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Top Ten Things Not To Do When Trying to Get Published

Here is the Fifteenth installment of Ten Top Lists of What Not to Do by Marie Ann Bailey of 1WriteWay at and John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites at These lists are simu-published on our blogs each Monday. We hope you enjoy.

random house

10.  When trying to get published, do not send a query letter to a publisher with the opening phrase “You probably have never heard of me, but that will change.” The publisher will no doubt get a big laugh and your query will get a direct pitch into the trashcan with the words, “Want to bet,” on the publisher’s lips.

9.  When trying to get published, do not use cute gimmicks in your query letter to get the publisher’s attention. They will not appreciate whatever it is that you send along with the letter and could just charge you for the clean-up later. This includes: glitter hearts, artificial snow, two tickets to the Bruins hockey game, a six pack of beer, sand from your beach story, or anything else not on paper.

8.  When trying to get published, do not think a personal phone call to the publisher will make a difference. You will only risk sounding like an idiot even though you have thoroughly rehearsed your pitch. If you should by chance get someone to talk, being able to find your query letter to give you the feedback you demand may get you put on hold permanently.

7.  When trying to get published, do not, under any circumstances, show up at the publisher’s place of business in person. The publisher will be extremely embarrassed since they will have no idea what to do with you. Your query just might get placed in your back pocket as you are shown the exit into the alley.

6.  When trying to get published, do not tell the publisher in your query letter that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. The only thing that may be a once in a lifetime opportunity is the one second it takes for the publisher to pitch your query into the wastebasket with the words, “I’ll take that chance,” on the publisher’s lips.

5.  When trying to get published, do not try to build rapport with the publisher with words like, “If I were in your shoes I would be looking for a talented writer and by golly I just happen to know one.” The publisher will have a nice laugh at your expense and will probably use your query in the next seminar on How Not to Query. Of course he will be paid an enormous fee and you will get…well…nothing.

4.  When trying to get published, do not send a query letter before you have your fiction manuscript finished. Unless you are Stephen King, there is not a publisher in business today who will jump at the chance to publish your story if it is in the concept stage. Describing in detail what might be will probably get you a response of what actually is happening, a flat “no.”

3.  When trying to get published, do not assume you have only writing in mind. The publisher will want you to carry most of the marketing work on your shoulders. Your query letter should stay away from self-descriptive words and phrases like: artist, literary principles, clean hands, introvert, higher calling, too good for others, filthy capitalism, save trees activist, reclusive researcher, and only want to write.

2.  When trying to get published, do not admit you are only in this for the money even if you are. There may be a time when the publisher contacts you as a result of your query. This is not the time to start pressing the publisher for a compact timetable because you need the money. Like banks do not lend money to people who need it, publishers know there is little money for authors and will pass on you for another more motivated by non-monetary reasons.

1.  When trying to get published, do not give up. There are a million potential reasons to keep sending queries and who knows, your manuscript just might be the next million copy seller.

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

29 replies

    1. Thanks 🙂 I don’t know about Red Clay and Roses … sending it might have worked. Traditional publishing just seems like a crap shoot, where the odds are always against you.


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