Monday, April 23, 2012

Query Flops Contest

After years of tweeting with each other, Donna Earnhardt and I finally met IRL (in real life) in March. She is every bit as fabulous and funny in person as she is online. One of the things that got us especially giggly was remembering and retelling some of the blunders of our submissions past.

You see, the more I learn, the more I learn I have to learn. If you’ve been seeking publication for a while, go back and look at your first letter to an agent or editor. *shudders* It’s bad, right? The more you follow agents and editors on Twitter and their blogs, the more you learn about how to make your submissions more professional.

With that in mind, I’m having a contest to celebrate our flops! What did you do when querying (We’ll all assume it was a very long time ago) that you wish you could take back? Make up the name of the agent or editor involved—we don’t really want it popping up in their Google alerts, do we? Then tell us what you learned from your mistake.

 On Friday, April 27th, I will put the names of the brave souls that entered into a hat and let my youngest pick a winner. One winner will win a pair of Old Navy flip flops, so you’ll know we are thankful you’ve learned from the flops of your past.  Be sure to include your email address or Twitter handle if I can’t find it through clicking on your name. U.S. entries only, please.


  1. Since I'm asking you to share your flops, I'll share one of mine. Long, long ago, I was polishing an email submission to Agent Amazing on my dinosaur of a desktop computer that was prone to seizures. When I was convinced it was perfect, I hit send. Minutes later, I received an email from Agent Amazing informing me it was the third time she'd received my email in the last 10 minutes. *blushes* I learned to never fill in the email address of the agent I was sending it to until the submission was just right. It was also the last submission I sent from that computer!

    Btw, Donna is to the right, and I am on the left in the picture. Not only do we share a brain, but we even look like sisters!

  2. OOOOH! I have one! I will get it typed up and share tomorrow evening!

  3. I spent some time with Donna IRI recently. Fun! And yes, you do look alike!

    I have a file drawer stuffed with old editor correspondence. Surely there's a blooper in there somewhere.

  4. Four years ago, I queried a picture book titled “Alphabets Rock, From Aerosmith to Zeppelin.” When I printed my copy to file away in my binder, I realized I’d misspelled “alphabet” in the last line of the query when I was thanking the editor for considering my work.

    Cindy C

  5. Okay, so THIS is one of my embarrassing and absolutely horrible query letters. I wrote it many, many years ago. MANY. Remember that when you read it. I HAVE left the agents name out lest she relive the horrendous memory of the letter. Without further ado... my agent #QUERYFAIL

    Dear Mrs. XXX,

    Intimidating as it is, to have someone else read and critique (and possibly accept or reject) my work, I am glad I have finally sent this letter. For months now, I have been contemplating writing to you and submitting my work as a possible client.
    I am 31 years old and a graduate of XXX with a BS in XXX. I have been married for over 9 years and am the mother of 3 beautiful girls (9 months old, 2 years old and 7 years old). I was born and raised in NC… and think everyone should have the privilege of visiting here at least once! I am currently working on a collection of children’s poetry. I have completed a manuscript for 6-11 years olds titled XXX (I would be glad for a critical eye to look over it and I am also working on a mystry novel geared toward older teens and adults. I have 3 poems (1 sympathy, 1 anniversary and 1 graduation/leaving home card) in a test market with Blue Mountain Arts/SPS studios. I am an associate member (not yet published) of SCBWI. Hopefully, I will have full member status in the not so distant future.
    Enclosed are 3 examples of my work (they are very short). If you like them… GREAT!! If not, would you allow me the opportunity to send you a few more examples before you make a decision?
    I know you must get tons of email everyday. Thank you for taking the time to read mine.

    Hope to hear from you,
    Donna Earnhardt
    Baby Wrangler, wife and writer (undiscovered, but NOT without hope!)

  6. Hi Laura,

    What a fun contest. Once, I was given permission to submit to Publisher XYZ and I sent the wrong version of my manuscript. I had to send a second email asking that the first email be deleted. Not my proudest moment.

    Linda A.

  7. Oh my gosh, y'all, these are classic! Keep them coming, and tell your friends about the giveaway. If we get at least 10 entries, I'll give flip flops to two winners instead of one. :)

  8. My most embarrassing experience was when I was sending out several query emails on the same manuscript. In the body of the query, I thought I'd be clever and mention the publisher by name ("I hope you will consider MY FABULOUS BOOK for publication by PUBLISHER'S NAME.") Unfortunately, I forgot to change the name in one of the emails, so it read "Dear Publisher X. . . . .I hope you will consider MY FABULOUS BOOK for publication by Publisher Y." It wasn't that I was trying to keep multiple queries a secret, just that I totally destroyed the attempt to score points by personalizing the email!

  9. OMG, Donna, I can't top yours. You forgot to mention how many years you've been perfecting your onion soup making. This^ is too good. Even as I am the typo queen, I managed not to make most other newbie mistakes. My typos, however, persist and if anything are getting worse. Should have married a line-editor.

  10. Mirka... Onion soup making? LOL! I have to check, but I might have come close in another letter. Yes. There are more. Lots more. I wish I still had the one I sent to a senior editor at one of the big pub houses when I was first starting out. I can describe it in 5 letters...
    A.W.F.U.L. !!!

    I suppose I need to work on my acceptance speech for the "Query-Flop Queen title"? Will there be cake at the coronation?

    (Thankfully, I think I'm better now. I really, really hope so, anyway!)

  11. These are quite funny. I'll have to search through my drawers!

  12. Like Scotti, I did the classic cut and paste and forgot to change the agent's name. I immediately sent a follow-up "Hello, my name is Jaye and I'm a dufus." e-mail. But of course I never got a response. :0)

  13. I am so glad y'all are sharing, too! THANK YOU! I don't feel soooo exposed! :)

    I have another sad story -- Sadly, in my first year of subbing (before I joined SCBWI), I tried to query an editor over the phone.

    Yes. Yes, I did.

    And he told me to NEVER call him back on that phone again and to join a group called SCBWI.

    (It's okay... you can laugh. Really.)

  14. I have (more than once, actually) met agents I had queried and forgotten that I had queried them. Both times were at conferences, and when one agent asked if I'd queried the book yet, I told her "no" because I thought that's what she wanted to hear. When I sent the manuscript, I admitted that I HAD sent it to her already and I'd just forgotten. Never heard back, no surprise!

    I've come a long way, but I still fall on my face at least once a week.

  15. A name has been drawn, and the winner of the Query Flop contest is *drumroll* Jen McConnel! We hope you enjoy your Old Navy flip flops. Keep sharing and may your future queries lead to dancing!