Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Query No-Nos

Ten Things That May Indicate You've Written a McQuery

Anxious McFlattery: You open your query with a partial gush of respect and appreciation for the editor, the amazing work they do and your unwavering belief that they are the only editor for whom you ever want to work. Bonus McPoints: You cut and paste this gusher into every query you send out.

Detailed McPlatform: You skimp on the description of the book in order to have enough room to present an overview of your plans to use Twitter, Facebook, Google + and at least two free apps to promote your novel upon publication. You also assure the editor that you are fully prepared to mortgage a house (that in reality you're only renting) in order to bankroll the book's success.

Dubious McHonors: No matter how small, you list every single industry award for which a book of yours has ever been nominated, this to bulk up your creds and convince the editor into believing you're determined, competitive, critically appreciated and poised on the brink of finally winning something important.

Flatout McLie: You mention to the editor how great it was to meet him/her at that huge, busy writer's conference that you never actually attended, and how grateful you are that they asked you at the conference to send them your submission package (and don't forget to write "Requested Material" on the outside of the submission envelope or you know you'll never get it past the mailroom boys/editor's assistant/slushpile reader.)

Handy McCrisis: You drop a hint about some personal disaster you've bravely endured that has completely destabilized your finances but has helped enormously with your growth as an artist.

Important McMembership: In lieu of actual publishing credits, of which you have none, you list your long-standing membership in your writer's organization, the number of chapter contests and conference awards you've won from them (i.e. "Most Improved Writer 1999" or "Brass Kidney finalist 2001-2002.") If you have held office at any time during your membership, you include a paragraph on your official accomplishments, the (deliberately inflated) amount of money you raised for literacy and the actual number of writing contests you've judged.

Name McDroppage: You allude to a close relationship with a famous author, whom you consider your personal friend and professional mentor, when the truth is that you only met said author for thirty seconds after standing in line for three hours at their last charity book signing. Bonus McPoints: You use for your pseudonym the same unusual surname as that of an iconic dead Irish writer and allude to a familial connection, although after an extensive search of you've surmised that the only real connection your Irish ancestors might have had with any iconic dead Irish writer is that they might have grown some of the crops used to make their favorite alcoholic libations.

Non-Query McQuery: Instead of writing a letter to the editor you're subbing, you enclose a DVD of your quirky homemade bio video, a self-published print edition of your manuscript (999 copies of which are still sitting in boxes in your garage) or a CD of you reading that really exciting scene from your latest opus on open mike nite at the local lithead java joint.

Self-Flattering McComparison: You cite nonexistent similarities between your work and that of at least two rich but respectable mega superstar authors, and follow up with a line that implies your genuine, heartfelt belief that, when published, your work has an excellent shot at surpassing theirs.

Signature Block McLetterage: You list at least three letter abbreviations after your name to represent the degrees you wanted to pursue or never got to finish and/or a well-rounded educational background that is largely or entirely invented on your part. 'Cause it's not like they can check, right?


  1. But I *DO* consider you a close personal friend. O.o

  2. How did you know exactly what my first query looked like? ;o) *tongue in cheek*

    There are a whole lot of queries like this out there, as evidenced by the blog, Slushpile Hell. It's...educational reading.

  3. Is this a subtle way of telling me to stop dropping your name?

  4. This is brilliant. "Cause it's not like they can check, right?" ;)

    I haven't done any of these, but only because I've been too scared to write a real query... :P

  5. I don't think I knew what a query was until after I attempted to write one and sent it back in September. I learned what it was when I started following writer blogs such as this in November, and all I could think was "oh shit...". Thanks for sharing this :) Haha now I'm craving McDonald's!

  6. Hey Sheila, or Lynn. Good to see that your career has really taken off you are doing so well. I have had lots of problems trying to make those query letters personalized, even when the agent really didn't have anything to impress me other than they wrote science fiction or fantasy. I was following the Noah Lukeman and querying fifty agents, ten at a time. When all fifty had been queried, and I had replies from at least forty of them, I moved on to the next book. That got me a hundred and fifty rejections. Now in the case of ten agents I knew their clients' work well, and putting something personal in the letter was not hard. Another ten had something I had learned about them in a blog or something on the net, and it was relatively easy to put something in their letters. The other thirty, now that was the challenge. I didn't lie, and because of that I really couldn't personalize the letter much beyond making sure the name and address were correct. On the third go around, especially with agents who had requested materials or the couple who had said I should keep them in mind for future projects it became a little easier.


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