Every writer experiences, or will experience, rejection. Even if you’ve written a fine novel or piece of non-fiction and crafted a good query letter, some of the query letters you send to agents/publishers will be rejected or ignored. Often the nagging question is: why? Many things outside your control could be at play, including similar books already under contract or consideration by the agent or publisher, bad timing, or a less-than-stellar query letter. If you’ve received a number of rejections, it could be time to re-evaluate your query letter and look for these common mistakes:
- The letter doesn’t demonstrate your best writing. Remember that a query letter is a first look at your writing skills. Make sure there are no excess words, spelling, word usage, or grammatical errors. The writing should be tight and showcase your ability with words.
- The letter doesn’t contain a strong hook. A good query letter shows that your book has something new and compelling to offer. Avoid writing the generic, such as, “a family drama that spans three generations.” Instead write something that grabs attention, such as, “three generations of a family bent on one purpose: revenge.”
- The letter contains too much information. If you’ve included backstory and more than two or three characters in the description of your book, then the description is probably too long. If you can’t convey the basics, including a hook, in a few sentences, this can indicate problems with your story.
- The letter is trying to do too much. If you’ve set your heart on selling a series or trilogy, keep in mind that usually the first book is sold and does well before others are put under contract. You may say, “The book stands alone but has series (or trilogy) potential.” Don’t attempt to sell multiple books with your query letter.
- The letter contains too little information. Always include the word count of your novel, the intended audience, the title, and some information about you, the author. Make sure it is professional and respectful of the recipient’s time. Don’t forget to say, “Thank you for your consideration.”
Ana Howard specializes in women’s fiction, historical fiction, and YA novels.
About the author …
ANA HOWARD is the author of eight published novels. Her books include contemporary and historical children’s, young adult, and adult literature. She has worked with both small independent publishers such as Roberts Rinehart and Brown Barn Books, and with large publishing houses such as Penguin Putnam and American Girl. She has seen one of her novels made into film and has won numerous literary awards.