Things You Didn’t Do

Writers who are ready to query can be overzealous sometimes. In their excitement and in their quest to have the “perfect” query, sometimes it’s the simplest things that make an agent scratch his or her head. While these things are rarely make-or-break for the query itself, you might want to re-think saying you did the following:

1) Enclose a SASE with your e-query. I’m sure you read all over the internet that agents won’t even respond to queries that don’t have a SASE enclosed. Going down your check list of what you need in a query, it makes perfect sense to remember your SASE – but remember which method you’re sending the query.

2) Write “(sign)” after your name as if you wrote your signature. You didn’t do this. We can see that you didn’t do this.

3) Write a fictional novel. Well, maybe you did. I mean, who hasn’t mapped out an entire novel in their minds? But you really shouldn’t query unless you put that idea down on paper.

4) Write a non-fiction novel. “Novel,” by definition, is a work of fiction.

5) Write a 10,000 word novel. This does not work in any genre or age group.

6) Write a 200,000 word MG. If you did, then chances are it’s actually a four-book series that you combined into one. Or you’re George R.R. Martin trying to mess with people.

7) Send a query letter to “Mr. Curtis Brown.” This one is specific to my agency, I know. But I see it all the time. Yes, there was a real Curtis Brown. No, he is not still alive. No, I am not “Mrs. Brown,” let alone Curtis himself.

Have any of you ever made any “common sense” mistakes you care to share?

17 thoughts on “Things You Didn’t Do

  1. I've meant to press 'save draft' but ending up pressing 'send' with no query letter in the body of the email, sending it blank. I quickly opened up a new one, put the email address and the subject and in my haste, I did it again! (Sigh)


  2. This is a little further than the query stage, but…

    An agent upgraded her partial request to a full. In my excitement, I sent her the reply email clearly stating that the ms was attached and FORGOT TO ATTACH IT. Fortunately I noticed my error immediately after sending, but it was too late. I had to send another email explaining my idiocy, and this time, with the file attached.

    It was like saying, “I don't know how to send a simple email attachment, but here's my novel I think you should bend over backwards for.”


    And… that's not even the worst-worst mistake I've made through email that's related to publishing. It's a wonder I haven't been blacklisted. But in all seriousness, I've learned that few things are unforgivable and most mistakes (if you catch them) will make you stronger/more aware, rather than kill your career.


  3. The last time I sent a query out, I thought it was pristine, perfect. I had CONFIDENCE!

    After I sent it (email), I realized I'd misspelled MY OWN NAME.


    I don't know if the agent noticed or not, but God bless her, she asked for pages anyway.


  4. Called a “Ms.” a “Mr.” (and her name is OBVIOUSLY female, so I KNEW to write Ms.).

    My number one, I-deserve-a-rejection mistake was misspelling my own manuscript's name wrong in the subject line.

    Both slow-mo “nooooooooooo!” moments were realized right after my finger left the send button, of course.

    I've also, though, received a rejection I hope the agent would wish to retract: my name was spelled wrong, and a large chunk of a sentence in his form rejection was quite obviously missing and thus rendered an incomplete thought. I have to admit, it made me view him a little differently for future queries.


  5. I used an older synopsis with different character names. Wrote my word count wrong by a decimal point. Misspellings of agent names, at least once (that I know of). On a manuscript request, I misspelled a place name in the 2nd sentence.

    Oh, and on another manuscript request, I read and re-read the request and it seriously seemed as though they wanted the entirety of the manuscript pasted into the email, so that's what I did. My friends had a good laugh at that one. “That's something my mom would do!” one said.

    I know nothing. Deep breath. I know nothing and it's okay.


  6. @Alex – Unless their guidelines specifically state they ONLY respond to queries with word counts, then it doesn't matter. Don't bother re-sending. Minor mistakes like these are rarely, if ever, dealbreakers.


  7. I recently realized that I forgot to include WORD COUNT!

    I felt like such a moron & immediately corrected my query letter, however I didn't resend it because I'm uncertain about resending it to an agent who hasn't responded. This, of course, because the agency website states they only respond if interested.

    Would an agent decline based on that error alone since it is an important detail? I certainly wouldn't want to impart the impression that I'm harassing an agency by resending it.

    What's the proper course of action here? Any querying etiquette list that covers this conundrum? (for future reference)

    Thanks for the post!!!


  8. Despite being ultraparanoid, I've made a few. I wanted to think these things were behind me, but I recently had an email from an agent asking if I could please resend my email, this time with the attachment attached.


  9. These all made me laugh! I especially liked 3 and 7.

    My worst mistake (that I'm aware of) is I'd just changed my title and included the correct title in the subject and in the first opening paragraph but then put the old title at the end of the query. Whoops! So mad at myself. But then it got a request for a full! HA! Love it!

    Great post!


  10. Addressed the cover letter to Jim Baen's Universe to him, and he had just died recently. What's more in a follow-up letter, I did it again, after I'd been told this fact! Talk about embarrassing! The editor must have thought I was an idiot! But they published the story anyway (Dreamtime).


  11. Sent a query letter that said, “Below you will find the first X pages, and a detailed synopses per your submission guidelines.”…. then forgot to paste them into the email. *smacks forehead*


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