query fail, part 1

in college (at wheaton), i had a buddy named greg daniel. greg and i lived on the same dorm floor when we were sophomores, but most of the other guys on the floor were freshman. and good times were had (including a hallway game called “dart wars” that resulted in me walking with a cane for a few weeks after i got a dart stuck in my knee cap).

i lost track of greg for years, but noticed he surfaced in christian publishing, as the executive editor of “w publishing” (then a division of thomas nelson). when thomas nelson disbanded w, greg started his own literary agency. now, when i’m in nashville, we usually connect, which has been fun.

anyhow, recently on his twitter page, greg went a little nuts for a day, tweeting a whole wad of “query fail” tweets. a “query” is the letter (or email) an aspiring author sends a publisher or agent in hopes of getting their writing considered. these babies had me laughing out loud, so i asked greg if i could collect them all and post them. they start out almost helpful, but quickly degrade to true weirdness.

here, for your amusement, i present part 1 of greg daniel’s list of query fail tweets:

Includes 50 other agents in the address line of the query email? #queryfail

Asks me to be patient with their 300,000 word novel because it really picks up steam after the first 50k words? #queryfail

Starts out by ranting about the idiot agents who have rejected their masterpiece? #queryfail

Addresses me “Dear Sir/Madam…”? #queryfail

Insists on calling me to tell me about their book because it’s too difficult to describe in writing. Uh…. #queryfail

Can’t correctly spell “query” in the subject line. Hmmm…. #queryfail

Asks me how to go about submitting? Uh. If you have my email address, then you obviously have my web site address with my guidelines #queryfail

Say you don’t know how to paste the first five pages of your manuscript into your email? Please get your 3-year-old to teach you. #queryfail

Tell me that God told you I would be the perfect agent for you? #queryfail

Start out by addressing me , “Dear Colleen…” #queryfail

Refer to your work as a “fictional novel”? #queryfail

Tell me you have an idea for a novel and want to get my opinion of it before you start writing it? #queryfail

Send me a snail mail query despite the fact that my guidelines say I don’t accept them? Pray for absolution for killing a tree, then #queryfail

Include a cover design you insist that the publisher use if your book is published? #queryfail

Call yourself a “published author” when what you really mean is “self-published”? #queryfail

Tell me your Aunt Ethel and her 6 cats loved your manuscript? #queryfail

“I channel notes and put into format and would like to be considered for a partnership…” Wow, tempting, but #queryfail

“I have written a 2,500 word novel…” No, you’ve written a pamphlet. #queryfail

“I read about your interest in poetry so I’m querying you.” Really? Where? You mean in my guidelines where it says I don’t accept poetry? #queryfail

You want to write a nonfiction book but you have no impressive credentials or platform? This is a huge issue, folks. #queryfail

“I selected you through web listings, in which you appear to be in good standing” Stop. I’m blushing. #queryfail

“Hi. Are you a visionary agent who wants to take the stagnant fiction literary marketplace to new heights?” No. Not really. #queryfail

I’M TYPING MY QUERY IN ALL CAPS SO YOU WILL BE SURE TO NOTICE IT. Okay, now that my pupils have stopped burning… #queryfail

click here for part 2

15 thoughts on “query fail, part 1”

  1. Having written several query letters before, I’d be REALLY, REALLY embarrassed if I saw something I wrote online here or in someone’s twitter page.

    I understand that people do really silly things sometimes, but Marko, is it now the Christian thing to make fun of people?

  2. So…let’s see…since I laughed at this too I am a bad Christian? He wasn’t making fun of the people, he was making fun of the bad query letters. These are people that didn’t use common sense when writing their query letters or comments to this person. I hope you would be really embarrassed because this is common sense stuff. Would you email a publisher and call him Colleen when his name was Greg? It’s not making fun of people; it’s the lack of common sense that’s hilarious.

  3. But it’s not a free education on query writing for me because I’ve already paid people to teach me how to do that. The people who need the free education probably aren’t looking at this blog or the twitter account in question, so it’s a moot point for them. Not to mention that it doesn’t really tell people what they need to do, it just highlights their mistakes, followed by some sarcastic remarks.

    Jim – no, *I* wouldn’t email a publisher AT ALL unless the submission/query guidelines explained that that was an acceptable procedure. But as I’ve said, I’ve been taught how to write queries and send submissions. Should these people use common sense in some of these cases? Definitely. But what is funny to you could cause potential embarrassment to someone else, someone that we would probably call Brother or Sister in Christ.

    Perhaps I’m too sensitive about this sort of thing, but honestly, it looks to me like it’s making fun of people. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, I guess, but I’m still disappointed.

  4. Personally, as an aspiring writer, I think these aer hilarious and educational. : ) Partially because I could see myself doing some of them a few years ago …


  5. nope, this isn’t insulting, it’s humor. if we can’t take time to laugh at ourselves, then we take life WAY to seriously.

    I really liked the aunt ethel one, and the “i can’t figure out how to paste into an email” one. hilarious!

  6. For the record, only 5 of Aunt Ethel’s cats liked it. The sixth was undecided.

    If he’s going to make fun of me, at least get it right.

  7. So…um…let me get this straight. “Queryfail” means that we should NOT do these things. Right? I mean, you’re saying these things are not going to help us get published?

    …even the one about typing it all in caps?

  8. Man I wish you’d posted this before I visited the little blue box on the corner… Sorry, Coll…err Greg

  9. I want to be friends with Greg forever.
    But actually will just twitterstalk him instead.

    And I’m never going to get my work published now – even though I just posted about it!.

  10. Considering I just sent Marko an email which was very close to one of the above questions 9I won’t tell you which one), I’m a tad embarrassed…and no, I wasn’t offended. Just wish I could unsend now:)

    Marko, be on the lookout form my official query which will contain none of the above items.:)

  11. Oh crap! I’m digging my hole deeper with the errors in that last post.

    Excuse me while I go curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb for a while.

  12. Posting “Gervais and Elmo” just above this brings the whole thing to a comic fortissimo. Read Greg’s conversations as those two and try not to laugh out loud!

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  14. Snort snort – let’s all laugh at those that God made stupid. I bet God is laughing too.

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