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Query Faux Pas

I am usually a meticulous person. I double-check the spelling of every word I type, fuss over every pixel I design, and inventory the contents of my purse every time I step out to pick up some milk.

"Wallet? Check. Cell phone? Check. Three types of lip balm? Check. Oh no, I have only two pens here! What if both of these pens fail and I'm left standing in the grocery store without a writing instrument?!"

But sometimes, despite my best efforts, I screw up. And these screw-ups seem to occur most often when it's very important that I not screw up. Like when I need to appear professional and put-together for literary agents.

Here are some silly faux pas I've committed so far during the query process for Kagemusha.

Misspelling Names

I queried one agent with the surname "Fishman." I spent half an hour perfecting the typography of my email, triple-checking the contents of my query against the agency's submission guidelines, and making sure the subject line followed the required format of "QUERY KAGEMUSHA FISHMAN." Then I took a deep breath and clicked "send."

The first line of my email:

"Dear Seth Fisherman..."

(I never heard back from this one. I wonder why.)

I queried another agent with the first name "Jesseca." Her name is clearly "Jesseca" on her agency's website, on her various profiles, and in the "from" field of any emails she sends.

But my brain insisted on auto-correcting her name to "Jessica." I wrote down "Jessica" on my spreadsheet and persisted in calling her "Jessica" throughout an exchange of a half dozen emails.

It was only after I sent her a partial manuscript that I blinked and saw Jesseca for the first time.

Messing Up Emails

Yesterday I nudged an agent who's had my full manuscript for a while. She asked if she could have a few days to look at it.

I agonized over the wording of my reply. My first impulse was to respond with humor and say, "No, you can't have a few days. I want you to drop everything and respond to me right this second!"

No, I decided, it's early days yet. Let's keep it professional. Let's write, "That would be great! Thanks!"

But then, what if "A few days would be great!" would flow better? Yes. Let's go with "a few days."

I clicked "send" and reread the result.

"A few days be great! Thanks!"

Apparently, the stress of querying has turned me into a pirate. "Avast, ye agents! Here be me brief synopsis!"

Attaching the Wrong Sample

Agencies often want the first five, ten, or twenty pages of the book copy/pasted into the body of an emailed submission. I included this sample for all but one or two of the agents I queried.

Last week, two months after sending these out, I re-read the sample and realized it came from an old version of Kagemusha that didn't have my final edits! There were sentences in there that make no sense, and whole paragraphs that should have been deleted.

At least I didn't print 80,000 hardcovers from the wrong file. That would be embarrassing.

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