ok, maybe not you you specifically you, but maybe it is you.
Have you been querying lately?
Here are some things to remember:
1. A ten page synopsis in a query letter is prima facie nitwittery.
1A. A ten pages synopis isn't in fact a synopsis. It's blather. It tells me something about you. It tells me you are a nitwit.
1B: Enclosing a ten page synopsis while leaving out actual pages from the novel is breathtakingly witless.
2. Sitting in a car/truck/bus, telling me about the weather you're having is not not not compelling. Not now, not ever. Go rent a copy of the movie Jaws. Watch the beach scenes without sound. Not quite as scary is it? Here's the thing about novels. You have to show me the sound effects. Your writing, your diction, your pacing, your POV, your choice of focus, all have to get my attention and point me at the shark. You don't have to show me the shark, but I have to get a sense it's there.
3. "Traditional values" and "religious" do not mean "christian" by default. This is New York. We have Hasidic Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Unitarians, agnostics and Capitalist running dogs all on the same damn block. They have values as part of their traditions and NONE of them involve Jesus. Telling me someone has "a traditional upbringing" is lame ass, lazy writing and it annoys the spit out of me.
4. I don't care if you are my poodle's mother, include an SASE. Take note people going to conferences: this means YOU. I have to be nice to you cause you paid money to hear me yap at you, but if you send pages without an SASE, make no mistake...you've raised the bar for getting to yes. Don't write to tell me I'm an idiot about this. We've already established we don't agree. If you don't want to query people who are steadfast on this subject, invest five seconds and read the damn website.
5. When you've written a novel, and you tell me about it, include the publisher. I will google you. I will. That is a given. If I can't find the novel, you're going to "no". This does not apply to magazines and ezines, only published books. This is because some nitwits think (I swear this is true) Vantage Press "publication" means they're "published". If you don't know why this isn't so, click here.
6. The only time a series of stars is punctuation is when you are Wile E. Coyote making a left turn at Albuquerque. Unless you are Mr. Coyote, invest in a damn copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. You can actually subscribe to an online version now.
7. Look at every use of the word "was" and "that". 90% of the time you can take them out. That edit alone will jump you over about half the stuff I look at every day. Prune ruthlessly.
8. Don't over write: "The two observed a moment of silence mainly because there was nothing more either could think of to say" might work on page 300. It looks stupid on page 2. If you don't know why, email me and we'll have a tutorial about letting your reader do some of the work.
9. When you steal envelopes from your place of work, so that I'll be breathlessly agog you are a doctor, lawyer or professor, you might want to make sure the envelope doesn't make your query look like junk mail. Envelopes from a university touting the writing program look like soliciations to enroll. Particularly when you spell my name wrong.
10. Why did you write this novel? is not a question I ever want to see answered in a query letter. Let's just assume you wrote it so you could contribute to the coffers at Snark Central. Any personal goals you have are irrelevant anyway, right?
11. When you meet an agent at a conference and you like them, feel a sense of connection with them, and think you're buddies now: you're not. I'm no more going to snark you at a conference than Killer Yapp is going to start reading Sartre in French. You've paid money to be there; I'm a professional. Do not mistake me being pleasant for us being buddies.
What this means: don't email me a dozen times after the conference with little updates. Do NOT do this. Do not send me chain letters even for causes you know I believe in. Do NOT do this. Do not call me up to tell me you won the USABookNews.com contest, or that you are enrolled in National Novel Writing month. If you want to know why, email me, we'll have a tutorial on "query basics".
Going to a conference is the equivlent of a a query letter.
I know you think you are the exception to the rule; you're not. Neither are you.