Writers BewarePosted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Query Letter Mistakes

Following on the theme of my previous post, here’s a fascinating survey on the common mistakes that writers make in their query letters.

Blogger JM contacted one hundred literary agents with the following question: What is the single biggest mistake writers make when querying you? More than 50 responded. Here are the problems mentioned most frequently:

– “Go to my website for a sample of my work…”
– “Find my query attached…”
– Querying before your manuscript is ready
– Writing a query that is overconfident or pompous
– Sending a query that has clearly not been proofread
– Queries addressed to “Dear Agent” (or anything similar!)
– Vague query letters!
– Queries with more than one agent listed in the “To” field
– Queries that have no clue what the agent represents
– Queries that have no clue what the agent’s submission guidelines are

JM also includes a treasure trove of quotes from the responding agents about each of these problems, and exactly why they will torpedo a query.

Great information, direct from the source.

How Not to Use Social Media

“Get thee to social media.” This is universal advice for new and newly-published authors looking to build their readership. But though it’s easy to say, it’s not so easy to do. For social media to work as a promotional tool, you have to know how to use it–and that does NOT mean begging people on Facebook to “like” your page, or blasting out 500 “check out my new book!” messages on Twitter. If you use social media solely for self-promotion, or if you’re too obvious about the fact that you’re promoting yourself, you will probably fail.

So how do you make social media work for you? Jane Friedman takes an illuminating look at this question in a blog post entitled When (or Why) Social Media Fails to Sell Books. The bottom line:

Your social media involvement and platform building won’t work as a one-time effort (though, of course, you might have a specific campaign for a specific book that’s very strategic, which is excellent).

You have to be consistent and focused over the course of your career.

Most importantly, it has to be about more than selling books—or whatever your goal might be. It has to be about what you stand for, and who you are.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

If I told you that there was a literary agent who promoted his services via a series of videos featuring a sex doll, would you believe me?

Meet “Arielle,” virtual hostess for Mocknick Productions Literary Agency.* Arielle’s “job” is to “give you information on the agency and the literary business in general” (including why paying an upfront contract fee is a good idea), via “four informational slide shows.” (The slide shows used to be available directly from Mocknick’s website, but possibly due to the attention they’ve brought him recently, clicking on them now takes you to YouTube.)

But wait, there’s more! Arielle the sex doll has HER VERY OWN STORY! She’s a Doll Warrior, star of a screenplay written by Mocknick himself. That’s right, folks, David Mocknick, fee-charging literary agent, is also an aspiring writer.

For much more ridicule, see P.N. Elrod’s blog post.

* It probably will not surprise you to learn that David Mocknick charges a $500 contract fee, has never sold a book or a script that Writer Beware has been able to discover, and is included on Writer Beware’s Thumbs Down Agency List.