Your Query was Rejected because You Failed to Discuss the Book

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 22 2022

It’s amazing how many queries I reject because the author failed to tell me anything about the book.

A query is your sales pitch for the book. It’s the back cover copy. A query is what entices the reader to look deeper and want to make both a time and financial investment. When you’re buying fiction think about what you look for. What first gets you to pick up the book, makes you interested in reading more, and makes you buy it. That’s exactly how agents approach their inboxes.

When authors fail in the query department is when they get stuck telling me about everything but the book. Instead, they tell me what the book will teach, or how the idea came about, but that’s not why most readers read fiction. These are details that matter to writers, but not to readers. Readers, at least this reader, pick up fiction because they’re looking for a great story. Readers want characters they are excited to meet, a setting that they want to visit, and a plot that keeps them riveted. Learning more about how the world works or what others think is an added bonus, but not the original intent. Not why they buy a book.

Mistakes Authors Make

  • Too Many Author Details — I care about the author and who you are, but it’s the least important piece of reading fiction for me. Queries that get rejected spend far too much time giving me detailed history about the author without telling me anything about the book. It’s one thing to give a publishing history, it’s another to tell your life story.


  • History of the Idea — How authors came up with the idea for their book is fascinating…only after you’ve read the book. This is something I love to talk about on the offer call. It’s not what grabs my attention to first want to read the book.


  • Objectives for Writing — Sometimes I hear the reasons authors write. Common themes include the fact that nothing else out there is any good or wanting to teach a lesson to readers. These are hard reasons for me to want to read fiction. Sure I want to learn things, but this alone, without a solid plot description, is not going to get me to buy a book.


  • Themes of the Book — When reading fiction I don’t care so much about themes of philosophy, religion, feminism, etc. I mean I do, but I don’t want to be told that’s what I’m going to be reading. I want you to show me through the description of the plot that they are in the story. I don’t want to be told.


  • Style in which Book was Written — There is a lot of discussion in writing groups about how a book is written. This could be third person, present tense, etc. I don’t care. Not in the query at least. What I care about, again, is the plot, the characters, and a great story. I’ll worry about how the book is written when I’m reading.


Go back to a recent post I did on writing a strong query and stick to that. It’s what works and it’s what worked for thousands of writers.




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2 responses to “Your Query was Rejected because You Failed to Discuss the Book”

  1. Avatar Kim Beall says:

    I try to think of it as how I would describe a book to a friend, if I liked it and think the friend would, too. “It’s about this woman who goes off the road and ends up in this weird place full of ghosts and elves, but they’re all really likeable, unlike her ex that she was trying to get away from, and…” Only for the query I clean it up and use slightly more professional language, and the actual character’s name instead of “this woman” etc! 😀

  2. Avatar Brian says:

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