Sunday, January 25, 2009


Dear Query Shark:

I invite you to consider reading my complete manuscript=0 Atitled HER SECRET. HER SECRET.

My guess is that you put in some sort of formatting here. As you can see it doesn't survive the email. Plain text only. Always.

I believe you will have a heart felt fervent desire to represent my book.

Please don't ever include a sentence like this in a query letter. I know you want me to feel that way, but be cool: don't wear your heart on your sleeve. Just tell me about your book.

Friends to the end

You don't need a centered title and subtitle in a query letter. That's for actual pages.

Taylor and Ashley are typical teenagers, fourteen years old, and the best of friends, they do everything together from, horseback riding, dancing, just hanging out talking about boys and sharing all of their secrets.

This is a run on sentence. It's where I'd stop reading if you sent me this query letter.

I'm not sure typical teenagers go horseback riding.

A recent camping trip leads Taylor to the discovery of a horrific secret. A secret between Ashley and her dad. A secret that began when Ashley turned thirteen, when her dad claims, she became a woman.

You've got a real problem here with the tenses in this sentence. If you can't identify what it is, you're querying too early. We all make mistakes (god knows I've made a gazillion, and some real doozies right here on this blog) but there are some fundamental problems here with grammar that should not have survived a second or third revision.

Their friendship becomes threatened, and Taylor becomes faced with the decision of her life, to tell or not to tell. Will this secret destroy a friendship that came so natural to them from the start, six years ago?

HER SECRET friends to the end - Is my 10612 word, Mainstream Fiction book written for Middle grade – Teen/YA reading level.

10,612 words is about 1/3 the length of a book for either of these age groups. Middle grade and Teen YA are two VERY different reading levels.

Educating our kids, that it's ok to tell even when it's family.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

I get the sense you're writing the book not to tell a story but to make a point. That hardly ever works. The story has to come first.

Form rejection.


(city, state, zip)


(city, state, zip)

Dear Query Shark:

You've utterly wasted the first 14 lines of your email with information I don't need to see right away. DO NOT DO THIS. Put all your contact info at the end. You don't need to list my address. I know where I work.

You don't format an email query the same way you format a paper query.
You don't cut and paste the entire paper query into the email and just send it.

Queries by email have a specific form. Follow it. If you don't have a clue what it is, look it up!

I would love to invite you to consider representing my book targeting our youth today.

Would love to invite you implies that perhaps you aren't. Example: I would love to have you over but I have to wash my hair. Would is a conditional. It's often used incorrectly. That doesn't mean you get to misuse it in a query letter.

Also targeting our youth today? What are you getting at here? Is this a novel for "our youth." If that's the case you need to be much more specific. Toddlers who can't read are youth, just as the glitter crazed and horse mad tween girls are, and the sardonic goth readers in high school.


Have you ever had a best friend? One that tells you all of her secrets? Fourteen year-old Taylor thought she had that in Ashley. Until, a recent camping trip leads to the discovery of a horrific secret. A secret that Ashley couldn’t even tell her best friend. A secret that involves Ashley and her dad.

Oh, abuse. Great.

Yawn central. Abuse is very over used and very tired theme. Unless you have something dramatically new or fresh to contribute, this won't work.

There (you mean their) friendship is threatened and Taylor is faced with the decision of her life, to tell or not too (you mean to). Will this secret destroy what came natural to them?

What came natural to them? you mean this in the way that it's most normally used? Like, they're having sex?

FRIENDS TO THE END - Is my 6057 word, Mainstream Fiction chapter book written for youth – Teen reading level.

6057 words? Is this a typo? Six thousand words is about 30 pages. A YA novel is 60,000 words, and you're writing a YA novel, not a teen reading level for youth.

"Chapter books" normally refer to books for younger readers. This topic isn't going to fly in the third grade.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Time is of the essence, in continuing my search for representation.

Oh really? You put that in a query and it's an automatic rejection. Publishing is not a lickety split industry unless you plan on doing it yourself.

Nothing gets my dander up faster than someone telling me they're in a hurry to hear back. Who the heck isn't? My response time is 30 days. I'm pretty clear about that everywhere I list information about sending queries.


Form rejection, but a fast one.


José Iriarte said...

D'Oh! I'm totally going to get nailed for wasting the first fourteen lines or so as well, because I'm pretty sure I formatted my entry like a snail-mail query. The thing is, I'm not actually querying you, Janet Reid (because I don't write what you represent), and so I didn't think in terms of a specifically e-mail-based query.

hessegg: Romantic Songs

Dal Jeanis said...

For me, a writer using "too" instead of "to" is two strikes, because I know their will be many other mistakes in there writing here and they're.

Two much work too read.

Janny said...

If there's a site telling all of us out here what the "correct" form for an e-mail query is, I'd sure like to see it. A quick Google search turns up this advice on one site:

"Many writers put their contact information at the bottom of an e-mail query letter, underneath their typed name. While you can also include it there, I would put it in the top left-hand corner of your e-mail for easy reference. It will annoy the literary agent if he or she has to scroll down to find the method of contact."

...which seems to fly in the face of your preference. So, once again, this seems like more of a case of "check with the agent's guidelines"--rather than yet another "format" bugaboo that writers need to be paranoid about!


Teagen said...

I don't like the revised version much at all. 1) The word count is ridiculously short and I'm not sure which side of YA literature you're aiming for. The genre has 11-15 and 16-20ish and then others that are for both. And "middle grade" is not a genre at all.

2) "...they do everything together from, horseback riding..."
You have a "from" phrase in reference to activities, meaning you need a "to" as well. So that part should look like (minus the run-on sentence): "They do everything together, from horseback riding to dancing, just hanging out and talking about boys to sharing all of their secrets."

3) I'm confused about who she's not telling. It's not her secret, which poses complications you don't even bring up. And you don't say who tells her either, just that she finds out. So does Ashley know she knows the secret and has posed some ultimatum, or did someone else find out and Taylor overheard? Because if it's the latter, I doubt Taylor would be having the same problem with sharing if it's Taylor she's not telling. That section is very iffy for me and thus uninteresting.

4) The grammar of the overall letter is off-putting. You use commas incorrectly and your verb tenses have occasional problems. EDIT the query letter extremely well because it's a reflection of the state your manuscript will be in.

jys said...

I'm not sure typical teenagers go horseback riding.

To be fair, y'know, I used to horseback riding with my friends when I was younger. If it's set in rural/suburban, I don't think it's that unusual...

I'm beginning to sense, however, that the author is a bit young, from the constant grammar mistakes and short word count.

Sarahlynn said...

"And "middle grade" is not a genre at all"