Monday, November 26, 2012

Reasons for a Query Letter Rejection

Before you start sending out query letters, it helps to know some of the main reasons why you might receive a rejection.

(Taken from my upcoming How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now!)

A proper query letter is critical. It’s usually an editor’s first impression of a new writer. That letter reveals so much about a person. It’s the first test a writer must pass in the submission process.

How might your query fail the test? Here are some reasons for rejections:

1. Improper formatting/poor grammar.
2. Addressed to the wrong person or to “Whom It May Concern.”
3. Omission of key requested information.
4. Poor attitude—writer comes off as cocky, overbearing, insolent, or just a jerk.
5. Querying a genre they don’t accept.
6. Author isn’t marketable.
7. Synopsis doesn’t intrigue or grab the editor/reader.
8. Editor was having a bad day.
9. A similar book is already in production.
10. Manuscript isn’t marketable or it doesn’t fit their current needs.
11. Unstable market causes problems that result in sudden submission closings or worse.

The first five reasons demonstrate the writer either can’t follow directions or will be difficult to work with. It often means instant elimination no matter how good the writing. These mistakes can (and should) be avoided. The second two you can work on to improve. The others are simply factors that are outside of your control.

What other reasons can you think of for a rejection?

32 comments:

shelly said...

I would say all those are legitimate. But I wouldn't know what else to add.

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

Gossip_Grl said...

Definitely enjoyed reading the posting. I know in cover letters for jobs I often write it to Hiring Manager unless I know their name. I have on occasion written To Whom It May Concern though. :/ What is the proper heading when I don't their name?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't want to come off as cocky!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Lack of professionalism in the letter.

I have to laugh when agents complain about queries send to Whom It Maybe Concern, but many send Dear Author rejections. I even had one send my rejection to Mr. Lindenblatt. Wow, didn't know my hubby wrote a book. :)

Tonja said...

My assumption is it's going to be rejected - unless it's perfectly the story they are looking for right now.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yeah, it's important to not mess up the factors you CAN control. :)

Southpaw said...

It's interesting how these are the same reasons resumes are rejected.

Tamara Narayan said...

I can't think of anything to add--great list.

I have read on an agent's website that they do not like to see quotes from another agent/editor that praise the book, because they believe such comments, while sounding impressive, are just polite rejections. Thus, they don't belong in a query letter.

However, I used such a quote from an editor that I met at a writing conference in a query and that query garnered four full requests. So, you never know what's going to work.

randi lee said...

I've heard some people actually discuss payment terms in their query letters. That'd be a huge turn off for me. Excellent post. I appreciate all of your advice and plan to put it into practice!

Johanna Garth said...

It always surprises me how many of the reasons for rejection are basic things within the submitters control.

D.G. Hudson said...

I just hope the stars are in alignment, and that the sun shines on the MS (as in an epiphany).

Aside from that, I worked hard at perfecting my letter and synopsis. Researching what each publisher or agent wants takes time, but it's a necessary step.

Enjoyed this post!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Editor having a bad day? It's one of the reasons to keep trying with other publishers.

Hart Johnson said...

I definitely ALWAYS recommend people test their queries with peers before sending... I think it catches at least that first. But doing the research for each one--yeah... time consuming...

Most of my rejections say 'doesn't fit with my client list' or some such drivel... I say drivel because it could either mean 'already have someone sort of like you' OR 'you don't fit what I like'--they do always say how few authors they take on and how competitive the market is right now.

michelle said...

Now that's quite a list!
I've read so much about the dreaded Q- letter...

Jemi Fraser said...

I can't imagine how many terrible query letters agents have to read through - must be exhausting and frustrating!

Nancy Thompson said...

I was always so very careful on all points so I think my problem was almost always #7. Or maybe a bad day. So glad I don't have to do this again for a very long time.

Ciara said...

Don't forget to address the query. Yes, this happened to me once. I copied from a word doc and omitted the agent's name. :(

Karen Jones Gowen said...

#4 is really key. Nobody wants to work with a bad attitude! What a turn off.

Tammy Theriault said...

i haven't done one yet, but man, i'm learning just from you post. thanks for the info! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Gossip Girl, I guess you could always call if you can't find the name online.

Stina - LOL!

Tamara, another rule you can't live by!

Randi, that is a bad idea.

Hart, gotta love the drivel.

Nancy, that's a good feeling.

Ciara, oops!

Karen, I agree.

Ann Best said...

A LOT of things in life are outside our control.

I loved seeing your smiling face just now on MY blog. A positive attitude IS where it's at. But with writing, you also have to do the legwork. You have to learn how to write well, and to follow a potential publisher's guidelines. It's just common sense.

Laura Eno said...

That's a wonderful list...and it also made me laugh in remembrance. The first (and only time) I sent out a query letter, I didn't even know what one should be like. I just winged a business-type letter, merrily assuming that's all there was to it. :)

laughingwolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
laughingwolf said...

deleted my comment, above, for addressing someone other than you, ldw :( sorry

here it is, corrected:

good stuff, ldw :)

a tough but fair agent, janet reid has TONS of advice and samples galore

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/

Talli Roland said...

What a great list - yikes, it's bringing back bad memories! :)

Sherry Ellis said...

That's a good list. I like the one that says the editor was having a bad day!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I think all of those are legitimate reasons even for the short story or poetry market.

M Pax said...

Getting an acceptance is really against the author these days. The book has to fit within their marketing parameters. They don't want anything too 'different'.

Ella said...

Great list! I do think you hit every angle ;D




Annalisa Crawford said...

Like everyone else has said, I think you nailed the many many reasons. Being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with being accepted, sadly.

Jai Joshi said...

I think you pretty much covered the list of reasons.

Jai

LD Masterson said...

I'd like to think the first five would be self-evident but sadly, I know they're not.