Query Seal #4

Dear Ice Cub Press,

 Oh dear, dear, dear… you’re lucky the Query Seal is reading this and not Steve, because I can’t describe to you how he acts when people misspells his press’s name. It’s one thing to spell dear wrong (check query 1), but spelling our company’s name wrong is a big, big, big, BIG no-no. Almost as bad as writing “Dear Mrs. Semken”…

I have been published in several magazines and poetry journals. I have a P.H.D in journalism and have taught as a professor at the Iowa State University for twenty years. During my time there, I’ve met John Doe and Janet Smith. They have both commented on my manuscript and recommended that I contact you.

 Put this paragraph at the end of your query. Even though writers who have been published before have a higher chance of publication, what agents and publishers care about the most is the story itself. You may be published a hundred times, but if your manuscript isn’t interesting to us, nothing else matters.

 Also, please list the specific magazines and poetry journals that have published your work so we can look up your work to see if a.) you’re telling us the truth and b.) see what your writing is like.

 Last note: while you might think mentioning John and Janet will get our attention, Steve hates name-dropping. According to him, reading names means that those people rejected your work, and to be nice, they recommended us to you so they won’t hurt your feelings.

We’ve also had people tell us that they know one of our authors. Most of the time, our authors will barely know the people querying. Please understand that knowing our authors isn’t going to increase your chances of publication and is best to leave them out. If our authors wanted to recommend your manuscript, they will tell us. Let your work stand on its own.

Yes, I buy and read books. And of course, I have a literary novel about growing up in a small town and going to college in the Midwest. It is completed at 64,000 words and involves themes, voice, and narration different from other books I have read.

 Besides your word count and genre, this paragraph is meaningless. It doesn’t matter if you buy and read books, and don’t TELL me that your book has different themes, voice, and narration. You have to SHOW it.

 These audiences are as general as “everyone”. Not all Midwesterns are the same. Steve and I are both Midwesterns, but we don’t have the same interests in books. I’m a female reader, but I don’t like the same books as my mom, sisters, and friends.

Even though I have never been in the position of a publisher editor, I know what it is like as I have edited college papers, student resumes, and one of my colleague’s manuscripts. So if you would please, let me give you a summary of my book.

 Uh… why is this important to your story? Remember, a query should only be a page long or 250 to 400 words. This paragraph is also meaningless and is wasting valuable space in your query.

My novel, “Working Girls From Small Towns”, includes sections such as “She’s a Downtown Girl”, “Goat N’ Grades”, “That’s My Kind of Plaid Skirt”, and “Girl, Back In My Day”.

 Um… this does not help me understand what your book is about. Forget the chapter titles. What is your book about?

Each chapter focuses on one girl from a small town in the Midwest, but even though there is a different character in each chapter, they are all tied in one plotline. Every girl is going to college but reflect back how their life in a small town has shaped them and how college life and their role as women change them.

 This isn’t plot. It’s set up. What problems do these girls face? What is the journey they’re going through? Why should the readers care about them?

Some of these sections have appeared in State Daily. I have also used these chapters in my classroom. I have received positive responses from my students and those who work at State Daily, and they have all said that my work should be published in a book format.

If your work has been published before, make sure you have the copyright to them.

 Sadly, your students’ opinions and the people who work at State Daily don’t count as credible appraisal.

While this book is not filled with over the top drama and crisis, it evokes imaginary, makes the reader think how their gender affects their life, and teach how feminism is important in the modern world. I focus on the realities of girls from small towns going to college, and that, to me, is interesting, so I’m sure readers will be intrigued too.

 Again, this is telling.

I’m very impressed by your press. Your books have very impressive covers and nice formats—something I want my book to have. I feel my book would attract more people to buy books from your press.

 Whoa, whoa, slow down. We haven’t accepted your work. Focus on your story, not how we could publish your book.

 Also, your last sentence is just arrogant.

My work will clearly be edited, and I’m willingly to spend more time editing if necessary. I didn’t see anywhere on your submission page if you wanted the first five pages, so I sent you the whole manuscript instead. I would certainly appreciate your consideration of my work.

 I’m a little worried when you say that your work “will” clearly be edited. Does that mean you have not edited your work at all? While every novel goes through editing before published, your work should already be edited and in final draft form.

 And as of sending us your whole manuscript…

 No, NO, NO!

 We have guidelines. We ask for a query—one-page letter about your book. If we like your query and your idea, we’ll ask for the manuscript. NEVER send the whole manuscript to anyone. Many agents and publishers will delete any email that has an attachment because of security and inbox space reasons. Also, if their guidelines say do not send the whole manuscript or an attachment, you’re violating their guidelines. And if we did ask for the first 5 pages, you would put them in the body of your email after your query, not as an attachment.

 Follow the guidelines. They will tell you what we want to see. Don’t violate them. We have them there for a reason.



 A big problem with this query is that it doesn’t focus on your work. It focuses too much on you and getting published.

 Yes, your publishing history is important, but it shouldn’t take up half the query. You want to condense it to a paragraph that goes at the end of the query. Like I said earlier, you can be published a hundred times, but if your current work doesn’t interest us, nothing else matters.

 The other bigger problem in this query is that you indirectly tell me what your work is about, and I only have a vague idea what it is. I know it’s about girls from small towns going to college. What is the main conflict? Why should we care about these girls? I also know it’s about feminism, but you have to be specific what you mean. Feminism means different things to different people. You have to be direct and specific.

 Indirect writing makes Steve mad. He has told me, in huge and bold letters, that he does not like people indirectly telling us what their writing is like. Such indirectness shows that you care more about being published than being passionate about writing. We need our authors to be passionate about writing first before wishing to be published.


 Misspelling Ice Cube Press

 No plot—not even a basic premise

 Too much focus on self

 Indirect writing

 The Query Seal will send a rejection

 She may also consider changing to the Query Cub if people continue to misspell our name.