I’m back with another Slush Pile post! For some reason, even though my inbox was supposed to be closed, people kept sending me queries, so I have some more slush from then. It is kind of odd, however. I had a large, bolded notice saying that my inbox was closed. Silly me, to assume that all writers can or will read. Hopefully, future emailers will find this and it will help them avoid some common mistakes. Want to play along? Read the email excerpts and guess what went wrong. Then read my comments and let me know how many you guessed correctly in the comments below.
The Hunger Games is a series not necessarily set in [time period], but there are many similarities between that story and mine. Both have young female heroines who must beat overwhelming odds to survive. And, both find love in the most unusual of times.
By this definition, Charlotte’s Web is also pretty close to The Hunger Games. Charlotte is fighting an uphill battle trying to keep Wilbur alive and Fern finds an unusual love for the tiny pig.
When picking comp titles for your query, never choose books that have practically become a household name, even if you do think your novel is the next Game of Thrones. No one likes arrogance. Furthermore, such general comparisons make me feel as though the emailer either hasn’t read the book being used for comparison or doesn’t actually understand what their own book is about. Here’s a hint: both of these are bad.
Hi,Series: [Name]Genre: Sword And SorceryBooks:Book 1 – [Title]Book 2 – [Title]Book 3 – Title]Thanks for the review.
This is not a query letter. It’s a shopping list of things I’m not going to buy.
There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, query one book at a time. It doesn’t matter if you’re querying agents, editors, or reviewers. Practice good query etiquette and don’t just dump everything on them. That doesn’t mean send three separate emails successively; it means send an email for book 1, and if they’re interested, after they’re done reading, casually mention books two and three. Maybe don’t mention them at all until after you’re signed (in the case of editors and agents). Don’t push, don’t shove, and don’t hold your breath (or you’ll probably pass out. Books are a slow business).
Query letters should also have a blurb of your novel. Many people write poor blurbs that aren’t enticing, but that’s a different problem. It’s simply lazy if you have no blurb at all.
Looking up the name of the person you’re emailing is nice; it shows that you actually care. It’s not totally necessary, but the more you care, the more I feel like I should care.
I have taken the bold step of attaching a free e-book as a PDF file for you, along with my front cover. I would very much appreciate an opportunity to gain a book review.
This one kind of made me smile, but not in a good way. Just imagine my evil grin for a moment. Are you getting the shivers yet?
There’s nothing bold about attaching a PDF to an email, especially when I specify in my review policy that you should. And “an opportunity to gain a book review”! What kind of nonsense is this? Being a writer doesn’t mean you have to shove in as many words as you can. This is gross overwriting and it turns me off reading their book because I know they will have filled their novel with this drivel, too.
In fact, I ran a word count of their novel. It was approximately 440k words. Oh, I thought, that’s not that bad for really intense fantasy, right? I love long fantasies. Then I noticed that the novel was a thriller. A huge, resounding NO. Thrillers are intense, fast, action-packed rollercoasters. Because they are so fast, they have to be written without wasting a single word. Clearly not something this author excelled at.
I’ve gotten really off-topic, but I guess the moral of this story is not to waste words. Re-read your emails to see if you’re adding unnecessary baggage. Re-read your novel to see where words aren’t actually moving things along. Cut things out until you can say more with fewer words, and then you’re golden. I say this as if it’s easy. Ha!
[Insult disguised as a “thank you for responding” note]
No, I won’t be sorry I missed out on this opportunity. No, I won’t regret it. No, I don’t really need you to rationalise the spelling and grammar mistakes in your email. And no, I don’t need the synopsis dumbed down for next time, honest! When the only thing you include is the character’s name, I don’t know how much simpler you can make it.
I’ve given up on sending helpful replies because of these kinds of responses. I used to explain why emails were bad: too many names, making it confusing; the ending of the book spoiled in the query; too much about the author and nothing about the book. Now I just use a generic “not for me” reply to avoid confrontation. If there’s anything I’ve learned while working in a law office, it’s to say “thank you for your time” or nothing at all. Yes, even if the spelling mistake was a typo and you reeeeally want the person to know that you’re not as dumb as you seemed. You’ll have to live with it and do better next time.
No. Your novel is not all of that. Please, pick one or two and stick with it. Don’t just close your eyes and pick a bunch out of a hat. This makes me think you don’t know how shelving works in bookstores (which is rather bad, since you’re an author) or you don’t know what your book should be (also rather bad).
To: Every blogger that has ever existed since 1999
Yeah, I’m sure some of them have even quit blogging by now. No matter who you query, be it reviewers, agents or editors (although I’m somewhat against directly contacting editors), you can’t just list everyone under the sun and press send. At least have the decency to copy/paste your email to send it to one person at a time. Even better, find the name of the person you’re emailing and spell it right. Sending it to millions of people at once shows you really don’t care. And if you don’t care, why should we spend hours of our time reading, reviewing, and promoting your book? We shouldn’t care either.
Query letters are business letters. Business letters shouldn’t be written in bright purple.
Even if you’re just querying book bloggers, a query is a business letter. You’re asking us to help you promote your book, which you hope to sell for money. Your book is your business. Treat it with respect.
Target Readers: Youngsters and middle age group loving romance, suspense, thriller, fantasy and all type of entertaining stories.
I’m sure you’d like almost everyone in the world to enjoy your story, but unless you’re J.K. Rowling, that probably isn’t going to happen. Actually, I think even she has some haters. Shocking, right?
Knowing your audience is important because your writing will change depending on who you’re writing for. If you’re writing for middle-graders, you’ll want less subtext and a simpler plot line. If you’re writing for adults, you want subtlety, beautifully woven plots, and hard truths about the world that you’d sugar-coat for younger audiences. If you write for lovers of thrillers, you want speed and high stakes, and for fantasy readers, amazing world building.
You see what I’m getting at? Pick a genre and stick with it, so at least you seem like you know what you’re doing.
I think this should win some kind of award for being so bad. It’s one thing to email me your query beforehand and send me a gift code after I’ve accepted your book for review. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to send your novel to me.This person didn’t do that.
This person is basically shoving a book in my face and telling me to read it. It doesn’t matter that they thanked me. It matters that they didn’t send me a blurb of their book. It matters that I’m not told the genre or the word count. Instead, they’re asking me to go to Amazon to redeem a gift and read the blurb, which is far more steps than clicking on an email and reading that. Yes, I am lazy :)
I didn’t go to Amazon to read their book’s blurb. I didn’t go to Amazon to redeem the gift. I probably sound like a whiny brat, but it’s too much work. Especially when people who do follow instructions send me summaries of books that are interesting right away. Books that I don’t need to click to other websites to go see. Books that I may have to reject anyway because I’ve already got 20+ books I’ve promised to read and they’re just barely not making the cut.
It makes me so sad to say no to authors who have obviously spent time and effort in their emails to me, so emails like above really annoy me.
AutoReply: [insert random self-promotional stuff here]
Ha. Guess who I won’t be replying to again in the future?
It annoys me when I get auto replies for completely irrelevant things. Also, it feels rather unprofessional to get an autoreply that advertises a bunch of stuff. No thanks!
Anyhow, that’s it for today’s slush pile. If you’d like more posts like this, please leave a like or a comment! Also, if you were guessing at the whys of query fails, make sure to let me know how many you got right in the comments below. (Pssst, it’s out of 10)