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The Biggest Mistake Writers Make in Their Query Letters

Category : Book Review

As a writer, professional editor, and former intern for one of the top literary agencies in New York City, I've seen my fair share of query letters. A number of minor issues tend to pop up fairly consistently, but there's one mistake I see writers making again and again.

And this mistake could easily cost you a literary agent.

The biggest mistake that writers make is sending out a query letter that's way too long.

Before I delve deeper into the issue, I'd like to define what a query letter is and what exactly it should accomplish. A query is a snapshot of your project that should entice an agent into reading your manuscript. It's also an opportunity to show the agent who you are and assure him or her that you'll be professional and pleasant to work with.

That's it. That's all a query really needs to do. Yet I've seen so many writers include every detail of their plots, craft a meandering and overly comprehensive bio, and generally say way too much about themselves and their projects.

A fiction query should be between 250-300 words. You can usually get away with stretching this to 350 for nonfiction or memoir so you have room to include some information about market and audience.

Yet I continually see queries spanning anywhere from 400-600 words. When a query is this long, most agents won't read past your first few paragraphs, or...  Read More

Alana Saltz

Alana Saltz is a writer, freelance editor, and occasional ukulele rocker living in Los Angeles. Her essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, HelloGiggles, RoleReboot, and The Manifest-Station. She has an MFA in Writing from Antioch University and recently completed a memoir. You can visit her website at alanasaltz.com and follow her on Twitter @alanasaltz.

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