Agent Friday: Quivering Through Queries? Lift your spirits with SlushPile Hell

You're probably in one of two camps: you're either preparing to query, or you're biting your fingernails waiting for responses (of course, if you're going the self-pub route, you can skip past all the angst). If you're in the anticipation phase or the waiting phase, you can really use something to take your mind off your worries.

Written by a self-described (anonymous) "grumpy literary agent", SlushPile Hell posts snippets of the query letters you don't want to write. Think of the site as an education in what not to do.

This tongue-in-cheek blog has snippets of actual queries, with the agent's comments to the author. Don't worry, everything is anonymous, and the agent promises not to mock book concepts, plots, or actual writing. And it will probably make you laugh.

What can a writer learn from the mistakes of others?

Do your agent homework. Study the agent's website. Be aware of the agent's gender. Take note of the agent's preferred genres and submission guidelines. Personalize the query to the agent you're targeting. Do these tips seem obvious? That's because you're paying attention. Sadly, many writer's are not.

Don't only rely on spell-check. It's amazing that queries are sent with spelling errors, typos, and wonky grammar. Yes, querying can be stressful, but don't let your state of mind prevent you from running your query letter past your critique group. Don't have one? Check out these writers groups. Most have a forum encouraging writers to post their query letters for comments.

Don't overestimate yourself. Writers ought to have confidence in their work. After all, we do have to promote ourselves to a great extent. But watch the level of boasting in a critique letter. Telling an agent you're the next J.K. Rowling can sound pompous. Let your writing speak for itself.

Which SlushPile Hell entry made you laugh the most?


  1. I've read so much about how to write a good query letter. It is great (and fun!) to see some real-life examples of what not to write.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Sometimes I need comic relief from the seriousness of querying. Glad I'm not alone!


  3. Thank you, Debbie, for all of these helpful links! This post led me to children's book author posts that are very helpful. I love that your posts are dense: they are brief but PACKED with help!

  4. I'm so glad you found something helpful. Thanks for the compliment!




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