Top 7 Tips For a Quick Query Rejection
1 – Typos don’t matter, the right agent will see through them to the heart of your story.
If the agent sees that you don’t line edit your query, and easy fixes that any spell-check should have caught are ignored, they might love your story idea, but they’re going to be concerned. If you let that many errors get through on a one-page query, how much editing is your novel going to need? Even agencies that do thorough rounds of edits are going to hesitate before taking on that much work.
2 – Take as many (or as few) words as it takes to tell your story
Novels are expected to be certain lengths, dependent on genre and target age range. If you submit something more than 10,000 words outside the expected range, the agent will likely think you don’t know the market and aren’t ready to query.
3 – Focus on world building, sprinkle in pace and plot with a light hand.
The agent wants to know who the story is about and what happens. The world is the context, but the main character’s emotional and physical journey is the story. If you query the world and neglect the plot, you’re likely looking at a rejection.
4 – Once you have your query the way you want it, don’t ever change it.
Everyone hates form letters. Agents don’t like feeling as though you’re looking for just any agent who’s willing to take you. They want to have been chosen and for you to have done your research. Adding a note about meeting them at a conference, seeing a talk they gave, or books that they’ve agented and/or mentioned liking in their bios helps.
5 – Query any agent that sounds good
There’s a reason agents list what genres they represent and describe their taste in books. Sending your query to agents that aren’t interested in those genres is a quick way to a rejection. They WANT to say yes, they HAVE to say no to most, and you just made their decision easy.
6 – Research Everything The Agent You’re Querying Has Ever Done
Don’t stalk the agents. I may have mentioned this before. Referencing things from their private journals or obscure articles from their childhood is wrong. Only use information that is publicly available on their agency site or publicly associated social media. Don’t go back 10 years. Just focus on what they’re looking for now. People don’t like working with stalkers.
7 – Disparage other authors and novels, use them to demonstrate how yours does those things RIGHT
You’ve been told to use comps (novels to compare yourself to), but you should never talk about how you’ve improved Harry Potter or written a more realistic and gritty Grapes of Wrath. Talk is cheap. Comps should be stylistically and/or thematically similar. And recent.
Comps should preferably be under 3 years old. You might be able to stretch it to 5 years. If you use a well known older novel, make sure your secondary comp is recent.
The best way to use comps is to use two that contrast. Game of Thrones meets Gilmore Girls.
Or to tell how yours is a twist on the novel you’re naming. Harry Potter at a spy-school for up-and-coming wizards.
The writing world is small and people have friends in many places. Disparaging a published author, while you’re still looking for an agent, will look petty and egotistical. Not confident.
I hope you have great success following these tips, on the path to quick rejections. Thanks for making my query look even better.
These tips were gleaned from the panel, “Common Mistakes from the Slushpile” from WorldCon75 and panels like that one.