Tuesday Topic: Querying Goofs and Fudges

We’re all human. We make mistakes. Who hasn’t forgotten to add the agent name to your cut and paste query letter before hitting send. Or you might have forgotten to change Ms. to Mr. Oops, that was me. There’s an I-feel-dumb moment.

But have you every fudged a query letter on purpose to look better? Nothing truly evil, just a little razzle dazzle. Maybe you wanted to angle for a better genre. Such as putting speculative fiction because you can’t decide on a whether you are horror or fantasy. Or put science fiction when clearly you wrote a dystopian that will get you shunned by agents. Dystopian is part of science fiction, right, so it must be okay.

Maybe you wanted to avoid using the word paranormal. Or you decided your story was more contemporary than thriller.
Have you fiddled with the word count by cutting a scene or two to get your numbers into the sweet spot? Maybe you added some comps you knew weren’t quite right. Or left out that your story has vampires when those are so five years ago.

Have you tweaked and white-lied your way to a better query letter?

By the way, Mine was the dystopian I tried to push as the more general science fiction. Didn’t work.

I feel like Ive made more mistakes during the query process than deliberate decisions designed to improve my chances. That being said, I did act on a suggestion to add a comp title once of a book I hadnt read. When I read it, I found it wasnt actually a very good fit for MS and I later removed the comparison. Im glad no one called me out on it or asked for any details! But generally, Im kind of fearful about fudging on the query since I frequently see agents and editors on social media disparaging that kind of activity.

Reality Summer is women’s fiction with a 24-year-old protagonist. I primarily queried as WF, but did also send to a handful of agents as “new adult commercial fiction.”

Technically, this worked – I got an offer. But the agent wanted me to rewrite as NA romance. Had other agents not had time to read quickly, this strategy might have backfired horribly. So I’m not sure I’d recommend it.


I have made mistakes querying I am sure! I have forgotten to attach attachment and been glad gmail gives you a reminder. Am sure I have mistyped email addresses and had bounce backs too.

Along with other mistakes I probably don’t even know were mistakes.

Oh and think I did dystopian – science fiction too!

I never deliberately fudge parts of a query letter because agents are smart people. They’re looking for authors who know their market, so if your genre is off or your comparable titles are off, they might cringe a little. We all make mistakes; that’s for sure. But never, EVER alter your query letter to try to catch an agent’s attention. They’ll know.

As far as word count, I do want to note: If your manuscript is 73,789 words, it’s okay to say 74,000. You’re just rounding up. Basic math applies here. If it’s 72,245, just say 72,000. Agents aren’t going to worry about that 245 words you didn’t account for. Now, if your manuscript is 72,000 and you say it’s 80,000, again, that’s a HUGE problem, and it’s sure to backfire when you send in your full manuscript, and the agent notices.

Publishing is a tough business, yes. But the absolute worst thing you can do is give yourself a bad reputation. And agents chat. Give them a reason to say great things about you, not bad ones.