books aren’t just what we do, they’re who we are

Wait, Don’t Tell Me

dontSeriously, don’t. Don’t use your query letter to tell me that your novel came to you in a dream; that you’re happily married with three kids, a dog, cat, and parakeet; that you hope to move to New York to pursue your dream of being a writer.

Don’t tell me that another agent is considering your manuscript like it’s an award you won.

Don’t tell me your age. I don’t care. (Aside: the people I see do this most often are teenagers, who are so proud of the few years they have that they have to tell everyone. I don’t care how old you are unless I love your manuscript and we’re talking about possible representation. And even then, I only care if you’re too young to sign a legally binding contract.)

Don’t tell me you were a third runner up on a writing contest in sixth grade, or a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Don’t tell me you read an interview with me in which in which I explained what I was interested in seeing, and then send me something I don’t represent.

Don’t tell me you didn’t know how to cut your manuscript off after three pages, so you included more.

Don’t tell me more about yourself than about your characters.

I don’t mean to be flippant — well, actually, I do, because oftentimes, short and pithy, even if (a little) rude, sticks better in people’s minds than long-drawn out explanations of why you shouldn’t do something — but I have come across these “Don’t”s so often, I’ve noted them as a red flag sign of an inexperienced, unprofessional writer. And that’s not something you want agents to think you are.

I’m sure many of you who’ve been doing this for a while have additional advice to share — please do so in the comments!

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