11 Red Flag Phrases to Avoid in Your Query Letter

lishacauthenThis post is brought to you by
the one and only, Lisha Cauthen.

Agents/editors are busy people.


And they read fast. Very, very fast.


You might even say he/she skims a query letter to see if it merits the engagement of her/his whole brain. And if he/she sees any one of a set of toxic phrases….

yeah, i'm not sure WHAT the heck is going on there.
yeah, i’m not sure WHAT the heck is going on there.

…then it’s the DELETE button. What are these toxic phrases? I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED.


  1. “My fiction Novel…” (Is there any other kind of novel?)
  2. “To Whom it May Concern, (as well as Dear Agent, Dear Sir, etc.)…” (Do your homework and target a specific agent.)
  3. “My advance…” (Discussing remuneration or other demands before an agent has even read your work is…cray-cray.)
  4. “Query attached…” (Huh? You do not need a cover letter for a query. There should be NO attachments at this point, except for the very small minority of agents who ask for the sample to be attached.)
  5. “My manuscript is not finished…” (You are wasting the agent’s/editor’s time until you have a salable product.)
  6. “My children (friends, mother) love it…” (Nobody cares. The end.)
  7. “What would you do if…” (You’re supposed to tell him/her what your character would do, not lead an encounter weekend.)
  8. “My story is better than (insert famous book here). In fact, it is the best story you will ever read…” (Diagnosis: Narcissist.)
  9. “My story will appeal to everyone of all tastes, ages, gender and income level…” (Diagnosis: Delusional.)
  10. “I guarantee success…” (Diagnosis: Delusional Narcissist.)
  11. “Answer me right away…” (The editor/agent will make sure all her/his doors are locked.)

Avoid the delete button! And if you have any more phrases to add, please chime in, in the comments.

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