3 Query Tips Every Editor Hopes you Forget

Anyone who has submitted a manuscript–from published pro to the first timer–knows the feeling that sets in the second you click “send” on the query letter email. Anxiety takes hold almost immediately. Did I miss a typo? Will she like it? Will she think my letter is too short, or too long? Maybe I should have read it one more time…

Who knows? Every editor’s taste is different. One may prefer YA realism to fantasy. Another may appreciate high-concept middle grade over school tales and picture books. Some editors only publish fiction or non-fiction. But we all agree that a thoughtful pitch is the best way to garner attention no matter the genre.

So as your finger trembles over the SEND button, try to keep these things in mind:

1.  Editors are not quiet. When they are excited by manuscript they tell everyone within earshot and generally send it to them for feedback, too. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few high-fives! Oh sure, they also love to be reclusive and pore over your stories behind closed doors but bookmaking is collaborative. So remember, you’re not sending that manuscript to one person, not really. Several pairs of experienced eyes will likely take a peek if it’s a real contender for acquisition. Make that query memorable and if at all possible, make it sing!

2. Editors are NOT going to trash your work because of a typo. Most editors  who are hoping to acquire a book will generally forgive the spliced comma, errant typo, or misplaced preposition, IF (and this is a big one) the manuscript keeps them turning pages so fast that they can’t be bothered to worry about it (apologies to Strunk and White). Generally, editors are not the grammar police. They are story-seekers. If your book is un-put-downable, an editor may forgive that grammar is not your superpower.  That’s where copy editors keep everyone honest. However, if you’re manuscript is boring, lacks voice, or feels like yet another Hunger Games rip-off, you’re likely to get a form decline and no invitation to re-submit another book for consideration.

3.  Editors don’t have the final say. An editor may very well love your work, but it might not have a home on that publisher’s list right now. Perhaps they recently acquired a similar book or are looking for something very specific. But if you’re work is good, they will remember it and YOU – good news for a future submission. Trust me, editors remember names and stories. If you’re work resonates and an editor invites your to submit again, DO IT.  She will be rooting for you the next time and genuinely hoping that you keep writing.

Bottom line: as much as an editor might love your work, she is looking for reasons to decline it from the first sentence. So many manuscripts, so little time! Be certain your query and manuscript are compelling, representative of your very best work, and make the most of the few precious minutes editors have to spend with your submission. Drop your reader into a scene. Tell her something she doesn’t know and above all, don’t bore her.