Sometimes I play a game when I’m reading through queries. The game is to look at the just the first bit of the email from the inbox and decide if the the query has potential. I have about a 95% accuracy rate for determining the quality of a query based on this alone.
- The author doesn’t address the agent by name, but rather addresses it to the agency or “to whom it may concern.”
- Anything that doesn’t cut to the point. Ex: “I recently finished my first novel, a thriller with romantic elements. I would like to get published…”
- A bad hook. Anything that’s too vague or generic. Ex: “Adventure is just around the corner.”
- Thanking the agent for looking at the query. This isn’t strictly speaking wrong. But I’ve noticed the people who tend to do it often don’t have very professional query letters. I also think this goes along with cutting to the chase. Best to stick with “Thank you for your time and consideration” at the end of the letter.
- Anything that begins “Imagine that you…”
- Something with a stupid title. I see this the most with MG, but other genres are not immune.
- Anything that begins with somebody being “ordinary until…” More on that here.
Just be aware that an agent is judging your query before they even open the email. Make sure you’re thinking about the impression you want to make.