There are no rules to queries. I repeat, there are no rules to queries. A query should come from you. It should be written in your voice with your own personal writing style, and it should not just tell me what your book is about, but it should wow me with your book. That being said, there are some common mistakes I see all the time, things authors do that don’t work in a query.
- Telling me what your book is not: I don’t want to hear things like, “this isn’t another Twilight,” or “I’m not writing another boring Da Vinci Code” — that’s like sitting down in a job interview and immediately telling the potential employer that you’re not going to be another star worker, but . . . I’ve already tuned you out.
- Claiming your query is just another piece of unwanted work in my inbox: frequently authors start queries by saying things like, “the last thing you probably need is another query . . .” You’re right. It is the last thing I need, and since even you don’t think yours is important enough to stand out from the rest, I think I’ll reject
- Highlighting what doesn’t matter: I don’t care that you have three kids, are a lawyer, or play golf with George Harrison. I don’t. I care about your book and that’s really all. The rest is icing, bonus material. Don’t start your query with what really doesn’t matter. Start with the one thing you are trying to woo me with: your book.
- Themes: does your novel (note I said novel) embrace themes of philosophy, bring to light the important topic of human trafficking, or connect to readers spiritually? I don’t care. Nobody buys a piece of fiction because the cover copy says it will discuss important philosophical teachings. They don’t. They might like that they learn that from the book, but they buy the book because, well, really because someone recommends it, after that they buy a novel because they are looking to read a great story.