Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | December 26, 2012

Before You Query

Before I begin, I’d like to wish you all a happy New Year. I hope you have a year full of joy and peace.

With the end of the year comes many Overviews and Best Of lists. Occasionally Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow), an associate literary agent at the Nelson Literary Agency, does a wonderful #10queriesin10tweets on Twitter. A couple of weeks ago she posted a year-end overview of why she rejects queries. For anyone who plans to query in the new year it’s a list to read and remember.

1) Top reason we send rejection letters to queries? Writers submitting projects in genres we don’t represent.

2) Second top reason we reject queries? Writing isn’t as strong as I’d like to see.

3) Reason we reject queries – query is too wordy/awkward/unclear. If query is not strong, manuscript is not strong.

4) Reason we reject queries – fantasy or SF elements explained poorly. Again this points to poorly done in manuscript.

5) Reason we reject queries – inciting incident and/or plot feels generic or unbelievable or predictable.

6) Reason we reject queries – hero and/or heroine aren’t strong enough to carry a story (not engaging enough)

7) Reason we reject queries – too long or display lack of connection to their genre (long MG submissions for example)

8) Reason we reject queries – bad attitude. These are “you don’t know squat” and “I’m the next big thing” submissions.

9) Reason we reject queries – previously self published (don’t throw tomatoes, I’m just being honest). Most have poor sales numbers.

10) Reason we reject queries – I just don’t connect with the voice or story. Yes, this is subjective.

This list tells me all I need to know. Before I query I will:  make sure I do my homework and find agents who represent my genre. I will make absolutely sure I understand the MG genre. I won’t query until my WIP is polished until it gleams. My query letter will be tight and clear. I will be professional. And, at the last, I will really, really hope that the right agent connects with both my voice and my story.


  1. […] There are many different formulas out there.  But just follow the one that is repeated and accepted by the publishing companies.  Bransford gives a good formula for creating a query letter.  But maybe you don’t want to take this guy’s word for it.  So here is another link to some credible authors and agents: How not to get an agent  and Before you query […]


  2. […] 1. Before You Query […]


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