pm.

1. Don’t use general statements. Don’t say “My book is about love and loss” or “I explore themes of family and forgiveness.” This is all stuff that should come through in your pitch. Be as specific as possible.

2. Don’t ever call an agent! I know that there’s this standard in the business world where you usually call a company to make sure they received your resume. You don’t do that with literary agents. If you don’t hear anything in the agency’s stated response time, then you can send a follow-up email. But you don’t ever call them.

3. Don’t query before your book is finished.
And polished.

4. Don’t compare yourself to untouchable authors.
Sometimes agents like you to compare your work to other books and authors. It gives them a sense for where your book belongs in the market, but be careful. Don’t compare yourself to the likes of J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, or any other author royalty. I don’t care if you think you’re a better writer or even if you really are, they’re in a class of their own and saying that you think your book is the next Harry Potter of Twilight could come off as somewhat pompous and naive. I never felt comfortable with the comparisons at all, so I guess this advice is somewhat personal.

5. Don’t berate yourself. I can’t imagine why people do this, but I’ve heard it does happen, so I have to say it. Don’t say things like, “It’s not the best book,” or “I know my writing isn’t very strong.” Really? If you don’t have confidence in your own work then why should anyone else? Why would you expect people to pay for your work if you don’t think it’s that good? Berating yourself is not humility, it’s just awkward. Confidence is part of professionalism.

6. Don’t tell them that all your friends and family adore you book. Of course they do.

7. Don’t mention things that don’t matter. Like your hobbies, grandchildren, puppies, or college degrees that have nothing to do with writing or your subject matter. If you have publishing credits or a degree in English or an MFA in creative writing, of course mention those, but at the end of the day everything comes down to the writing. The book is what they care about. Spend most of your time on that.

I’m sure there are lots of other don’ts I missed. The list can go on. So friends, share them in the comments!


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  2. Also, don’t query an agent with more than one project at a time.

    I’m really enjoying your query series. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that. 🙂

  3. #7 reminds me of when I got my first agent at BookEnds. Their submission guidelines actually encouraged you to tell them a little about you as a person in your query. That was the first place I’d ever seen make that request.

  4. Yes yes and yes. Especially #1. I see this all the time when people post their queries online.

  5. Something else I’ve heard a TON – DO NOT tell the agent WHY you wrote the book. All you need a query to do is to make them want to read more 😀

  6. Excellent tips!! Hope you’re well. 🙂

  7. Ha! I love the phrase “author royalty”. So, so true. Great tips, too!

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