Home > NewsRelease > TOP 10 QUERY LETTER DON’TS
San Francisco Writers Conference San Francisco Writers Conference
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: San Francisco , CA
Friday, June 21, 2019


query letter dontsSummer. The days are longer and you have time to think by the pool. Or while sitting outside during your lunch hour. Or when you’re up at the crack of dawn writing while the kids are sleeping in.

’Tis the season of querying agents to get that masterpiece out there and evaluated by these publishing professionals. Here are 10 tips on what NOT to do in these query letters:

  1. Don’t address your query to the wrong person, misspell the agent’s name, query more than one agent at one time on one email (chain mail), or query multiple agents in the same agency simultaneously.
  2. Don’t use gimmicks to get an agent’s attention. Confetti spilled all over an agent’s desk is not going to endear you to them.
  3. Don’t oversell yourself. “I am the best writer since J.K. Rowling” is probably untrue. But also, don’t start with “I’ve been rejected so many times I have no idea why I’m even trying again…but here goes.”
  4. Don’t forget to check your query for typos, grammatical errors, or other common mistakes. Consider having someone else read your query before hitting send as it’s nearly impossible to find all your own typos.
  5. Don’t spend a lot of time writing about yourself if your author bio is thin. Don’t include writing credits that aren’t meaningful. Conversely, don’t forget to mention your platform if you have one.
  6. Don’t pitch more than one book at a time.
  7. Don’t bury the context. Start your pitch with the genre, title, word count, and comps (comparable titles). And when mentioning comp titles, make sure the books/movies are big enough and modern enough that most agents will have heard of them. Like in the past two years.
  8. Don’t give agents more than 1-2 paragraphs of plot synopsis. Make it read more like back of the book copy than a boring chapter-by-chapter summary.
  9. Don’t engage in a war of words if you get rejected, trying to convince the agent how wrong he or she is. Be professional. And don’t take rejection personally. It’s happened to every writer everywhere.
  10. Don’t forget to make it personal. Research each agent you are pitching and begin with a nod to a recent deal, a book they sold that you read and liked, the fact that you interact with them on social media, etc.


BONUS DON’T: If you make a mistake, don’t send another email. Most agents and their readers manage queries in chronological order, so by the time they get to your corrected version, you’ve already been rejected. Just move on.

BONUS DO: Follow each agent’s submission guidelines! Find them online on their website.

SECOND BONUS DO: Be sure to include your contact information! And if you’re including some pages from your first chapter, make sure your contact information is on the first page at the top.

The San Francisco Writers Conference and the San Francisco Writing for Change conference are both produced by the San Francisco Writers Conference & San Francisco Writers Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The SFWC Director is Laurie McLean.  For registration help, contact Richard Santos at registrations@sfwriters.org. For SFWC sponsorship and scholarship opportunities, contact Barbara Santos at Barbara@sfwriters.org.  The SFWC website is:  www.SFWriters.org

Marketing Director
San Francisco Writers Conference
Oakley, CA
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