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7 Literary Agent No-No's: What NOT to do When You Query Explained by a Professional Book Editor

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

7 Literary Agent No-No's: What Not to do When You Query - Explained by a Professional Book Editor

Professional UK book editor reveals 7 shocking mistakes writers often make when querying literary agents for the first time!

Finally querying your book to literary agents can be incredibly exciting, so it's understandable that you'd want to get your manuscript out there as soon as possible.

However, you need to make sure that every aspect of your query is squeaky clean and follows the etiquette expected.

This may sound obvious, but there are many things writers do, or don't do, in their query letter alone that often turn literary agents off immediately.

So, if you're planning to query literary agents soon, here are 7 no-no's to avoid!

1. Querying a Document Riddled with Typos

Not only will sending a literary agent a document full of typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and punctuation issues make you look unprofessional and unprepared, but it can also be a massive insult to the agent.

One or two typos throughout an entire manuscript can't always be helped, but if your query, synopsis AND three chapters are saturated with errors, the agent will likely question how mediocre you think they are.

These are the people who could potentially launch your book career and earn you millions with their expertise and contacts, so you need to show them that you believe that they are worthy enough to receive a polished document.

If you're not confident that your query letter, synopsis or manuscript is up to submission standard, I would love to help you get there with my manuscript editing services, so please get in touch with me here if you'd like to get started.

Book editors UK

2. Not Addressing the Specific Agent

Some writers have the misconception that writing a query letter and accompanying email is the same as writing a cover letter for a job at somewhere like Nando's.

It's not.

When you write a cover letter for a job, you can get away with writing "Dear Sir/Madam" or "Dear Employer" at the beginning, but when you query a literary agent, you NEED to address them by their actual name.

Addressing them by their name at the top of your query letter and email shows them that you've actually researched who they are and 100% know WHY you're querying THEM specifically.

3. Not Researching the Agents You Query

It sounds obvious to research the literary agents you may query, but many writers don't and end up sending their work to an agent who isn't right for their manuscript.

For example, you need to know whether the agents you query actually represent the genre you've written; whether they're looking for your style of narrative or theme; what their submission guidelines are, and whether their submissions inbox is actually open.

If you don't research correctly and send your manuscript to the wrong agent, you probably won't even receive a rejection email back, so make sure you research the agents!

4. Querying Multiple Agents at the Same Agency

If there are two or three agents at the same literary agency who accept your genre, style & theme, it makes sense to query all of them to increase your chance of representation.

But don't.

These agents sit next to each other in the same office, so they'll know who's received what query. This may not sound like a big deal, but if you send your manuscript to multiple agents at the same agency, you run the risk of looking like a spammy writer who isn't actually interested in specific agents.

Your ultimate goal may well be to get a book deal regardless of who represents you, but you need to show the agent that you've researched WHO appears to be the best match for your novel, even if more than one agent may be interested in your manuscript.

If they think your book has potential but aren't interested in it themselves, they may refer it to their colleagues, but if you receive a rejection email in response, wait 6 months and THEN query another agent at that agency.

How to Write a Bestselling Novel

5. Bragging Too Much!

You may be really enthusiastic about your novel, and all of your friends and family may love it and root for you, but you need to remain professional in your query and allow the agent to make up their own mind about your book.

Some writers often write lines like: "You've never seen this before...", "My novel is a better version of..." or "My plot is thrilling and exciting..." - but sentences like this often come across as braggy and will only make agents roll their eyes.

If your manuscript truly is a page-turner, your three chapters will show them and they will figure it out for themselves.

6. Revealing that Writing is Just a Hobby

As you already probably know, literary agents are business people who earn money from turning manuscripts into bestsellers, so when they're looking for upcoming talent, they're also looking for writers who are actually serious about writing books.

If you tell them in your query that writing is just a hobby or something you only do when you're bored, they're less likely to represent you because you've basically told them you're not committed.

Agents want to work with writers who truly have a passion for writing and someone who will likely continue to produce more books in the future, not someone who only writes once in a blue moon!

7. Being Too Vague About Your Book

If a literary agent is going to potentially represent you and get you a publishing deal, they need to know EVERYTHING relevant about your book. Some writers either forget to include detail, don't know what information to include, or worry that an agent will steal their work (which is another massive insult in itself), but if an agent knows nothing about your work, how can you expect them to accept it?

There are multiple ways you can be too vague about your book, but here are a few:

  • Leaving the agent unsure of your plot. If they can't summarize it in one sentence, you've been too vague.

  • Not being clear on your genre or target audience.

  • Not introducing your protagonist properly.

  • Leaving out the word count.


Thank you for reading to the end of this post, it really means a lot and I always try to produce helpful content for writers like you! :)

If you found it helpful, please like, comment and share so more writers can use the advice!

When you're ready to have your manuscript professionally edited, please get in touch with me here and we can have a chat about how I can best help you.

Here is a list of the book editing services I offer:

  • Developmental/Content Editing

  • Line Editing

  • Copy Editing

  • Proofreading

Speak soon,

Chelsea x



Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!

With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!


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