This first short post in a five-part series aims to help authors avoid five all-too-common pitfalls that can instantly derail their query letters. First up: "God told me to write this book." I'm always surprised when this happens, but it does occur with a bizarre frequency.
For the record, don't say that God (or Jesus, or Saint Whoever, or Ganesha) told you to write this book. Just don't.
Because I work in religion publishing, I probably see more of these query letters than the average editor, but a friend of mine who acquires fiction says it happens to her, too. Whatever kind of book you write -- even if you write about religion -- don't invoke a divine imprimatur as some kind of proof that you're worth publishing. It's a sure-fire magic trick to make your query letter disappear.
The worst was from a guy who told me that God not only told him to write a book, but that God had written the book, and all he needed was a publisher to get God's word out there. Unfortunately, this communication happened not via email, which I could ignore, but in person when he stopped by our booth at an academic conference.
There was no escape, so I talked to him for a few minutes, and asked him if he understood that having a traditional publisher would mean that God's 150,000-word (!) book would be edited. Editing is what editors do, I explained. God did not want his book edited, he responded. Couldn't we just slap our logo on it and enjoy the millions upon millions of dollars that would naturally flow in after publishing a book written by God?
I gently pointed him and God to a couple of self-publishing options. I don't think they're going to land a book contract anytime soon.
What else should you not say in your query letter?