As a publisher I get loads of queries every month and, at present, ALL of them are out of our reading season. However, because I know how hard it is to get a publisher’s attention, I do read each and every one just in case there’s that gem of a book waiting to be found.
Here’s what I’ve been noticing about queries lately: writers just don’t care about the publisher and only care about being published.
Let me explain because this “me me me” attitude is hurting you big time.
I can’t begin to tell you how many queries I get that are pure garbage. Probably around 85%, if not more.
Each of the automatically rejected had one or more of the following wrong with them:
- query not properly punctuated or even spelled properly. For example, “i get a lot of queries that look like this. hey, i have this book. it’s about ghosts. wanna publish it?”
- writers sending in manuscripts when the guidelines clearly state to not do that but to only query first
- writers sending me queries about books that aren’t even in the genres we publish (i.e. children’s picture books, non-fiction, etc.)
- writers begging me to publish their book
- writers not tell me what the book is about in their query but only giving the title and some personal information
- writers telling me how wonderful their book is but barely telling me what the book is about or even catching my interest
And, the best of the worst:
- mass mailings. These are the ones where, as per the CC area in the query’s email, the writer has mass mailed 15+ publishers at once in the hopes someone will bite. Not only does this show extreme laziness, but it shows the writer is utterly desperate. Look, even if you are desperate, don’t show it to a publisher. It’s an immediate turn off. Don’t start your query with “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Publisher.” Queries are to be ALWAYS personalized to whomever or wherever you’re sending it.
Want to write a good query? The place to start is to be professional in your approach. I’m not even talking about the actual writing of one. You need to have the right attitude. Even if you’re buddy-buddy with a publisher, that should have no bearing on how you query them. Personal relationships and business relationships are completely separate things. Period.
Then, with your attitude in the right place, FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. If a publisher wants you to query them a certain way, do it. Don’t take the chance that they’ll look past it. Some publishers do, but most don’t. How you query a publisher says a lot about what you’ll be like to work with and if you can’t follow guidelines or decide to treat the publisher like garbage right from the get-go (and, yes, this has happened to me), then there is no way you’re going to land a book with them.
Now, to write a proper query–there are a few different ways, but Coscom Entertainment prefers our queries in the following format:
- proper “to” and “from” addresses on the top of the page
- proper address to whom you’re querying (i.e. “Dear Mr. Fuchs” or “Dear Acquisitions Editor”)
- hooking first sentence or two, catching our interest about the rest of your query
- identification of the book, genre and length
- why it’s marketable
- any personal info about you
- proper sign off (i.e. Sincerely, Joe Author)
Failure on the above, save for a few exceptions, will pretty much destroy your chances of getting your book read by us. We got lots to choose from and don’t have time to handhold an author in the basics of querying.
So if you do any of the things listed above that just drive us up the wall, please stop. You’re only hurting yourself.