3 Ways NOT to Write a Query Letter

I am struggling to write a query letter. To write those gripping few lines that makes an agent say “hey, why don’t you send me the first three chapters?”. I am an accountant because I learned very early on I couldn’t give away food to a starving man. There was never going to be a future for me in sales or any aspect of the business world that required selling.

And that is exactly what a query letter is. That foot in the door, that sales pitch that I’ve avoided most of my life.

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About as much progress as I’m making

Here are three things I don’t recommend doing while writing your query letter.

  1. Reading book blurbs and buying books rather than writing your query – I have spent hours on Amazon reading book blurbs in various genres, but really focusing on romance.I had thought this would help sharpen my sales skills, but I’m not sure if it has done anything to help me write my query. It has, however, added a few books to my backlog.
  2. Researching how to write a query on the internet – Oooooh, shiny flashy things! Contradicting advice. Gotta get a Father’s Day present, and that’s something I can actually achieve . . .
  3. Staring blankly at the same 10-15 sentences – I have spent all of my writing time this week staring at those same few sentences. Adding, deleting, and rewriting them sometimes. Only to dislike the changes and start back over. It’s so bad, I barely see the words on the page anymore. Query is still not worth sending out.

Frankly, I am to the point of seeking help from a professional. Or at least DH again.

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7 thoughts on “3 Ways NOT to Write a Query Letter

  1. Here’s the thing. Query letter “styles” seem to have the shelf life of milk. Just when you nail the perfect query letter, you hear that no, no,no, agents want to see “this” now, whatever “this” is. It’s frustrating, I know. And the amount of information out there is not just contradictory, it’s overwhelming. And what may work for one agent, will leave another agent cold. There just isn’t a one size fit all query standard out there, no matter what people say. Just write the best letter you can, hitting the highlights, and send it out there. Good luck.

    1. This is sch a frustrating business! Okay, frustrating for a person who likes order, who likes right answers. You’re correct. There is no right answer, and searching for it may just be a procrastination technique designed to shield me from yet more rejection.

      Time to get back to it.

  2. IANAP (I am not a professional!).
    Have you tried the read it aloud thing? (I know it is what I recommend for everything, but I stand by the power in it.) How does it sound? How does it feel?

    Do you want to read this book? (I know that sounds stupid, but would you be like OH! and hit the buy button on amazon?)

    1. That’s the tough part. I have read it aloud, and it sounds okay. I have read dozens and dozens of book blurbs to teach myself how to write one for my story. How to create the hook to sell it, To make people want to click “buy”. That’s where I struggle. Do those few lines hook an agent or reader?

      Guess I won’t really know until I try sending it out again.

      Based on what I was reading, it sounds like my issue before was the query as no agent ever asked for more.

      1. Send and write something else. You could spend thousands of hours on this one query letter. Or you can send it, and work on your next piece and continue to learn. And yes, holy hanna does it suck to get rejected. But that whole we learn through failure thing. We can learn through rejection. Forward, continue forward.

        Good luck.

  3. Writers Digest offers bootcamp classes for the query letter (I’m currently enrolled). It’s $200, but worth it in my opinion if you have the money to spare. You get detailed feedback and advice from actual agents–and, like, legit agents.

    Also, for peer review, there’s agentqueryconnect where you can post your query and get detailed feedback. I discovered this gem a month ago and love it. Highly recommend it.

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