One of the best feelings for every writer is giving their manuscript a last read and feeling confident about it. After all, a manuscript does not get completed overnight. It has a lot of hard work, dedication, and revisions backing up its existence.
The first thing that comes to a writer’s mind after finalizing the manuscript is writing a query letter. Of course, a query letter is an important part of your journey as a writer. It is your first with the literary agent; every writer wants to give it the best shot.
The main goal of a query letter is to convince a literary agent that your work is worth their time. However, most writers make some common and avoidable querying mistakes that can make your work off-putting to the literary agent. These mistakes can jeopardize your career as a writer.
But do not worry. You must avoid a few common query letter mistakes to make a brilliant first impression.
Common Query Letter Mistakes By Writers
- Generalizing the Query Letters
- Picking the Wrong Genre
- Violating the Submission Guidelines
- Praising Yourself
- Getting Too Creative
- Overlooking Grammatical Errors
- Querying before Completion
Generalizing the Query Letters
It is not easy to find the right literary agent for your book. A writer has to learn how to write query letters and then reach out to multiple literary agents in hopes of hearing back. Yes, sending so many query letters at once can get overwhelming.
The worst mistake you can make at this point is sending the same letter to multiple literary agents. You cannot overlook that literary agents may have different interests and inclinations. A general query letter can come off as lazy work to the reader.
Therefore, it is important to ensure you create a good impression on a literary agent. You can do so by showing the agent that you are interested in working with them and have the same interest as them. This practice can grasp their attention and make them interested in working with you.
Picking the Wrong Genre
Different literary agents are interested in different fields. One manuscript cannot make every literary agent happy. Hence, you may be spending your energies in the wrong direction if you are sending query letters without any research.
Start with researching the genres a literary agent may find interesting. It can be beneficial for you because they may already be in touch with publishers and editors from the same genre. Therefore, a well-researched agent can make the whole experience smooth for you.
Violating the Submission Guidelines
Every literary agent has different submission policies. They may prefer different formats and varying ways of communication. It is no surprise that literary agents can get very frustrated when their submission guidelines are not followed, leading to swift rejection.
Therefore, it is important to make sure that you take your time to read the submission guidelines of every author and follow them. This practice can ensure that your query letter does not get sidelined without even a glance.
Every writer has a deep connection with their work. After all, it is a result of hard work, dedication, and commitment. One is bound to fall in love with their beautiful creation that may have a lot of hardships backing up its existence. However, a potential literary agent does not know that.
The truth is that the origin story of your work does not have much importance to the literary agent. All they are concerned with is the quality of your creation and its ability to catch a reader’s attention. Hence, it’s best to avoid praising your own work in the query letter. Let the literary agent be the judge of that.
Getting Too Creative
Many writers make the common mistake of adding verbose to their query letter while trying to impress their literary agent. Writers may ask some rhetorical questions, too, but trying to make a great impression can backfire.
Any euphemisms and fancy words can confuse the literary agents leading to frustration. Therefore, it is important to use simple language and straightforward sentences. Remember that the literary agent does not have the time to decode your sentences.
Overlooking Grammatical Errors
It can be a terrible nightmare for every writer to submit a work with grammatical errors. After all, there is no hope to impress someone with your skills if they see basic errors in your work. These errors can jeopardize your whole career as a writer.
Of course, grammatical errors are never intended for any experienced writer. The best thing you can do to avoid these errors is to proofread your query letter before submitting it. This way, you can catch mistakes between the lines and save yourself from embarrassment.
In addition, you can also use grammar tools to ensure that there are no sneaky mistakes or punctuation errors in your work. You can also ask a friend or colleague with a grasp of the language to minimize the chances of any avoidable errors.
Last but not least, it is important to avoid the mistake that may come as most offensive to the agent. It is best to ensure that the name of the recipient is spelled correctly. Otherwise, you may never be considered a serious person for the chance.
Querying before Completion
Every writer is excited to get the attention of good literary agents and get their work published as soon as possible. It is great to have such excitement and zeal for your work. It can become problematic sometimes. In order to secure a good agent, some writers send their query letters too soon.
Imagine how badly you would come off as a writer if you were unable to provide a manuscript to a literary agent in time. They may think of you as unprofessional and may not want to work with you. Therefore, it is best to hold back the query letters till you are completely satisfied with your work.
It is best to take your time to finish writing your book, reviewing, and editing it before reaching out to a literary agent. This way, you can have a draft ready when they ask for it. Hence, you will get extra credits for being efficient and reliable.