Sara MegibowThe Kristen Nelson Literary Agency has a helpful newsletter for the writer who’s nearing a query letter date. That’s the deadline I’m approaching for Viral Times, once the revisions are finished. One of the agents at the Nelson Agency offered this advice about writing the query.

Advice of this type often tells a writer not to do silly things, like mail chocolates along with a letter. But at least the agency’s Sara Megibow (at left) affirms some things you should do in a query to an agent.

  • State that you found our agency through agentquery.com or Preditors and Editors, or aar-online.org, etc.
  • Note that you have looked at our website and have read the submission guidelines
  • Mention any of the books represented by Nelson Agency which you may have read
  • Repeat your contact information right in the body of the query letter (you can hardly ever put your name, title of work and email address in too many places).

These are all things that one might do in a job interview too, and following these guidelines always come across as professional to me.

In order to stay professional, try to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Don’t be overly self-deprecating (i.e. “I know I have no experience and I am sure you don’t have time to read my work, but…”)
  • Don’t be too casual (i.e. “Yo! I love to write and I think my stuff rocks!”)
  • Don’t include religious blessings or quotes in the official query letter (although many people do have these kinds of quotes at the ends of the email as a footer, and that seems fine to me)
  • Don’t be cutesy (we find that fancy fonts or colorful backgrounds do not help the professional tone of the query letter)
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