Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Cardinal Sin

This is difficult to admit and post for all to see because it is incredibly embarrassing and could have easily been avoided. I was just plain sloppy on this one. Below you will find a query in which I referenced the submission guidelines for a DIFFERENT literary agency, garnering instant rejection and scorn from the agent I was trying to query. DO NOT DO THIS. It is a simple mistake but still far too easy to avoid.

My suggestion is to write a separate query to each individual agent. Do not craft a form letter and then edit the address and greeting line to fit each agent. Sure if you have a few form paragraphs that you wish to paste into each one, fine, but don't copy the whole letter and you'll never find yourself in this scenario.

I consider it best to query only 5-10 agents at a time anyway. Wait for their replies and if you get form rejections from each of them then you know you need to fix your query before sending more out.

Here is the damning evidence:


I am writing to you seeking representation for my young-adult fantasy-adventure novel which has the working title, Warrior-Monks, and is complete at approximately 475,000 words. The sequel, which is untitled, currently exists only in outline form. I am including a synopsis as well as the first ten pages of the book because that is specifically what REDACTED BUT INCORRECT Literary Agency website asks for.

I love Eastern Cultures and the many art forms they incorporate such as – Martial Arts, Calligraphy, Japanese Swords, and the Tea Ceremony as well as all the traditions and high level of art that go into them. I also love Magic and Fantasy and Eastern Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. Warrior-Monks incorporates all of these themes in a fantastic way which has never been done in young adult fantasy to my knowledge.

I have never been published but I am confident that many authors like Christopher Paolini and Brunonia Barry have proved that you do not have to be a highly experienced or best-selling author to write an incredibly entertaining book. I also do have some personal qualifications to write this story. For example my own mother died when I was eleven years old and I was then sent to live with a cruel aunt and uncle and eventually did end up at a reform school in Northern Idaho which although strange, was not nearly as fascinating as the place in which my characters find themselves within this book.

Please feel free to reply to this email, or to call me on my mobile phone at any time at 206-555-1212, or even to write to me at home at:


Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Matthew M. Rush

Her understandable reply:

If you wish to follow the guidelines of the REDACTED BUT INCORRECT Literary Agency - I suggest your query to them instead of us.

She was obviously irritated but who can blame her? Then again she had an error in her angry reply too. I think she meant to say "I suggest YOU SEND your query to them instead of us." I must have really pissed her off to put her in enough of a hurry to allow for such poor grammar. It was probably written by her assistant though.

Here is the apology I sent:

I know and I am so sorry, you are absolutely right. I wish I had been using outlook and could have recalled the message. I was editing a query letter I had sent to another agency and accidentally clicked send while I was reading it over. I know how important this process is for both of us and I am very sorry to have wasted your time.

Short and sweet and to the point. She did not reply. I didn't expect her to. This is unacceptable (my mistake, not the lack of reply). Please do not make this same mistake.


Unknown said...

I have to commend you for posting all your queries, even the ones that are mistakes. I don't think I have the courage to do that. At least you may be helping someone else to avoid a similar mistake.

I hope to soon read on here the query that lands you the agent. :-D

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks Mary, it is hard sometimes to let go of my pride and admit to foolish mistakes like this one but I think it's for the best. I did end up improving my queries a lot and last fall ended up receiving 3 requests for partials. Of course once they got the MS it was way to long so I still have no offers for representation but I will continue to post queries here until I do!

I will post those queries that did result in full or partial MS requests as soon as I get through all the really terrible ones.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Ugh. Isn't this every querier's worst nightmare, that you slam the door closed on yourself before it even starts to open?

Very brave of you, Matthew, to put yourself out there like this. How has your querying been going lately?

Matthew MacNish said...

Hi Krista, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I have taken a hiatus from querying because I actually did get 4 requests for partial or full submissions last fall after I had learned a lot from all of this. 3 of the 4 rejected with encouraging remarks, they each liked the voice and the premise of the novel but thought the manuscript was far too long and offered to read it again if I could cut it at least in half. So I have stopped querying while I attempt to accomplish that.

The fourth agent never replied after requesting I ship her a printed partial - who knows what happened.

I will post those queries that got positive responses as soon as we get through all the negative ones.