99 problems (in my submission pile)

  1. Query is for a book in a genre I don’t represent.
  2. Query is for a vampire book. Come back in 3-5 years.
  3. Query letter is addressed to “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
  4. Query letter is addressed to “Dear Agent.” My name is not Agent.
  5. Query letter is not addressed at all. It just begins, “Hi!”
  6. Query letter is addressed to Kristin Nelson. (This is not a problem if you’re actually sending your query letter to Kristin Nelson.)
  7. Query letter is 2 pages long.
  8. Query opens with a rhetorical question.
  9. Query opens with a tagline.
  10. Author has spent too much time constructing a one-sentence hook and not enough building the rest of the query.
  11. By the end of the query, I’ve learned more about the author than I have about the book. (Does not apply to nonfiction.)
  12. I can see that you’ve copied 100 other agents on your query letter.
  13. Emotional development is not plot.
  14. Query letter is in first person POV.
  15. Query letter never tells me the name of the main character (unless your book is Fight Club).
  16. Synopsis is 5 pages long.
  17. Synopsis doesn’t tell me how the book ends.
  18. Author insults me in the query letter.
  19. Author insults her/himself in the query letter.
  20. Author outright lies to me in the query letter.
  21. Author wants me to buy a copy of the manuscript before I decide whether I want to represent it.
  22. Author asks that I tell him/her how to make his/her novel better if I decline to see material beyond the query.
  23. Author asked me on Twitter if I wanted to read his/her book.
  24. Author sends me a link to a Google doc or Kindle download instead of an attached or c&p’ed query.
  25. I’ve already read and declined this query.
  26. It’s a query for five books.
  27. Query letter tells me that the book is going to be a bestseller and make millions of dollars.
  28. Query letter turns out to be hate mail from an author whose book I’ve already passed on.
  29. Author says his/her book is the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games/Da Vinci Code/Gone Girl. It isn’t.
  30. Author has decided that the book has a job to do (like teaching kids that bullying is bad, m’kay?), and it’s not even published yet.
  31. Author hasn’t bothered to read through my submission guidelines.
  32. Author says, “I’m submitting to you because of your interest in [area in which I have no interest at all]…”
  33. Author seems to think I can sell Harry Potter fanfiction.
  34. Submission guidelines ask for the first 30 pages, but author has sent me pages 50-80. (Or worse, pages 1-10, 50-60, and 100-110)
  35. Query letter is just a rehash of the opening pages
  36. Query letter is mostly a direct quote of the opening pages.
  37. Author tells me in query letter exactly where/to whom I should submit the book.
  38. Author tells me s/he doesn’t have the time, talent, or inclination to write an actual query letter, so here’s the manuscript.
  39. Author thinks I run a publishing house, not a literary agency.
  40. Author tells me the book doesn’t get really good until page 100.
  41. Author has sent me the opening pages of Pride and Prejudice, thinking I wouldn’t notice.
  42. Author is writing to a trend, and I can tell.
  43. Author tells me s/he’s writing this book to fill a gap in the marketplace. The gap in the marketplace doesn’t exist. The author just thinks it does because s/he doesn’t read in the genre in which s/he writes.
  44. Author tells me that the book is for everybody, of all ages and reading interests.
  45. Query letter contains the line, “There is no other book like this one out there.”
  46. Sixteen characters are introduced in the query letter.
  47. Query letter doesn’t leave me wanting more of the book
  48. Book is about a subject I know quite well, and the author didn’t do his/her research.
  49. Author spends more time on developing the marketing plan for a fiction work than writing a good query.
  50. Author tried calling the agency to pitch his book.
  51. Author became belligerent when told we don’t take pitches via phone.
  52. Author tried coming to the agency’s front door to pitch his book.
  53. Query letter included with a box of cat treats, chocolate, original drawings, and needlepoint. I accept only pens with a tip .5 mm or smaller, pink or emerald green Moleskine notebooks, and Sephora gift cards.
  54. Author tells me the book is perfect as is and s/he’s not willing to do any editing.
  55. Book is already self-published and it’s sold 5 copies in 3 months.
  56. Author comes to me with an offer from a brand-new publisher with no track record, telling me s/he wants me to negotiate the contract with this publisher.
  57. I respond to a query, asking for more pages, and the author tells me s/he’s already self-published it “just to get it out there.”
  58. I respond to a query, asking for more pages, and the author tells me s/he’s already signed with an agent or publisher and not given me the chance to throw my hat in the ring.
  59. The word count doesn’t even come in the appropriate genre/age range ballpark.
  60. The spelling and grammar make me cry.
  61. Lots of new places and beings are introduced in the opening pages with no background or world building.
  62. Plot resembles the plot of 17 other queries I’ve read that day.
  63. The main character doesn’t show up within the first three pages.
  64. The main character’s BFF has no personality of his/her own.
  65. The main character has no personality of his/her own.
  66. Things happen to the main character, rather than the MC directing his/her own life.
  67. Main character breaks the fourth wall for no good reason.
  68. The main character, a woman, only gets to have an adventure/interesting plot because she is sexually assaulted.
  69. There’s a dead prostitute or stripper on page 1.
  70. There’s a prologue that belongs somewhere else in the book.
  71. There’s an action-packed prologue that tries to hide the fact that there’s no action for the first 10 chapters.
  72. The opening pages are infodump through dialogue. (I think the Smart Bitches call this “As You Know, Bob.”)
  73. The opening pages don’t make me feel anything.
  74. We get a description of the main character from him/her looking at him/herself in the bathroom mirror.
  75. The voice doesn’t sound authentic.
  76. The book starts in the wrong place.
  77. The ratio of world building to character building is wrong.
  78. There’s no discernible plot.
  79. Plot is: Normal human character travels through a portal to a fantasy/alternate world. These are nigh on impossible to sell.
  80. Every single adult in a MG or YA novel is an antagonist.
  81. Every single adult in a MG or YA novel is completely awesome, supportive, and fascinating.
  82. Book breaks all the same rules that Harry Potter breaks. Book is not Harry Potter.
  83. So much effort is put into the first ten pages that the next 40 pages are a disappointment.
  84. It’s December 2nd and this is your November NaNoWriMo effort.
  85. The author doesn’t know his/her audience.
  86. It’s a humor book, but it’s not funny.
  87. The setting is more interesting than the characters.
  88. The concept isn’t original.
  89. The concept is original but the voice falls flat.
  90. Protagonist is involved in a mystery because he/she did something really stupid.
  91. I don’t know what the main character has at stake.
  92. The peripheral characters have more at stake than the main character does.
  93. By the end of page 5 I know a lot more about the peripheral characters than I do about the main character.
  94. Book opens with the main character waking up in the morning. I know The Hunger Games begins this way. This book is not The Hunger Games.
  95. I have to read three or four quotes from other writers/singers/poets before I get to the author’s actual work.
  96. Main character is a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.
  97. Author’s voice overshadows the main character’s voice.
  98. Author includes a character named Carly, Carley, Carleigh, Karli, or Karlee, because obviously this is wrong. (I’m kidding!)
  99. Even though there’s nothing really wrong with the query letter, synopsis, or opening pages, I’m just not that into it.
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