Review Board Is Now Open! SPECIAL CALL Poetry and Short Prose!

Day(s)

:

Hour(s)

:

Minute(s)

:

Second(s)

Deadline: Thursday, September 16th

We writers can be closed off and private or very prone to over-sharing. And as with conversations over dinner, so go query letters and cover letters. When you submit your writing, you want to be sure you’re not sharing TMI (too much information). Here are a few things you should consider leaving out of your letters.

Age at which you started writing. If you’re making submissions, it’s pretty much a given that at some point in your life, you began to love writing. Maybe you were five and maybe you were fifty. Unless there’s an especially compelling (book-related) reason to mention when or why you fell for writing, best to leave it out.

Number of places the work has already been rejected. If you were walking into a bar and everyone who was leaving stopped to tell you how lame it was inside, would you pay the cover charge? Probably not.

Reason you don’t think the work will be picked up. There’s no reason to point out any reasons that you feel your writing may be weak. If it is weak, facts will speak for themselves.

Ghostwriters and editors. You might not want to mention right off the bat that you’ve had your writing professionally edited. You might mention a writing coach or teacher, but generally, leave line editors out. Why? Because a literary agent or poetry editor wants to offer a contract to you, not your freelance editor. That said, we do believe that honesty is the best policy. And so before you sign a contract at a literary agency, be sure your agent knows you worked with an editor.

How much money you expect/want to make. A query or cover letter is not the place to talk about payment, advances, or rights (like movie deals). Have that discussion once you’re further along in the process. Read more: How Much Money Can I Make Writing Poems, Short Stories, Novels, Essays, And Nonfiction Books?

When you had your last eye exam. Unless your medical condition is relevant to your writing, it may not be appropriate to mention any mental or physical health issues in your letter.

How many of your friends and family members like your writing. Praise from blood relations, in-laws, friends, professors, and writing groups doesn’t count when you’re gunning for the big leagues. Include only professional reviews or quotes from established writers.

Personal manifestos. You certainly can (and should) have a personal manifesto (or two). But your letter is not the place to mention it unless it ties directly into your writing.

Submit to Review Board

Query Letter TMI

Self-published books that didn’t sell. Some self-published books may be worth mentioning in your bio. But others are best left out. See our article: When (Not) To Include Your Self-Published Book In Your Query Letter.

Negative situations with other publishing professionals. Maybe you used to have an agent who was a slimeball. But mentioning that negative relationship in a query letter is like wearing a pin to singles night that says “Ask me about my divorce.” Sometimes, it’s necessary to bring up bad things in a query; the key is doing so with care. You do want to be clear about a project’s history, especially if you’ve already “shopped it around” to editors. But you can allude to your situation without bombarding an agent with details. If you get a nibble, then you can mention any negatives from the past. Learn more: Warning Signs: How To Spot A Bad Literary Agent: Part One.

This is my [first/second/thirtieth manuscript]. While feeling proud of your accomplishments is good, literary agents will likely read that you’ve written thirty books and wonder why none of them have been published. And if it’s your first or second manuscript, that may not be something to call attention to either. Just play it cool by not mentioning how many manuscripts are under your bed.

This is the first of a completed, fifteen-book series. If you’ve written fifteen books in a series but you haven’t sold the first one, you may be in for trouble. Better to focus on one book at a time. Learn more: Mentioning Multiple Books In A Query Letter.

The Moral Of The Story For Your Letters

Writing a query or cover letter is like going on a job interview: you don’t want to give too much or too little information. Always speak to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Common sense and a bit of precaution will go a long way!

Writer QuestionsQUESTION: Write a sentence that you believe should NOT appear in a query letter. Feel free to be silly!

27 Comments

  1. Lara Zielin

    Using the phrase “fiction novel.” If it’s a novel, it’s fiction. I see this all the time.

    Reply
  2. Joel

    Dear Agent,

    Please consider my blah blah blah…etc.

    And by the way, I know where you live.

    Sincerely,

    Writer

    Reply
  3. Chris

    Dear Agent,

    Please consider my 90,000 word memoir about how I drove my last agent crazy. I’m planning on writing a sequel…

    Sincerely,

    Future Client

    Reply
  4. maureen

    Hey there Agent person,

    My bff wuz reeding this and said, wtf, u shud like send this to sumbody and I saw yer name in a faceook ad so here it is lol and I need the 1st check reel soon so I can ditch this pos laptop for an ipad.

    later
    sleepy cat face, lol,

    Reply
  5. Art

    I researched your name in several agent lists, found no well selling titles associated with it, so I thought I’d submit my novel to you to help you break out of that rut.

    Reply
  6. Margaret

    My family tree eerily resembles that of the Baggins and Took families, so I just know you’ll love my prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, “The Hobbit”; I also have a sequel to his trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings”, in the works in case you need to know that I am more than a one-book gal.

    Reply
  7. Pam Beers

    Dear Literary Agent,

    I figured it was time to submit my 200 page manuscript to you because my mother read it and said it was wonderful, and my dog wags his tail every time I sit down at the computer to write something.

    Reply
  8. Toni White

    My ten year old daughter loved it.

    Reply
  9. Jo

    Dear Agent,

    I have shared this manuscript with several people whose reaction has been mixed; HOWEVER, my Border collies [smartest dogs in the world] have been unstinting in their praise. The puppy has already eaten at least a quarter of it. Fortunately the original is safely stored in my computer.

    Reply
  10. Michelle

    Dear Sir:

    I know you said no poetry, but isn’t a novel just a long poem?

    Reply
  11. Michelle

    I understand that you are looking for poetry only. My novel is a form of poetry, only longer.

    Reply
  12. Steve

    Dear Sir;

    It was a dark and stormy night when I finished this manuscript.
    It was a bright, sunny morning when I sent it to you.
    It will be a glorious, blessed day when you accept it.
    It will be a depressing, dreary day if you reject it.

    Sincerely,
    The Weatherman

    Reply
  13. Tara Cowen

    Dear Agent,
    If you don’t LOVE my novel, you’re an idiot and should consider another line of work, like culling sled dogs. If you like it you’re a genius, which is good because culling is a disgusting practice and should be outlawed as I’m sure you’ll agree. Now-about my novel- It’s a memoir from the viewpoint of a quilt – a sort of Sisterhood of the Traveling Fabric Squares if you will.

    Reply
  14. Dorie

    Dear Literary agent,
    Enclosed please find my thrilling novel about a teen-aged girl who can’t get along with her mother.

    Reply
  15. Lynnewrite

    Dear Agent

    This novel has something for everyone.

    Reply
    • Writers Relief Staff

      Lynnewriter, Absolutely. The “someting for everyone” tactic doesn’t resonate well with agents/editors.

      Reply
  16. Michael Crossan

    Dear Agent

    I think you’re a wonderful wonderful wonderful agent. Will you please please please be my agent.

    Reply
  17. Sylvia Bright-Green

    I’m a lonely old nonfiction epilogued lady, so if you’re an older “seeking” linguistic agent, email me. Perhaps we could create something beautiful together.

    Reply
  18. Writers Relief Staff

    Thank you! We hope so too. 🙂

    Reply
  19. Dana

    Dear Editor:

    If you help me sell this manuscript, I can feed my cat. He is a good cat; I am sure you would like him.

    Budding Cat Lady
    Author of My Hungry Cat Needs Your Support

    Reply
  20. Dana

    Oh Wise One:

    In our last incarnation, you published several of my books. Do not tempt Fate. Publish my work again.

    Remember, Karma is/was a Bitch.

    Your Once and Future Author
    Phoenix Author

    Reply
  21. Gerald

    Dear Agent Swift
    I am sure I have said something real exciting in my manuscript; but I’d be damned if I can find it. Do you think you could help?

    Reply
  22. Nick Hansen

    Dear Agent,

    Your wife is shackled in my basement and I own three horny Rottweilers.

    Do the right thing-sell my book.

    Lots lof love

    Koo Lomax

    Reply
  23. D.J.J

    Is it acceptable to mention a publishing contract that didn’t work out?

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Only if something happened like the publisher suddenly closed, or the agent became ill and suddenly retired – things that would have no reflection on the quality of the book. Otherwise, we wouldn’t recommend it because it might seem like the book was ultimately considered not worth publishing.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Review Board Is Now Open! SPECIAL CALL Poetry and Short Prose!

Day(s)

:

Hour(s)

:

Minute(s)

:

Second(s)

 

 

Search

Reviews

“Getting that first poem published was the hardest threshold to cross. My team at Writer’s Relief kept encouraging me…then came the acceptance! We celebrated…then I continued writing, and Writer’s Relief continued doing the wonderful work they do!”

—King Grossman, Writer
(Watch King’s video testimonial here!)

“Every piece I have sent out with their help has been accepted for publication! I am looking forward to working with the team on getting my new novel out into the world.”

Services Catalog

Free Publishing Leads
and Tips!

Featured Articles



 

Featured Video

Follow us!



YES, IT'S MY LUCKY DAY!
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000 acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link


STOP! BEFORE YOU GO...
Sign me up for
FREE Publishing Leads & Tips
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

WHY? Because our insider
know-how has helped
writers get over 18,000 acceptances.

FREE Publishing Leads and Tips! Our e-publication, Submit Write Now!, delivered weekly to your inbox.
  • BEST (and proven) submission tips
  • Hot publishing leads
  • Calls to submit
  • Contest alerts
  • Notification of industry changes
  • And much more!
close-link
Live Chat Software

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This