Query Tips Gleaned from Pitch Wars 2014: A Query Fail

Posted Aug 20 2014, 10:27 pm

If you’re an unpublished writer, you’re probably participating in Pitch Wars 2014–or you know somebody who’s stalking the feed. If you’re not familiar with Pitch Wars, check out Brenda Drake’s blog for more information. And if you have a Twitter account, check out #PitchWars.

The 2014 Pitch Wars submission window is closed, but the fun has just begun. Using the PitchWars hashtag, mentors and potential mentees have been tweeting nuggets of wisdom, do’s and don’ts, and other valuable information. I’ve learned a lot, and I can’t thank Brenda Drake and the mentors enough for helping aspiring authors improve their chances of getting published.

The #PitchWars feed is slow; I can’t bear to watch the news tonight; and my novel writing mojo is gone. Because I’m in full procrastination mode, I drafted a mock query to highlight the mistakes that are sure to drive an agent to delete your email. I’ve never made any of these mistakes. Ahem. If you can’t spot the mistakes, here’s a hint: “Via email” and “Sincerely” are fine. This one is for my #PitchWars tweeps. Relax and enjoy. You’re all awesome.

Via Email
Random Agent
Random Agency
1212 Northern St.
Chicago, IL 60601

Dear Sir or Madam:

What would you do if the next best thing found its way to your inbox? You’d represent the author of that masterpiece.

I understand from your agency bio that you are closed to queries in my genre, but I’m convinced my manuscript will make you reconsider that decision.

My novel, which I wrote over the course of thirteen years, begins with a prologue and tons of backstory and is tentatively titled [insert title before I send to agent]. It is complete at 445,000 words.

I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the novel, so I’m not going to describe my main characters, their motivations, or the stakes. Nor will I state the reasons my novel differs from the other novels in my genre. You’re a smart [man/woman], and I have complete confidence in your ability to figure out these issues on your own. I will, however, whet your appetite by revealing here that my novel has a cliffhanger ending. Parts Two through Eight are in the works.

I can’t fathom that my novel is like anything you’ve ever read, so my providing insight into comparable works is fruitless—and beneath me, frankly.

As for the novel itself, it’s spectacular. This novel will knock your socks off. I mean, really. It’s all that and a bag of chips. The ladies in my mother’s book club told me so, and they’re not even in my target market.

On a personal note, I won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. Please don’t search Google to verify this fact. I won the prize under my legal name, and the name below is my pen name. I will inform you of my legal name when you offer me representation.

It bears noting that if you pass on this novel, you will regret it. I know this because my great-grandmother had a vision in which this novel became a bestseller. Please don’t take offense. I’m doing you a favor by giving you the opportunity to ride this gravy train.

You might be surprised to learn that [insert title before I send to agent] is my first novel. I’m excited about it. You’ll understand why when you read it.

Your submission guidelines state that the first five pages of the manuscript should be pasted into the body of an email. I have decided to save you a step, so I’m sending you the full manuscript as an attachment. It is password protected. Please do the following to retrieve the password:

1. Follow me on Twitter.
2. Wait for me to follow you back.
3. DM me to request my phone number.
4. Wait for me to return your call and provide the password.

I can’t wait to get this process started. I’m sure you’ll contact me soon, but unless you contact me by 5:00 p.m. CST tomorrow, I will move on to another agent.

Author of The Next Big Thing

P.S. I understand from your tweets that you have a dog. I have one, too. This is fate, don’t you think?


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