This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
1. Don’t write ‘Dear sir or madam’
Every blog about this subject will tell you to take your time, to do research on the company, and target agents that read your particular genre. The query letter I’d written was addressed to Curtis Brown and started ‘dear sir or madam’ . I wonder now why I hadn’t taken the time to look at their website. Surely I should have addressed it to Shelia Crowley (who represents Melissa Hill, Jo Jo Moyes, Fiona Walker…. I could go on), but I clearly hadn’t done any research.
2. Don’t tell them your work is a cross between other authors
“Imagine a combination of the authors Emily Barr and Freya North; all the local flavour of a tropical destination (without the dark story line) combined with a warm and fuzzy heart warming tale.”
This presupposes two things, that they’ve heard of these authors and if they have heard of them that they’ve actually read their books. It tells them very little about my book.
3. Don’t tell the agency that your book is a result of a drunken conversation (ESPECIALLY in the first line)
“I’m submitting you part of my debut novel which was written because of a drunken statement I made to my boyfriend after a failed interview attempt for the television show The Apprentice.”
Whilst I’ve never come across this as a piece of writing advice, I’m pretty sure that it's not the best first impression to make. At the time I thought it was endearing, but now I think not so much.
4. Don’t tell them you don’t want to win awards
“I don’t want to write a Booker prize novel”
I’m guessing this would be read as I’m not capable of writing a Booker Prize Novel. Which of course I am (honestly).
5. Don’t forget to actually write about your book in your query letter
In how many lines of the 29 lines in the letter do you think I mention the actual storyline of my novel? A) 15 B) 10 or c) 3. You know that based on the above it has got to be C don’t you?! And those 3 lines barely mention the plot of the book.
6. Don’t be funny. Unless you are (judging from the rest of my letter I am not)
“In terms of writing experience, people read my work on a daily basis, although on the walls of museums… In order to make my writing more accessible (and less limited to walls) I’ve created my own website”
Now considering that I work in a fairly academic industry this is probably not the best description I could come up with about my day job.
7. Don’t write your synopsis in first person narrative
Now this is a peculiar one. I wrote my synopsis from the perspective of my main character Kate, as if she were talking about her ‘Thailand Fling’ in a chatty almost Phoebe-from-friends-catch-up-on-the-past-series, type of way. Not only is that probably not how you’re supposed to write a synopsis, the weird bit was the original book is not even written in the first person. Which means even if they had liked the synopsis, the book was not more of the same.
8. Don’t write more about your boyfriend than you do your book
“Unlike ‘Rich’ the evil villain in my chick lit, my boyfriend is not a ‘dream quasher’.”
Again, you think this might be a no brainer. But on line counting, my now husband, is mentioned on five lines (I was telling an endearing story) as compared to my three lines that mention my novel. I may have got confused with the acknowledgment page in an actual book and the purpose of a query letter…
So there you have it! My top 8 tips of how NOT to sub a novel. Points I've hopefully learnt loud and clear for my new round of subbing. Now what I want to know is, am I the only aspiring author to have written a cringey submission? Anyone else want to share?