Sunday, May 25, 2008

How not to begin a query letter.

What if you opened your email one day and you got a really badly-written query letter? And what if the first paragraph of that query letter was composed entirely of annoying rhetorical questions? And what if those annoying rhetorical questions never actually told you anything about the plot of the proposed novel? And finally, what if, after opening this email, your head actually exploded?

Okay, pay attention: See that paragraph above? See how annoying it is? Don't ever do that in the opening of your query letters.

That is all.


hldyer said...


Sounds like perhaps this wayward querier has been reading Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds which has a whole section entitled, The Power of 'What If?'

That book also advises not to try to tell your story during your pitch. But those tips are meant for a brief verbal pitch, rather than a formal query letter.

I'm not sure rhetorical questions would be less annoying spoken than written, though. *scratches head*

Kiersten said...

Actually, I thought that was pretty entertaining ; )

notanotherexit said...

*cringe* That would be a mistake I would have made, but now will not. A book I read recently recommended it for hooking people.

Ulysses said...

You're not alone in your dislike of rhetorical questions. Nathan Bransford has expressed his feelings quite... forcefully. Jonathan Lyons likewise.

It seems the device doesn't so much intrigue an agent as p*ss them off.

La Gringa said...

Ulysses -

It doesn't merely piss off an agent; it also demonstrates what a completely untalented hack the writer is.



Ulysses said...

Well, I don't think THAT could get much clearer. Miss Snark would be proud.

Thanks, and I hope query writers everywhere have a chance to read those words.

Authoress said...


You are naturally funny, you are!

Scott said...

Sadly, at least it's a step up from the Valley Girl queries. Where everything is a question anyway? I think?


Gabrielle said...

Methinks that the querier is a terrible author because they are not doing their research and not reading agent blogs like EVERY AUTHOR SHOULD and obviously has never come across Nathan Bransford and never heard of the war against rhetorical questions.

Just_Me said...

When I start mentally composing a query I usually start with rhetorical questions, it's a bad habit. It is also a rough draft that won't even see the light of computer screen let alone the light of day.

I also spend to much time scouring agents blogs looking for hints on query writing. :o)

I suppose we can pretend not every author has the luxury or benefit or knowing about agent blogs.

nymeria87 said...

Forgive me for being a little bit cynic here, but maybe some authors generally don't read enough, let alone deem researching agents blogs worth their time?

Thanks again for that particular hint for query-writing, I'll bear it in mind :)