We expect some mistakes, and are as forgiving as we can be. However, the writers below have exhibited behavior that is not ideal. Please learn from their mistakes.
Amusing opening query lines:
Basically, I'm a young, good looking, highly marketable, STD-free author that you can send on Letterman and I'll get laughs or on Oprah and I will not only jump on the couch, but also any coffee table, chair or ottoman present on the set. I get attention.
Lesson: Perhaps you are attractive, and this does show the author's ability to get attention--and some degree of voice. However, your personal medical records have no place in a query (unless you are writing a medical memoir or something otherwise related--this author was not) or professional correspondence. Also, I know publishing is made up of many, many women--but it's insulting to imply that we're going to give you a favorable response just because you say you're attractive.
Pasted below this letter is a sample of Death by Cucumber, which might interest you. This novel, if it must have a label, is “soft-core” literary.
Lesson: Puns are tricky. I giggled to myself when I read this, which put me in a good mood for the rest of the query. However, this is very risky. I ended up passing.
Here's a response to our rejecting a memoir of a man's quest to bed as many women in as many places around the globe as possible:
Well I can't say that I'm NOT surprised the book is being passed up on and must say this is a HUGE mistake because when the book is published its going to be ADORED by MILLIONS of readers, women especially, and easily for sure will be more popular then any other book you might take on and sell to a publisher...
Lesson: It is never, never productive to write to an agent when 1) angry, or 2) in the first five minutes after receiving a rejection. Always wait a day--sleep on it--and limit your comments to "Thank you for your time" or some variant thereof. You must be careful about not burning bridges. Again, the world of publishing is very, very, very small.
Correspondence with a manuscript (this is attached to draft number three of the same work):
From recent calls:
Him: Hi, I'm calling from London. I want to send you my work.
Me: Okay, please send us a query. To ___@____.com.
Him: Oh, you want me to mail it? Okay, I'll try to get stamps--
Me: No, please email. To ___@____.com.
Him: But the [LMP] says you want paper submissions.
Me: We used to. Now please send an e-mail.
Him: Are you sure?
Him: Really? Okay, so it says here your email is [not our email].
Me: No. It's ___@___.com.
Me: [Still in a sweet, patient voice] No, ____@___.com.
Him: Can I send you my manuscript?
Me: Please send a query letter first. By email.
Him: [Sounding truly defeated] Okay... [Hangs up]
Lessons: First of all, don't call--do your research. If you must call, please listen. The people who pick up the phone--whether an intern, assistant or agent--are likely well-versed on the submissions guidelines for their company. Don't treat them like they're dumb. This does not make you endearing. On the other hand, don't get intimidated. We don't make up rules to insult your work--they're there to make the process as efficient as possible for everyone involved.