The proof is in the proofing

So you’ve huffed and puffed and struggled and slogged, and, finally, you have produced a query (a Query Letter and Writing Sample). The query is akin to a terrible in-law—you had to suffer its presence for far too long, and now you want it gone. You’re more than ready to send it. Now what?

Don’t send.

That’s right. Don’t. Proofread the thing instead. Already proofread? Have someone else take a quick look.

You may think it’s fine, but you would not believe how many queries are riddled with mistakes. Some of them would have otherwise been great queries. Your Query Letter and Sample are reflective of your entire manuscript, and though an agent will often do editorial work for an author she represents, she’d rather not fix your whole book line-by-line. Most importantly, errors can overpower story; if there are too many, an agent will reject your book before they even know what it’s about.

To help you with this process, I have assembled a collection of quick tips for editing your Query Letter:

1) Run a Spell Check. Pay attention as it runs.

2) Read your query aloud. Really. You will catch the places where you’ve added an extra word, or discover run-ons when you read a pause where there is no comma to warrant it.

3) Ask others if anything looks wrong, and consider what they say.

4) Have a friend with a critical eye edit it. I can’t tell you how much easier this would make things for you.

5) And finally, make absolutely sure that the first line of your Writing Sample is error-free. I’d say that nearly a third of the queries I go through have errors in the first line. An error like that tells an agent that you aren’t really trying.

-Frustrated Intern

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